Journaling My Cycling Accident And Recovery

February 9, 2014 · 128 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…


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.)


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.


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!


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!!!

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