TRIGGER WARNING: Gore
On the third day of the Atlanta Cycling Festival, Monday, May 15, I lay on the asphalt while four people held each of my limbs, and a wartime medic kept my bloodied head in place. I suffered major trauma, including almost losing my right foot – after I was sideswiped by a falling cyclist during the city’s most popular group ride, M+M. Moments before the collision, I felt fit and fierce on my bike, even riding past city hall shouting, `Stop Cop City!` I had spent the day at City Hall in line as public commenter #218, wishing to speak truth to power while the city of Atlanta funds a controversial police militarization project packaged as a training facility.
Moments before the accident, I was catching up with friends while riding downhill on a four-lane ramp leading into Interstate I-75. We were going three times the average speed ( over 30 MPH, as captured by Strava data). Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a cyclist on the sidewalk losing control of his bike. The next thing I saw was his bright green mountain bike immediately in my trajectory, and then I woke up on the asphalt in paralyzing pain. There are varying accounts of whether the helmet-free rider on the tricked-out mountain bike was doing tricks. His life-long BMX riding appeared to help him manage a roll instead of my face plant. Still, it’s worth noting that doing tricks such as jumping curbs, riding sidewalks, and doing wheelies have become common in this weekly group ride despite the known dangers of such shenanigans on a 400+ cyclist ride.
After spending most of last week at Grady Hospital, I still do not know the extent of all my injuries. My visible scars include a cast on my right leg (the one which almost lost its ankle), a cast on my right arm up to my elbow, a chipped front tooth, a cracked other tooth (all attached to a deformed upper lip with two stitches, lacerations across along my right side of the face, a bruised & bandaged right shoulder and scuffed up knees. Unseen are the pains in my jaw, tongue, nerves, neck, and shoulder. Plus a foodie’s inability to eat hard or spicy foods. The rest of this warm season will be navigating our Kafka-esque medical system for insurance approvals of specialist appointments and walking a dangerous line of pain management. Before that Monday, I’d never broken a bone; now I can join the homies in injury BINGO.
Looking at recovery is a roller coaster path of ups and downs. I’ve been told it might take up to a year to recover my full body functions. It might be 3 to 6 months before I can ride my beautiful blue bike. I went from developing a love for cycling to having that very activity pushed out from under me. It feels a little bit like I am walking through the stages of grief. Already some moments are reviving my 2008-based PTSD. I am just 2 and a half years into sobriety and remember HALT while taking pain pills. Initially, it felt brilliant to see the sun when I was wheeled out of the hospital, I quickly fell into anguish when I accidentally saw my face in the passenger side mirror. I did a double-take when I saw my broken teeth and discolored, bruised, and swollen face. I quietly cried tears behind a pair of aviators.
I am here and have a possibility of 100% recovery only because the camaraderie within the cyclist community made sure cars did not crush the rest of me into the road. By my miraculous luck, two off-duty Grady nurses pulled over after a work shift in scrubs and helped manage the gory scene. My heart goes out to a fellow cyclist who held my hand and played music for me while I struggled to stay conscious as we waited for EMS. Post hospitalization, beloved amigos from my favorite weekly ride, MWR, created a WhatsApp group for my boo-boo care. I might not have a foot on my leg without the community who swarmed to help me. The organizers of the M+M ride created a GoFundMe page (link below) in anticipation of my medical bills. The funds will be a fraction of the financial burden I anticipate for physical recovery and mental health support.
As I learn to write and function with my left hand, my spills teach me lessons in humility. When my favorite aunt gave me a towel bath in my first-floor half-bath, I realized I actually need to learn to ask for help. I have to throw Sabrina, Miss Independent, on ice for a while.
If it weren’t for this community’s support, instead of being in relatively good spirits, I might be drinking spirits again.
Please consider supporting my GoFundMe campaign, as I am unsure if I will get any financial support from the proximate cause of my accident…the cyclist got to leave the scene without any ambulance assistance.
[CLARIFICATION: The cyclist who created all this trauma stayed beside me and waited for EMS. An earlier version of this piece on my Facebook account created some confusion]
GoFundMe: GoFundMe by M+M
Venmo if you prefer to do this directly. https://account.venmo.com/u/Sabrina-Hassanali
I will be writing weekly updates
and reflections on my free Substack. Show me your love and plug in your email.