Friday, July 2, 2010

Big Mike

Five years ago on July 2, Big Mike was headed out for his Saturday long bike ride. He was riding in a bike lane when he was struck from behind. The driver of the car that hit him was drunk. Really drunk. Mike was air lifted to the hospital and began the long, and by long I mean REALLY long, way too long, process of recovery. He was in the hospital in a medically induced coma on a ventilator for months. He had over 20 surgeries in total. He finally got released in November. That's right 5 months later. When Mike was released it was hard to call him Big Mike. He was a shell of his former self. One thing that hadn't changed was his infectious enthusiasm for life and overwhelming positive attitude. After the severe head injury he had suffered and all the pain and difficulties he had faced, and still had to face, this guy oozed happiness and love of life.

While Mike was in the hospital fighting for his life his friends, me included, dedicated all of our races to him. If Mike couldn't be out there doing what he loved, we would do it for him. I raced carrying a key chain sized red fin. I had spent hours upon hours swimming behind Big Mike and he always wore one red fin. That red fin got me through many a rough patch in races. Really, how rough is a patch in a race when you compare it to real life rough patches?

Mike returned to riding his bike. He couldn't not. That is what he does and loves and no one, not even a drunk should be given the power to take that away from him. In August of 2008 he made his return to racing but doing an aqua bike. He can no longer run, it is amazing he can even walk after how bashed up his knees were. I was lucky to witness first hand Mike return to the race course. Times like these remind us what it is all about.

Big Mike and his wonderful wife Cindy

After the race we all headed out for dinner. Mike enthusiastically ordered a beer. When the waitress brought the drinks to the table and put a beer down he said 'beer, what a great idea, who ordered that?'. He was thrilled to hear it was him. We are grateful that we still have Mike in our lives, short term memory loss and all! I'm going to go out for a ride now, and I'm going to love it, because, everyday that we get a chance to ride is a gift. Just ask Big Mike!

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