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Ray "RayFossil" Dykeman

To share a little bit about me, I was born in Trenton, NJ, graduated Class of '73 from the Atlantic City High School, and moved away from my home state and Atlantic City in August 1974. Richard M. Nixon had just announced his resignation. I arrived in Clearwater, Florida on August 12th at 12:15 PM just minutes after it became official. Maybe it makes me a "Native" Florida resident now that I have been in Pasco County more than half my years. Since 1981 I reside in the small, old (1888) town of San Antonio, Florida (No, not Texas). It's home to the (Now 35th) annual "Rattle Snake Festival". The Darby Road Race known as a world-class event was held here 13 years. I volunteered for eight of those years, as well as many, many others here and in the Tampa Bay area. It has been really one of the best places in the state to cycle if not the whole country, and I live here.

The year I turned 40 years old I realized a seven year goal participating for the first time, as a rider, in the Spacecoast Freewheeler's sponsored, "20th Annual Cross Florida Ride" held May 6th, 1995. I completed that year's ride distance of 170 miles from Ron Jon's Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach on the Atlantic Ocean side ending at Pine Island in Hernando County along the Gulf of Mexico. I departed with about 380 others at 6:30 AM with the wind at my back, and because it was all down hill finished 58th in a little over nine hours.

Two and half weeks later on May 31, 1995 at 7:15 PM I was riding my 1985 Raleigh Touring (now customized as a bombproof, commuter bike) bicycle Northbound from my sales/service job at Dud Thame's Bicycle Shop in South Tampa. This was during the final miles of my 20 mile bicycle-portion commute home, on a four-lane, divided highway, and I noticed my cycling computer readout as I was traveling along was an easy, smooth 21-mph. I sped up as I usually did heading into this straight stretch of heavy trafficked roadway, to approximately 23 mph to better hold my line to the far right of the roadway. This was about the same time as I was going by a short, right-hand turning lane. In my helmet-mounted mirror I noted one vehicle start to move out of the flow of traffic a foot at first, then two, but also still well behind me. I noticed too that it didn't have a signal on. Changing lanes, moving over, turning without signaling is way too common in Florida. I had little time to figure it was doing anything but slowing, and would complete the maneuver behind me. Instead I was overtaken, saw it inches away and I shouted out in my mind, "He's going to hit me!" then I heard a "Thump! Thump!"

I wear Lycra shorts when riding and was struck in what would be the left hip pocket area on a pair of jeans; what had inflicted the damage was a Toyota 4-Runner going 55-65 mph, operated by a DWI motorist. DWI = "Driving While In-attentive". I was instantaneously knocked unconscious from the vehicle's impact. At some point(s) after this I severely impacted the pavement with my head with enough force to crush my helmet's polycarbonate shell at the same time breaking the dual-density foam liner in two places. Also the Pro-Razor, Reebok "Pump" helmet designed by Bell Sports worked like it was supposed to, and well beyond that!

I noticed by the view of the distant tree line that I was now completely on my left side. I had been dropped on the paved roadway not even with the benefit of the grassy shoulder. My bicycle, one of the first things a cyclist takes inventory of was about 10-15' away on its side. It was not struck anywhere during the car's impact and the wheel, fork & handlebars were turned to the extreme left. They were almost backwards. The bars had been stopped by, and deeply dented the top tube. The head tube was placed under so much torque that it broke it like a paper towel tube breaks spirally when twisted. Remarkable to say that later on the wheels were still true and indicated no impact. I wish I could have said the same of the 220# rider. I didn't know what had happened to me as I felt no pain then. A beautiful lady in a red dress with dark hair was holding my hand. She looked at me, then seemed to glance up as she said, "He's alright. He's alive..." to someone. I never did get to meet her or thank her. I thought someone said she was nurse at the nearby hospital just changing shifts. A physician was at my feet and another at my head. Maybe they too were getting off work.

Because I was blacked-out during my launch into dark space I didn't know about the time between impact and regaining consciousness. I didn't realize this until several hours later that I had been knocked out five to ten minutes until after I got to see my helmet. The EMS people had put it into my backpack. After all the X-rays, care, cleaning, etc. as I was getting settled in my room by three nurses one inventorying my personal belongings commented that "...at least your lucky you didn't hit your face or head...the only thing is that small red mark over your eye." That's when I asked her to hand me my helmet. I had been riding for 10 years, used at least four or five helmets and since having worked in two bicycle shops for six and a half years I believed in them, recommended them, sold everyone except one person I think. I was shocked to discover the damage that would have been to my unprotected head without it.

I don't tell this at all with the clarity of normal memory. I have lost the ability to "visualize" completely. Once I became ambulatory I investigated what had happened to me for about two weeks. I would have surely been killed had not my Guardian Angel been with me on a clear, sunny day in May 31, 1995 at 7:15 PM.

Now that I am a survivor of that Traumatic Brain Injury event and having recovered from most of the physical injuries as a result of the accident; I formed, and continue to lead the local East Pasco Brain Injury Support Group. We meet monthly at the not-for-profit, East Pasco Medical Center in nearby Zephyrhills, FL. (813) 788-0411, Ext. 1421, 1431. We are recognized as a stand-alone group of the Brain Injury Association of Florida (www.biaf.org). The State organization has tax-free status while we however, do not. I will always owe a debt of gratitude to Sagasha (http://www.tbihome.org) for the TBI Chat room I found in 1996 while surfing the 'Net for information about my injury.

"I'm not stupid. I have a brain injury." (1995, Ray Dykeman)


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