Sunday, February 1, 2009

"Hey Man, Let's Ride!" - one last time

"It was a beautiful day.  The sun beat down...   yeah, running down a dream..."  - Tom Petty

If you're reading this post, you probably already know that Jeff Bayly was injured this past Sunday in a solo accident. Jeff was doing what he loved doing - riding his bike.  I was with Jeff at the time.  Here's what I remember happening on that fateful day:  

Jeff and I were out on a beautiful Super Bowl Sunday morning for what was supposed to be a great ride. We had ridden over 50 miles the previous day so we didn't want to push ourselves too hard today.    We had ridden 20 miles together through Somis and Moorpark as we rolled up the hills.  We joked that we had cheated death again by outrunning the traffic on Highway 118. Jeff said "Where's the adventure if you're not living dangerously?"

We climbed up onto Olsen Rd in Thousand Oaks and turned west.  Everything was fine.  The hill ahead of us had a nice mellow uphill grade, the sun was shining over our shoulders and the warm east wind was coming from behind, giving us a gentle push up the hill.  As we ascended, Jeff got a great burst of energy.  He took off as I sang out "go Johnny go go go" and I watched him accelerate.  We climbed up and Jeff crested the top first.  We had the clear, wide bike lane to ourselves.  

Suddenly, in a vision burned into my memory, I glanced up to see Jeff's front wheel wobble sideways and Jeff toppling forward over his bike.  I called out to him but there was no response.  I was about 20 seconds behind Jeff and raced up to help.  As I jumped off my bike, I could hear Jeff struggling to breathe.  He was in major distress.  As I crouched over him, I could see major bleeding from the fall.  His helmet was intact, but he had taken a very tough blow to his face.   It was bloody and traumatic.  He didn't respond when I called out his name.   How could this happen I asked myself?  Jeff probably wasn't even going 20 miles an hour.  I was shocked and perplexed.

I grabbed my phone and dialed 911.  I knew not to move him.  Not a minute went by before a motorist stopped and asked if Jeff was OK.  When I yelled "No, he's not"  the fellow went back to his car and ran up with a full medic bag.  911 was on the line with me by now.   By minute two, a second good Samaritan had come up and told me that he had just gotten off his shift.  John was a paramedic, and asked me if he could direct the responders at 911 as he tore into the medical supplies to aid Jeff.  I was thinking that Jeff was in good hands now and would be alright. But still he bled, moaned and shuddered.

The fireman, police, ambulance and paramedics arrived in about 8 minutes time.  They went to work right away, putting Jeff into a neck collar brace, loaded him onto a gurney and rushed him to Los Robles Hospital. The sheriffs were on site and noted what happened.  We walked through the crash as best I could recall it.  There were a pair of fist sized rocks in the bike lane.  Jeff's rear tire was flat. But his bike was otherwise fine. At that time, I assumed he had hit the rocks, went down but would be alright after the doctors patched him up.  So, I waited behind with our bikes and belongings.  My wife was driving up to meet me so that we could meet the officers and Jeff at the ER.  

When we arrived at the ER, I was told "You do realize that your friend is seriously injured? He's getting a cat scan just now.  He won't be out for 45 minutes or so."  I was in denial.  I said to Char "Lets get a quick bite nearby.  Besides, I need a drink"  My phone rang at the restaurant.  It was one of the officers.  He told me that Jeff was in worse shape than we had first thought.  He needed to collect Jeff's clothing and bike that I had taken in our car. As I hung up the phone, I began to come out of my denial and realize that Jeffrey had not just crashed.  This was not a normal bike accident.

As we drove back to the hospital, my phone rang. It was the sheriff'sofficer again.  He asked me to go directly back to the crash site and meet an investigator.  "Due to the serious nature of your friend's injury, we are classifying this as a more serious accident and need to investigate it further"  he said.  He also told me that the cat scan showed Jeff was in very, very bad shape.
Officer Godfrey was waiting to meet me and review the crash.  He looked at the site, looked at Jeff's bike and clothing and we tried to piece together the accident.  I still chalked it up to hitting a rock.  But I was puzzled, as was he, by the fact that the only scratches on Jeff's bike were on the brake hood and the rear wheel skewer where he skidded.  Jeff hadn't gone up and over the bars. He was fully clipped in when he stopped.  And the front wheel and tire which had wobbledwere intact and relatively scratch free.  The flat rear tire was the sole out of sorts item.

Officer Godfrey took Jeff's clothes and bike. Char and I took off for the ER.  The accident happened at 10:24 AM and it was now sometime after noon.  Barbara, Jeff's girlfriend, was already at the ER.  We went in the ER to see her and Jeff.  The CAT scan showed that he had suffered major trauma to his skull and brain.  He had also broken his shoulder, some ribs and punctured his lung.  Jeff was stillunconscious when I saw him again.  

The ER ordered a second CAT scan around 1 PM because the first scan showed 2 blood clots on the top of his brain.   After the second scan, a neurosurgeon briefed us.  Dr Chan told us this terrible news "I don't know if  Jeff is going to make it" he said.  Dr Chan showed us how and where the clots had gotten larger.  He ordered emergencyneurosurgery for Jeff, who by this time was on a ventilator in order to stabilize his breathing.

The surgery lasted over 3 and a half hours.  Afterwards Dr Chan came out to greet us.  By this time, there were 10 of us waiting to hear the news.  Dr Chan said that he successfully stopped the clotting.  But there was damage done to Jeff's brain.   This was major damage.  Dr Chan said that Jeff would be in intensive care and that all we could do is wait to see what would happen next.  He described Jeff's injuries as major brain trauma and that he did not expect to see any outcome or changes in Jeff until at least 48 hours to 7 days later.  

Barbara and I went in to see Jeff that Sunday night around 9 PM.  He was in the shape that you never want to see your friends or loved ones in.  Jeff had bandages on both sides of his skull where they had gone in to remove the clots.  His face was badly swollen.  Tubes were running in and out his body seemingly everywhere.  A ventilator was humming, forcing his lungs to breathe rhythmically.  He was totally unconscious and unresponsive.  The doctors and nurses in attendance were cautioning us that Jeff's condition was severe and grave.  We were praying for the best and girding ourselves for the worst - still in shock. 

That's where things stood on Sunday night, February 1, 2009 -  the last ride I'll probably take with Jeff Bayly.  


  1. Seth, you are a true friend to all those who know you. Jeff, I am so sorry about your accident and wish you a speedy and complete recovery. As a fellow rider I know our sport and passion is not risk free. Will think of you as I peddle around Orange County

    Linden Mosk

  2. Seth,

    Thank you for keeping us all up to date. With the love and prayers from his friends (and there are tons) and family I know in my heart that Jeff will pull through this. With each day there is something new and and positive. Jeff Bayly I love you!!!

  3. Seth, will you please read this to Jeffrey in his room if you get a chance.

    Jeffrey, this is your cousin, Lyssa, up in Washington State. I was at work when I got the call last week and it shocked me to hear of your accident. Then all our childhood adventures flashed through my head. You are like an extra brother to me, sharing in all our camping trips and Disneyland trips and all the places we went when we were young.

    I remember when we all went camping on the desert one year and we stumbled upon a grave marked with a simple wooden cross. We each dared the other to touch it and one by one, we all ventured forth and then we scrambled down the rocks to the safety of camp. Ever after that, we joked when one of us would get injured that it was because we had touched that cross and invoked the "curse of Igor." Looks like Igor got you good this time, bro. It's so hard to imagine. I cringed at Barabara's description of your accident - it sounded like you must have smacked your head pretty darn good.

    I wish this were not happening. And I wish that we'd kept in touch more after my mom died in 2003. You commented then how much you loved life and were adventurous because of your Aunt Dorothy's outlook on life that she had imparted to you those many years ago. And you told me then, too, about your love of Barabara and Stephanie and your grandson.

    Jeffrey, I know a great deal about brain injury from my work in personal injury claims -it is so hard to think of you in this condition or what might be ahead of you in recovery. I went to church last week as I always do and prayed for you and your close friends and family. I do not know how this adventure will end, but I think of you every day as I wait for better news and I know that if anyone is able to come out of this it is you - a person of strong will and great heart and determination.

    I have spoken with Larry and Robyn and they too send their best wishes and prayers.

    Blessings, my cousin-brother. You are on my mind and in my heart every day.

    Lyssa Gooch