Journaling My Cycling Accident And Recovery

February 9, 2014 · 57 comments

in Personal

The following is a personal journal entry from February 1, 2014 after I decided to document the first few weeks of my cycling accident and recovery. While in the hospital for 2 months, I captured voice notes. My ongoing rehabilitation is going to take a while, and I’m now voice recording into Evernote to capture my thoughts, feelings, highs, and lows. I decided to publicly share this first entry with you. I’ve added a few pictures as well. Here’s a view of my arrival in ER at Sutter Roseville Hospital:

Dana Lookadoo in ER after bike accident Dana Lookadoo in ER after bike accident

Journal – What Happened

Today starts the beginning of my official journaling of my recovery from a spinal cord injury. I noticed that my last journal entry was October 15, 2013, one month before my bicycling accident on November 14. I expect this journaling process to be spiritual, personal, heart wrenching, and a way of documenting the highs and lows of this recovery process. I have no idea how long it’s going to take me to regain use of my legs and especially my right hand. There’s a lot to mend. I am dedicated to keep journaling my thoughts, struggles, and my prayers to the Lord.

To start at the beginning, we were at the end of a group training ride, on our way back down Auburn Folsom Rd. – almost to Folsom Bike. We were pacelining – going about 28 mph. I hit a 2″ stick and lost control of the front wheel, which put me into soft dirt. This launched me and my bike. All I remember is flying through the air in an arc and thinking “oh no!” I landed on my head in a ditch and must’ve rolled after that.

The Injuries

I broke my neck and my back, a total of 14 vertebrae and bones that resulted in spinal cord injury. I broke/compressed C5, C6, T6, T7, T9, T10 plus my left scapula, right ankle, 6 broken ribs, and a collapsed lung. (Three of my thoracic vertebrae burst fractured, sort of exploded.) I’m fused from T3 to L1 with two 14″ rods. Gotta love titanium! (What a way to end a really good Cycle Folsom training ride.)

40 staples holding Humpty Dumpty together
40 staples holding Humpty Dumpty together

 

One of the titanium rods with screws & blown vertebrae
One of the titanium rods with screws & blown vertebrae

More about the accident

I learned today a little bit more about what happened after I fell off my bike that beautiful Thursday afternoon. Immediately after the accident a couple, ER nurses, were driving by and stopped to come to my aid. The woman immediately diagnosed that I had a spinal cord injury and held my neck in traction. She informed the paramedics upon their arrival of my condition so they would immediately put me onto a c spine board to prevent further injury. Can angels come from anywhere?

What I remember…

Complaining about how much my chest hurt and having the paramedics cut off my favorite Velo Bella jersey and shorts and my Bont shoes off my feet. (It would’ve been very easy to unhook them, so that was a $500 cut made to my high-end carbon shoes…) I spoke a little while in ER.

After that I woke up being very disturbed and disheartened, shuffling back-and-forth while in the hospital bed – restrained, tubes everywhere, including in my mouth. I kept waking up in thinking this was a bad dream, but after the third time I realized it was simply a bad reality. I remember being in the operating room and hearing Dr. Bosco say:

“These x-rays look like shit!”

I was quite disturbed, obviously. I also remember asking if I would ever feel my feet again and hearing them say that I was a quadriplegic.

The surgeries

Dr. Bosco, the orthopedic trauma surgeon, and Dr. Brindle, the neurologist, proceeded to save my life (and use of limbs). They performed surgery to my neck on Saturday and my back on Sunday.

  • My neck surgery was supposed to take 3 hours but only took 2.
  • My back surgery was estimated to take 4 to 5 hours and only took 3.

Praise God!

Dana Lookadoo in neurogenic shock on 11/15/13 Dana Lookadoo in neurogenic shock on 11/15/13

I was intubated on Friday when I was in neurologic shock, and they anticipated I would be intubated for a week to 10 days. I was off the ventilator by Tuesday! Somebody was definitely watching over me…

Peace

I mentioned earlier that I was really disturbed. Well, during this time I saw a bright yellow golden light that encompassed everything and this peace – a peace of God that passes all understanding – overtook my whole body. I believe this happened after the surgeries, and I know it was while I was still ventilated. Whatever happened, I know God reached down and touched me. That peace and calm has not left to this day. (Yes, I have pain, daily, but I have a peace through it all.)

“Visitors”

The following Tuesday was the first day I was alert and able to talk to visitors. Prior to that, anyone who saw me had to wear gowns and only get responses from me with my eyes. After the slew of people left Tuesday afternoon when ICU called it quits on visitors, I had a time to rest.

As I was laying there in bed, enjoying the quiet, somebody touched me on the right shoulder. Somebody else was in the room? No. I looked up, and no one was there. So I closed my eyes again. Somebody once again touch my right shoulder. This time when I looked up there were two angels hovering right in front of me. They were about 15 inches tall with golden heads and bodies that faded, almost translucent. They were singing in a language that I never heard before and something that I don’t believe was earthly.

  • They hovered there for a moment.
  • They then both flew right in front of my neck – in a swoosh swoosh and another swoosh swoosh as they went back and forth in front of my neck.
  • The pair of angels went back to their original hovering place, continued singing, and one of them touched my shoulder again before they left.

I cried a little and thanked God. For days and weeks later I prayed they would return, but they didn’t. Their visit will be part of my life forever! It has changed me and increased my faith and changed my attitude about this injury.

My outlook

People ask how I can be so positive. When you’ve been touched by God like this how can you not be? Okay, I will confess there was one day that I prayed that God would take me to heaven. I couldn’t use my hands nor could I feel my feet. I just felt completely helpless as a quadriplegic. That feeling, fortunately, was fleeting.

Overflowing love…

Love and support from so many people greatly lifted me up. Plus I couldn’t forget the touches from Above. Love flowed from so many people.

  • My husband, Ed, was there to feed me, wash my face and take care of me.
  • Friends traveled from afar. Alan Bleiweiss flew up from Santa Monica and subsequently moved in with us to take care of me.
  • Annie Cushing flew in from New Jersey to be there for 5 days to be a sister and equip me with a blanket and multiple accessories that I would use throughout my hospitalization, including a iPhone docking station.
  • Niki Gross and her husband Mike came over immediately from Berkeley to visit and encourage me when I couldn’t even talk due to the tubes.
  • My Mom was there and prayed…and cried.
  • Visitors packed the waiting room and were only let into ICU trauma in pairs, 2 at a time. Managing people in the waiting room became Ed’s and Annie’s full-time job.
  • Visitors and more visitors, phone calls, cards and more cards, donations, and even a Google hangout hosted by Max Minzer, Doc Sheldon, and Melissa Fach opened for 3 hours to allow people from all over the world to send me get-well wishes and encouragement.
  • SEO Pros and the SEO Dojo sent the largest bouquet of roses in a card that was 3.5 feet tall and contained Messages from, gosh, 30 to 40 people. (Thank you Terry Van Horne and Doc Sheldon for coordinating this!)

Tears flowed.

A dozen roses with many, many well wishes and lots of love!
A dozen roses with many, many well wishes and lots of love!

More support…

  • Support from folks at Search Engine Land, Moz, SEMPdx increased industry visibility about my situation.
  • Hundreds of people in the search industry, fellow cyclists, friends, people from church, and of course family sent prayers and love.
  • My close friend Lyena Solomon put together a digital frame that included pictures from conferences, reunions with friends, and picture that she found online. Now I see those I love right in front of me and my hospital room.

More tears flowed as thankfulness for the people in my life consumed me.

Recovery

15 days in ICU and 6 weeks in rehab included many highs (movement and increased use of my extremities) and a few lows (kidney challenges, low electrolytes, staff infection, other infections, constipation, insomnia, pain…). BUT I had many laughs and made new friends throughout my stay at at the hospital.

Physical Therapy with Vince Lees at Sutter Rehab Institute Physical Therapy with Vince Lees at Sutter Rehab Institute

Today, 2.5 half months after the accident, I’m getting around in my new lime green Quickie Q7 wheelchair and have feeling restored to 90-95% of my body. My days include constant therapy, stretches, and staying in touch with people. I have in-home nursing, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. Friends and neighbors have kept us stocked with all kinds of  food.

Dana semi-standing in her Quickie wheelchair
Dana semi-standing in her Quickie wheelchair (working out my triceps)

Somehow, I’m able to get a little bit of work done as well. What has changed dramatically is that I’m not able to multitask much. I’m generally in one mode and one mode only. Maybe that’s because I landed on my head, but whatever reason, I like being in the moment.

What’s next

As I close out this mega long journal entry for day one, I am reminded of the verse on a pillow that one of my close friends, Sabrina Martinez, gave to me:

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me .” Philippians 4:13

Whatever the future holds, I’m ready for it, but I know without a doubt that I won’t be alone!

Addendum… I will walk again and am working each day toward that end!

P.S.

Follow Updates about Dana

You can follow updates via Facebook. Ask to join Updates about Dana.

Donations to my healing

Many people have asked how they can help. We are taking donations via Paypal for costs of bodywork and massage therapy and numerous other expenses not covered by insurance.

  • Paypal email is dana[at]yoyoseo[dot]com.
  • Checks can be sent to 9580 Oak Avenue Pkwy., Suite 7-277, Folsom, CA 95630

THANK YOU to the multitude of people who have given. I cannot yet write handwritten thank you notes and deeply appreciate soooooo much support!!!

{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Paula Schroeder February 9, 2014 at 2:12 pm

Dana, I am listening to the song ” I see miracles just happen silent prayers get answered, broken hearts get answered, that is what faith can do”….as I read your story. Keep the faith, I see it in you. I continue to pray for you that your body will be mended and God will use you in this experience.
Love You.

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2 Dana Lookadoo February 9, 2014 at 7:31 pm

Paula, great lyrics! God’s sure doing a number in my life – healing and using. For both I’m thankful! Keep praying!

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3 Lori February 9, 2014 at 2:42 pm

Dana, this is an amazing blog post. Thank you for being so open in sharing your journey. I loved the story about the angels! You have (and continue to) inspire so many people with your determination. Hugs to you!

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4 Dana Lookadoo February 9, 2014 at 7:35 pm

Those angels changed my life and perspective and believe they were mending my broken neck. I just had to share this with the world. Love you, Lori!

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5 Alison Groves February 9, 2014 at 3:09 pm

You are alive, and for that I am so very thankful. I know the world is a better place with you in it. One day at a time and I know you’ll be as good as new before you know it. I’ve been thinking about you, and if you need anything, I’m here. Thanks for sharing your story!

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6 Dana Lookadoo February 9, 2014 at 7:38 pm

I’m thankful, too, Alison…even though one day I wished otherwise. I’m setting high goals to be restored and will ask you to take me to dinner at a conference! Deal? Hugs!

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7 Tony Reid February 9, 2014 at 3:59 pm

Oh Dana, I feel like a complete heal. I had heard you had crashed but I had no idea how seriously you had been hurt. It sounds like in typical Dana fashion, you’be listened to all the experts and politely said, “yeah……, that’s what you think” and then plotted your own course to exceed any all expectations of anyone who doesn’t know you. Hugs, warm and positive thoughts, and prayers heading you way.

XOXOXO

Tony

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8 Dana Lookadoo February 9, 2014 at 7:40 pm

Tony, I had not crashed for a few years, so this time I did it big. Give me 2 years, and I’ll be back on the bike and would love to ride with you on one of your rest days. OK? XO back atchya!

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9 Ryan Kent February 9, 2014 at 4:55 pm

Dana, your story is both scary and inspirational. It is a firm reminder to everyone that we take so much for granted, and our lives can change in a moment. It is very warming to hear about the outpouring of support you have received from both the bicycling and SEO community. Best wishes for continuing to progress through the recovery process. Thank you for sharing your experience with the world!

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10 Dana Lookadoo February 9, 2014 at 7:41 pm

Ryan, taking life and things for granted…it’s too easy, for sure! The support has been overwhelming. Thanks for being part of it!

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11 Fiona February 9, 2014 at 7:27 pm

Dana, your journaling is your journey and your angels will always be there. When I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer and they found it in my lymph node the doctors told me the changes of in being somewhere else was about 60% I told them no font think so. That night I too had angel’s visit, so peaceful they didn’t sing but they touched me from head to toe. I had a pet scan a week later, and guess what? No Cancer anywhere else. I too, feel grateful and have a positive attitude about everything. Life is a journey and god guides us through it all, he never gives us more then we can handle. Love you and can’t wait to visit.

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12 Dana Lookadoo February 9, 2014 at 7:43 pm

WOW! What a healing miracle those angels brought you, Fiona! Thanks for sharing, and I’m thankful! Do look forward to a visit and love you bunches!

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13 Teresa Acosta February 9, 2014 at 11:22 pm

Hi Dana, Lyena shared this post with me. Your story is amazing and to hear how you were touched by angels tells me that your healing process is going to be an even more amazing journey. I’m so moved by what you wrote and wish you the continued peace and faith you carry with you. God seems to have a very special plan for you and your story has already moved me deeply. My prayers are with you and your husband and your wonderful friends. You went through so much and yet you seem so filled with joy. That is a miracle. I wonder what the angels were singing to you.
Teresa (We “met” once via a Skype conference.)

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14 Dana Lookadoo February 10, 2014 at 2:50 pm

Hi, Teresa! Nice to hear from you! Yes, I believe God has something special in all this. Wish I, too, knew what those angels were singing! We all appreciate and need the prayers. Thank you!

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15 Patricia Skinner February 10, 2014 at 12:50 am

Dana I cried reading this. Wishing you continued blessings and support and a complete recovery.

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16 Dana Lookadoo February 10, 2014 at 3:02 pm

Appreciate your support and friendship, Patricia!

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17 Steven Macdonald February 10, 2014 at 7:26 am

A very emotional and inspiring story you have shared. Thank you Dana, and I wish you the best of luck and a speedy recovery.

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18 Dana Lookadoo February 10, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Appreciated, Steven!

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19 Tola February 10, 2014 at 7:52 am

Close to tears reading this. Honestly, thank God for your life and story, I couldn’t read everything because I know I’ll break down in the office! You are a strong woman and I know God will continue to see you through, this is just the beginning… God bless you Dana… x

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20 Dana Lookadoo February 10, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Tola, I hadn’t considered this could be tough to read in one’s office. Heck, I wouldn’t want to mess up my makeup. ;-) God is seeing me through this. Thanks for the reminder.

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21 Matthew Edward February 10, 2014 at 8:40 am

Your strength and positive attitude is an inspiration. Thank you.

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22 Dana Lookadoo February 10, 2014 at 7:35 pm

Inspiring others is what I hope for. Thanks, Matthew!

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23 Jeremy Bencken February 10, 2014 at 8:50 am

So sorry to read about your crash! I myself have ridden that exact same stretch of road many times. Scary to think how fast something like this can happen. Thank you for sharing the story about your visitors, healing, and recovery. Truly inspiring and uplifting. Wishing you a speedy recovery!

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24 Dana Lookadoo February 10, 2014 at 3:06 pm

Jeremy, who knows…maybe we can ride that stretch of road together in a couple years! Nice to hear from you. Thanks!

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25 Doc Sheldon February 10, 2014 at 9:41 am

I can’t tell you how great it is to see your progress each day, Dana. You’re confounding the doctors, your therapists and all of us with your determination and hard work. Simply saying that you’re an “inspiration” doesn’t suffice. Keep on wowing us!

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26 Dana Lookadoo February 10, 2014 at 7:32 pm

Doc, your support and encouragement from the very beginning has been an inspiration! “Thank you” doesn’t say enough to express mine and Ed’s gratitude! <3 you, a lot!

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27 Stoney February 10, 2014 at 9:43 am

Dana, I just heard about this today. Will keep you in our prayers believing for complete healing!

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28 Dana Lookadoo February 10, 2014 at 7:33 pm

Stoney, I couldn’t ask for anything more!!!!

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29 Christy Correll February 10, 2014 at 10:05 am

Thank you for openly sharing these very personal experiences with the world, Dana. You are a beacon of love of light, and have become one of my heroes. Keep up the outstanding work!

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30 Dana Lookadoo February 10, 2014 at 7:38 pm

Christy, gosh…a hero? I’m not sure how to respond to that other than to say “I won’t let you down.” ;-)

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31 Adam Audette February 10, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Dana, you’ve got such a wonderful, positive outlook on life. As traumatic and painful as this must be, you have kept that wonderful outlook. It’s an inspiration. Bless you and I’ll be rooting for you to walk again. I know you’ll do it.

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32 Dana Lookadoo February 10, 2014 at 7:40 pm

Adam, I have so much to be thankful for! Here’s the plan…I’ll walk up to you at an upcoming conference for a hug! With all my hardware, I should be standing up straight!

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33 Virginia February 10, 2014 at 1:52 pm

Dana, you are in my thoughts and prayers constantly. I’ve quietly followed every update shared by you and your inner circle on Facebook. I have immense gratitude to you for sharing this experience with others because I’ve found it beyond inspiring, a powerful example of what the strongest, most determined and most faithful among us are capable of. Continued prayers for healing and peace, always.

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34 Dana Lookadoo February 10, 2014 at 7:42 pm

Beyond inspiring is pretty big. Thanks, Virginia! I’ll hold onto that healing and peace…

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35 Mary Payne February 10, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Hi Dana. You do not know me, but I am also a dear friend of Lyena Solomon. She had told me about your tragic accident and I prayed for you. Your journal is an inspiration to everyone who reads it. God Bless!

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36 Michelle Robbins February 10, 2014 at 9:42 pm

It’s so wonderful to hear your voice via your journaling Dana! And to see your smiling face pop up on Twitter now and again really brightens the day :) I’m so happy you’ve found peace and strength in what you’ve gone through – you are such a fine human being, so full of positivity and good will – you continue to be the inspiration you always have been.

I have no doubt you’ll be walking again, and I cannot wait to see your shoes when you do! ;)

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37 Dana Lookadoo February 11, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Oh, Michelle, I so appreciate your encouragement and you! What’s funny is that recently, before the accident, I bought a couple pair of new shoes. I have even more motivation now to wear them…to a conference! Thank you, dear friend!

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38 Conor February 11, 2014 at 2:37 am

Glad to see you are on the mend Dana, hopefully it won’t be long before you are fully recovered

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39 Dana Lookadoo February 11, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Appreciated! Now I’m just practicing patience during the slow recovery process…

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40 Willy Gong February 11, 2014 at 12:35 pm

Dana,
We haven’t seen each other since high school. This link was on one of our common friend’s entry. I hadn’t heard you name in years.
I’m sorry to hear of your accident. Though I am not religious, I will wish you and your support group the best. I know you will keep working hard on you recovery.
My favorite picture in your journal is the dozen roses. That smile used to light up a room, even in high school.
Willy Gong

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41 Dana Lookadoo February 11, 2014 at 1:19 pm

Willy, what a nice surprise to hear from you!! You made my day!! I laugh about not being religious as I’m not either other than I can’t help but believe. ;-) I am smiling from ear to ear hearing from you! Sending all my best!

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42 Lisa Williams February 11, 2014 at 2:57 pm

Miss Dana,
Does it come to any surprise to me that you are an inspiration to your doctors and therapists? Absolutely not. Thinking of you and keeping you in my heart every day. Blessings to you sweet girl and looking forward to a visit with you soon. Big hugs and love,
Lisa

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43 Dana Lookadoo February 12, 2014 at 12:40 pm

LISA! You just warmed my heart! I think you’d be the same way! Love you, dear friend.

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44 Terry Van Horne February 12, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Hey Dana! This is so uplifting and inspirational… and well… just says so much about you! I am so happy to hear that the card Doc and I put together brought you such joy. It was really the Dojo and SEO Pros communities that got it rolling! Doc and I just facilitated. You are missed but I’m sure some day we will see Dana Lookado’s dancing pencil in the Skype chat again! I look forward to that day!

Peace and Love you are truly missed!

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45 Dana Lookadoo February 13, 2014 at 4:43 pm

Terry, until we connect via dancing pencils again, I’m sending you a huge hug! I’m so glad you clarified from whom the roses were sent, and I updated the post accordingly. The card was the big talk of everyone who entered my room! <3

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46 Kyle Eggleston February 27, 2014 at 9:11 am

Dana,

Wow, your strength is contagious. I saw you at Pubcon in Vegas. You have a great persona and good delivery. I’m very relieved that you are OK and healing. You will definitely be in my thoughts and prayers…

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47 Dana Lookadoo March 13, 2014 at 6:53 pm

Kyle, sorry I missed your comment earlier. I so appreciate your feedback!! Gosh, thanks! Prayers coveted… ;-)

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48 Matt Cutts March 12, 2014 at 8:36 pm

Dana, I just wanted to say that I hope you’re doing okay. We miss you here at SMX West. I hope I get to see you at a future search conference soon!

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49 Dana Lookadoo March 13, 2014 at 6:56 pm

Matt, allow me to take this opportunity to tell you how much I appreciate you!!! Your taking the time to write while at SMX West means the world to me. I miss being there, tremendously. I look forward to walking up to you at an upcoming conference and giving you a hug!!

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50 Suzy Stockdale March 12, 2014 at 10:35 pm

You’re my hero, Dana Dana! Just heard about your accident. You’re the champion of bike accidents and recovery.

Your journal tells the story, your friends tell the love and light you give to all.

Love you. Gentle hugs, Suzy

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51 Dana Lookadoo March 13, 2014 at 6:59 pm

Suzy Crazy Legs! I thought your bike accident a few years ago topped them all. Let’s both consider ourselves recovery champions and ride together again! I love you, girlfriend!

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52 Graham Leupp April 4, 2014 at 10:55 am

Dana,
I was over @ Jim Q’s yesterday & we saw your most recent video. Bravo, my girl, bravo!!! I’m in awe and so proud of your progress, tenacity, courage & determination. There isn’t a ride I go on when I don’t think of you. Every time I’m tempted to cut a corner on the trail I think of your admonishments; when I drift a bit out of a paceline I can hear you urging me to get back in line.
I’ll bet you’re back on the bike someday, as well.
Keep plugging away, one step at a time…

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53 Dana Lookadoo April 5, 2014 at 6:16 pm

Graham,

Appreciate your watching my video. Yes, I WALKED!!! It was only 22 steps, but heck, one has to start somewhere… ;-)

I do have a lot of hurdles to overcome, but recovery is my #1 priority right now. My goal is to ride in a paceline again! I plan to join you on the trail.

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54 A poem from leon smith April 14, 2014 at 7:34 pm

I’m writing this with my Siri feature on the iPhone so please excuse any misspellings or mispronunciation:
The Poem: our generation
Our generation will be known for nothing
Never will anybody say
We were the peak of mankind.
That is wrong, the truth is
Our generation was a failure.
Thinking that
We actually succeeded
Is a waste And we know
Living only for money and power
Is the way to go
Being loving respect full and kind
Is a dumb thing to do
Forgetting about that time
Will not be easy but we will try
Changing our world for the better
Is something we never did
Giving up
Was how we handled our problem
Working hard was a joke
We knew that
People thought we couldn’t come bac
k
That might be true
Unless we turn things around

And so you think this is the end of the poem do yoy?
Well think again dana because this is leon speaking to you and now read the same poem backwards that’s right starting from the end and go towards the beginning because that’s the way you’re headed And then you can tell me about the results that you got!
God has already blessed you continue on Dana

Your friend Leon

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