The first time Brad Swope got back on his bike after a traumatic cycling incident, he immediately returned to the place where it occurred. Every person is born with a different genetic makeup – Brad was born to compete. Only this time, he was competing with himself mentally, and the best way to get through it was to ride straight to Seneca Park.
In March of 2004, Brad was riding through the park and crossing an intersection with the right of way when a motorist failed to yield and hit him.
“It happened in broad daylight,” Brad said. “Many cyclists assume that drivers can see us because it isn’t dark, but sometimes the sun impedes motorists’ vision.”
Within five minutes, EMS was on the scene, and Brad was transported to University of Louisville Hospital’s Trauma Center. Unlike some diseases and injuries, there are often no warning signs associated with a traumatic event. They happen in the blink of an eye, and the Trauma Center at University of Louisville Hospital must be prepared for all types of injuries – no matter the severity.
“The Trauma Team not only treated me, but they cared for my wife as well.”
“The first thing I remember is waking up in the Emergency Room with Ann (Brad’s wife) holding my hand. At that point, I wasn’t worried about myself. I was concerned about Ann, but the staff wasn’t just caring for me – they were caring for her too. What the Trauma Team does with their hands is a miracle. What they do with their hearts is just as amazing.”
Considering the situation, Brad was fortunate to only sustain some cuts, fractures and a hematoma in his leg. However, later that night in the Intensive Care Unit, a nurse told Brad and Ann there were complications with his injuries.
The fractures were causing blockage in his vertebral artery, and as a result, Brad experienced two minor strokes. His blood needed to be thinned to stop the clots from worsening. However, the medication that would affect the hematoma, put him at risk of losing his leg and permanently change his cycling career.
“At that point, we were thinking that we had the choice to either lose my leg or my life. The decision was obvious, and by the next day, my outlook improved.”
Twenty-two months later, and after many rides on a stationary bike in the basement, Brad knew it was time.
“It was one of those warm winter days that you have to take advantage of. I rode to the end of the street, then a mile and realized I was ready. I literally rode right to the place where I was hit. Seeing the cars scared me, and they still make me wary to this day, but the benefits to cycling outweigh any risks.”
Needless to say, Brad has overcome any fears he once had. This summer, Brad returned to the national stage and won two silver medals at the 2010 USA Cycling Masters Road National Championships.
Even though Brad has been able to ride again, he acknowledges that his recovery off the bike is a hill he is still climbing.
“I lost confidence socially and am still working on that. I have troubles with timelines and forget dates easily. Without Ann, I don’t know how I would be in the position I am. We are a team, and she is my calm in the storm.”
Brad is thankful he was taken to University of Louisville Hospital’s Trauma Center after the accident.
“It was good fortune that I was taken there. Considering the Trauma Center’s reputation, I was confident I was in the right place. We are fortunate to have that level of care available in our community, and people need to know where they go for their care does make a difference.”
About University of Louisville Hospital’s Trauma Center:
- First Trauma Center in the nation
- Area’s only Level I Trauma Center providing the most advanced trauma care
- Provides care for 3,500 people a year
- Treats 1,500 people a year who live outside Jefferson County
- Includes the region’s only adult burn unit
- Dedicated statewide outreach through trauma and burn education programs