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Game Changer: What a Highly Trained Motor Officer Learned from his Motorcycle Accident

The day my life changed. I am a motor police officer for one of the largest departments in the United States. On 08/24/2017, I was preparing for the day like I usually did. After getting ready for the day, I now had to get my motorcycle ready for the day. Everyday I checked the tires, oil, fluid levels, and check for any type of leaks. I always wanted to make sure my motorcycle was safe because as a motor officer, we push our motorcycles to extreme levels. After making sure my motorcycle was ready for a long day of work, I head out to try and make the streets a little safer.

As a motor officer, I thought I was a strong rider and I felt invincible. I thought I had all of the training I needed and nothing was going to happen to me.

The day was like any other day. It was a nice hot day as usual for Southern California. I went out in the morning and wrote tickets trying to slow vehicles down. After writing tickets, I met up with some of my partners for lunch. As we were finishing up lunch, I heard an emergent call go out over the radio. There was a gas leak at a local high school. The high school was approximately 6 miles out and approximately 5-6 minutes from the location. As a motor officer, we try to avoid responding to calls with our lights and siren on because it puts us at a higher risk. We are at a higher risk of getting seriously injured or killed due to the fact that we are going through intersections and driving at higher speeds and like any other motorcycle rider we are small and hard to see compared to cars and trucks.

We waited approximately 15-20 seconds hoping that someone else was closer because the high risk as a motor officer. No one was closer to the call than my partner and I. I advised our communication center that my partner and I were approximately 5-6 minutes out. Our communication center told us to respond code 3 (Lights and Sirens). My partner and I immediately went to our motorcycles and started putting our gear on. We got on our motorcycles and started responding to the location. There is nothing more exciting than getting to respond to a location with our lights and siren on. When we were approximately 1/2 mile from the location, we were coming up to the intersection of 55th Street West and Avenue L in the city of Lancaster. This portion of the roadway was a “T” intersection. At the intersection there was a stop sign for the side street. The roadway we were on only had one lane of travel in each direction. I had gone through this intersection 100’s of times and knew that the intersection can be dangerous because I have seen numerous traffic collisions at this intersection. I thought I was safe because I had the cool flashing lights and a loud siren.

I saw a car in front of me that was slowing down and stopping. The vehicle did not have a turn signal on to tell me that they were going to turn on to the side street. Due to the fact that I had my emergency lights and siren on, I believed that the vehicle was slowing and stopping to yield to my partner and I. As I got closer to the vehicle, I started to go around the vehicle by entering the oncoming lane. As I was about to pass the vehicle, the driver made a left turn right in front of me. I did not have time to think about braking or swerving. All of a sudden I was rolling on the ground. I did not realize right away that I was involved in a traffic collision. As I was rolling on the ground, I heard my partner getting on the radio and immediately asking for help. I was still confused on why I was on the ground.

I was rolling so long it felt like an eternity. Once I realized that I was involved in a crash and I was rolling on the ground because I was involved in the crash, I told myself that I needed to tuck my arms to avoid braking anything. Once I finally stopped rolling, I laid on the asphalt taking a mental account of my body parts. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t break anything. When I realized that I felt no pain, I thought I was good and survived the crash. Anger started taking over me because I had the big flashing lights on and the loud siren. I thought I did everything to help drivers see me. I think most motorcycle riders involved in a crash feel a little anger that people are not paying attention.

I sat up and started looking around to make sure I wasn’t going to get hit my another car. I saw lots of cars slowing down and stopping. There were people running up to make sure I was “ok.” My partner came running up and checked to make sure I was “ok.” Once my partner realized I was going to survive, he immediately called my wife who was 9 months pregnant at the time. My wife is also a deputy and was working at the front desk where she could hear everything that was being said on the radio. He wanted to make sure my wife wasn’t going to have a baby at the front desk. While my partner was talking to my wife, I tried to stand up because I didn’t feel any pain and thought I survived the crash with just a few scrapes and bumps. As I was standing up, I could feel my knee going in the opposite direction. I realized that something was wrong. I laid back down and told my partner that something was wrong with my leg. What I didn’t realize at the time was I was going into shock.

While waiting for an ambulance and paramedics to respond to the scene, I could feel the back of my legs and back starting to heat up. The asphalt was really hot and was burning my back and legs. It seemed like the EMT’s and paramedics took forever to get to my location. Since my partner put out over the radio that there was a deputy down, I had multiple partners show up to check on my status. I told my partners that my back and legs were burning. They immediately got a blanket and a bullet proof vest for me to lay on to help reduce that burning. I was lucky that one of my partners was an EMT. He was able to get me ready for the paramedics and EMT’s. I already had a neck brace on and my leg was wrapped and ready for the transport.

Once the EMT’s finally showed up, they got me onto a gurney and got me in the back of an ambulance. The “Hero’s” or also known as firefighters also showed up. At least one of the paramedics jumped in the back of the ambulance with me. As we started rolling down the road to the hospital which was about 15 minutes away, I heard the paramedic ask if i wanted morphine. At that time, I still wasn’t feeling any pain. I told him “No. I’m good.” As soon as I started to relax because I knew I was safe, I started to feel pain in my leg. I knew the pain was going to get worse. I told the paramedic that I wanted the morphine. He gave me the first shot of morphine. Every couple minutes, the paramedic would ask if I wanted more morphine. The pain continued to get worse and worse. So I ended up with three shots of morphine on the way to the hospital. Once I got to the hospital, I was drugged pretty good but still had a lot of pain.

I was pushed into the hospital that I had been numerous times. I had been to this hospital hundreds of times but this was the first time I came to the hospital as a patient. I brought people to the hospital for medical treatment and blood draws because they were going to be booked at the station. I have responded to the hospital to check on people that were involved in traffic collisions and to get statements. I have seen how amazing the nurses and doctors work to help people get back on their feet. I was rolled into a trauma bay where numerous nurses and at least one doctor surrounded my gurney. A nurse asked if I wanted more pain medicine? I told her “Yes” because the pain felt unbearable. Thats when I got the “good drugs” or also known as Dilaudid. Once I got the Dilaudid, I started to relax even more and the pain was more manageable. The nurses and doctor started examining my body and taking x-rays of my knee. I felt like a science experiment that went wrong and they were trying to figure out what happened. At first they could not find the broken femur because of the way the x-ray machine was facing. I was told that I didn’t break any bones. Which I knew wasn’t right based off my attempt to stand up after my collision.

After taking several x-rays they were able to see that I broke my femur right at the knee. I also had severely dislocated my shoulder but it had gone back into place while I was rolling on the ground. Once I was stable, I was pushed into a room to wait for the orthopedic surgeon.

Approximately two hours later, the orthopedic surgeon came in and told me that I needed surgery but I would have to wait until after 11 PM. He also told me that they would clean out the road rash during the surgery. I was glad that they cleaned everything up after I was out. I knew that I had alot of asphalt deep in my skin near my knee and I did not want to be awake for the cleaning.

Sometime after 11 PM, I was wheeled to a surgery room. After surgery, I woke up in the recovery room and my wife was next to me. My arm was in a sling and my knee was wrapped up and it was twice as big as my other leg.

The first words out of my mouth was “I’m Hungry.” Probably not the best thing to say but I was really hungry and thirsty. My last lunch was around 11 AM. I wasn’t able to drink or eat anything before the surgery. I was finally able to get something to drink and eat.

After the surgery, I had a lot more time to examine my body and see what other injuries I had besides my knee and shoulder. I noticed that I had minor road rash on different parts of my body. I was wearing an Apple Watch that had exploded on my wrist and left a nice burn.

The first night at the hospital was pretty easy because my leg was still numb and I was “high” on pain medication. The next day was alot worse. I didn’t sleep well because I was in pain and I had nurses coming and going every hour or so. I ended up staying in the hospital for 6 days because my departments paperwork was not done properly. I should have been out of the hospital in 3-4 days.

I will say I was happy to still be in the hospital because I wasn’t going to be able to get Dilaudid at home. I wasn’t addicted to the drug but I knew any pills were not going to reduce the pain as much. The only thing I wasn’t happy about was physical therapy two-three times a day. My physical therapy consisted of getting into a wheel chair and rolling myself down a hallway. It was very difficult to wheel myself down a hallway when my left arm was in a sling and my left knee couldn’t move. It was very easy to go around in circles.

On Tuesday, I finally left the hospital. I had to get a hospital bed, wheelchair and several other things delivered to my home before I could leave the hospital. I had to be taken home in a transport ambulance because of the severe pain I would have if I moved my knee.

Once I was home, I had several months of severe pain. I had a physical therapist coming to my house twice a week to help start the recovery process. I knew I had a long recovery just to be able to walk again. I couldn’t leave my house because I would have shooting knee pain. I would just lay in the hospital bed in the living room and watched TV. To make matters worse, It would take three people to get me in and out of the hospital bed just to get into the wheelchair. My wife was 9 months pregnant and was helping me get in and out of the hospital bed when she was not suppose to be lifting anything and should have been resting.

The two hardest and the most stressful parts of the entire process for my wife and I was dealing with the insurance company and the fact that I was not able to hold my newborn child. I was not able to assist with getting a bottle, changing a diaper or help change his clothes. The insurance company did not want to approve things that I needed and wanted to take back items that were rented out to me because the insurance only approved the items for a certain amount of time.

The reason my injuries were so severe was a lack of gear. If I would have been wearing proper gear, I would have had a lot less road rash. I would have probably still broken my femur and dislocated my shoulder but I would have recovered a lot quicker if I didn’t have the road rash. Due to the road rash, it took an additional 4 months to recover from my knee injury.

I will say that I felt lucky to be alive. I later found out that I went approximately 15-20 feet in the air and I slid and rolled on the asphalt for approximately 102 feet.

The question that most motorcycle riders ask themselves or should ask themselves after a crash is “What went wrong? Could this have been avoided?” Even though I was not at fault for the traffic collision, I still asked these questions. Most motorcycle traffic collisions can be avoided if you keep your head on a swivel and expect the unexpected. If I had to do it again, I would have slowed down or even stopped and waited until I made eye contact with the driver of the vehicle. I learned a lot from this incident. Always wear proper gear and when your passing another vehicle slow down and be prepared to stop if needed. No matter what the reason is for passing a vehicle either on the left or right always assume that they don’t see you and slow down. Try to get the driver’s attention and pay attention to what the vehicle is doing and what the driver is doing if you can see the driver.

Due to my traffic collision, I wanted to take more training on top of the motor officer training. Since my traffic collision, I have done hundreds of hours of training. I wanted to be more prepared if something like this ever happened again. There is no such thing as too much training.

Unfortunately most riders take the basic riding course and never train again. The more training you take, the less likely you are to be involved in a crash. My best advice to any motorcycle rider is wear your gear and train like your life depends on it because your life does depend on it.

To this day, I still train hard and I am always trying to learn something new. I hope every rider will continue to train, ride safe and learn from my mistakes.

Sheldon Sherman

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