Hit and Run

- Aug• 14•17

By Jerry McCathern, ’87

Editor’s note: “What I Did on my Summer Vacation” is a back-to-school assignment cliché, but All Souls Jerry McCathern, a former member of the Stewardship Committee and visitor of the Capital Campaign, had a potentially fatal experience. If your summer yielded a dramatic encounter, the Beacon would like to hear about it.

On Friday, July 27, I was on my bicycle around 4:30 in the afternoon headed south on Ponquogue Avenue in Hampton Bays on Long Island. As I crossed the street in front of the library, a speeding car came seemingly out of nowhere and made a westbound right turn into my bicycle, knocking me off and causing a serious injury to my left hand and wrist. When he saw I was down, the driver sped up and took off.

I say I was the victim of a hit and run incident—not an accident— because the driver appeared to do it intentionally.  I suspected he was driving under the influence.

Because it was a beautiful summer week-end in the Hamptons, the streets and sidewalks were crowded with cars, pedestrians and cyclists.  A number of folks came to my rescue, and the cops and an ambulance were there within minutes. Although I was in shock and excruciating pain, I was able to call my daughter, Jenny, who lives just a few blocks away.

A 19 year-old man named Ryan was an eye-witness, and he followed the car that hit me. But when the driver saw he was being followed, he went even faster, and Ryan lost him. Ryan returned to the scene and gave the cop a description of the vehicle that hit me: a silver 300 Series BMW with a couple of letters from the license plate—HL. The driver is still at large.

Ryan offered to load my bike into Jenny’s SUV while my four year-old grandson, Aidan, saw me on the ground bleeding, surrounded by police and emergency medical workers, and the poor little fellow started to cry. I was taken by ambulance, sirens blaring, to the Southampton Hospital, and within a few hours taken to the OR for surgery to stabilize my broken radius, which protruded through the skin—one of the worst types of bone fractures. On the following Tuesday, I had the most important surgery to repair the break with bolts and screws, performed by the Hampton’s most renowned plastic surgeon, Joseph Brady. I was in the hospital for five days, my first serious hospitalization in 69 years.

I have always regarded the nursing profession as the noblest career one could choose, and now I have even greater respect for the nurses and hospital staff who care for patients while doctors flit in and out like butterflies. The staff struggled with my intravenous drip feed (IV), which was constantly occluded, and it became harder and harder to find a new vein in my good arm. Before my second surgery, four different nurses and two operating room doctors failed to find a vein for the IV, turning my good arm into a pincushion.  They finally used a sonogram to find a vein.  Pain management has been my biggest challenge, yet I’m opioid-free today with the help of large quantities of ibuprofen, after stepping down from IV morphine, IV torodol, and oxycodone.

I’ll be in a cast for another five weeks or so, and will have physical therapy twice a week for a couple of months.  Dr. Brady says I should regain complete use of my left hand and wrist and should even be able to play the piano again.

I am so thankful that my injuries were not worse. I’m aware I could have been killed had I landed on my head. Stupidly, I was not wearing my helmet that day. Other than a broken wrist and lacerated elbow, there wasn’t even a bruise elsewhere. My biggest regret is that the driver is still out there, a dangerous menace to us all. The Hampton Bays Library is a very busy place with wonderful children’s programming. Children, including my two grandsons, and families have to cross the street to get to it.

I’ve been a pretty serious cyclist for over thirty years, riding almost every day when I lived in Manhattan, the Jersey shore, and Newark. I have had many close calls, but the incident I suffered is one I most feared:  an impatient driver, making a right turn, speeds up to cut in front of a cyclist or pedestrian rather than slow down and yield.  There’s absolutely nothing a cyclist (or pedestrian) can do to avoid such a collision, because the driver literally seems to come out of nowhere at an accelerated speed.  It happens all the time. How ironic that this happened just one month after I moved to Hampton Bays, a beautiful little town with gorgeous beaches, fabulous weather, and many other gifts.

I’m so very grateful for all the well wishes and prayers from family and friends, and for the outstanding medical care I received. I’m inspired by people like Ryan, who went out of his way to help a stranger, and for my daughter, Jenny, and son-in-law, Jason, for taking such good care of me while I recuperate.

As my minister Galen Guengerich wrote to me, “Life continually reminds us that we are fragile and the future is uncertain.”  And the blessings of life are worth the risk and certainly better than the alternative.

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