Friends, Tracy passed away peacefully last night at Sunnybrook Hospital at 11pm. We are using Facebook to provide updates and share her story. Please follow her journey at facebook.com/tracydort
One year ago today Tracy’s life changed in a instant.
“Isolated, by itself, what is a minute? Merely a measurement of time. There are 60 in an hour, 1,440 in a day. At seventeen, I had already ticked off more than 9,000,000 of them in my life.
Yet, in some cosmic plan, this single minute was isolated. Into these particular sixty seconds was compressed more significance than all the millions of minutes marking my life prior to this instant.” from – Joni: An Unforgetable Story by Joni Eareckson Tada
Thank you to everyone who has donated, supported, participated, visited, volunteered and cared!
The journey continues…..
My daughter Abigail has been hard at work on a speech she’ll be giving tomorrow in her Grade 9 English class. After rehearsing it tonight in front of Lesley, Grandma Joan and I, she graciously agreed to share it will all of you…
Life is precious, and that is not something that I really understood, until I was forced to.
Comprehending that life is precious and every second that we are here is a gift, is not something that a teenager often stops to think about. In a world where we focus so much of our attention on the negative it is often hard to see the good and the beauty of our world. We don’t often think, “Isn’t it amazing that I can walk, I can see and I can hear, we take for granted the things that we have.”
I’m not saying that I walk around being constantly amazed by my life, and I’m not saying it’s easy to be optimistic all the time, but we can choose to focus on the good things in our lives, instead of constantly focusing on the bad. I get it, it’s hard being a teenager, heck, it even, for lack of a better word “sucks” sometimes. But I hope that after you hear the story I am about to tell you that you’ll live your life with a little more optimism.
The wind rushes past, the trees are a blur and before you know it you’re speeding down a hill. Biking. Your body is used to this kind of exercise, but you’re still out of breath. Then just as you turn the corner you feel yourself flying through the air. You crash to the ground, yet there is no pain, no feeling at all. This is what happened to my aunt on the day that changed her life forever.
She was found in a ditch off the side of the road in critical condition. Then my Aunt Tracy was airlifted to a hospital in Toronto from Collingwood. My Mom received a phone call about the accident around 5:00pm on September 4, 2011.
“Quadriplegia, paralysis of four limbs” This is the prognosis, that has been given to Tracy.
This means my aunt will never open another door, brush her own teeth, or even hug her children, without the help of someone else. She will never write a letter, go for a walk or shake someone’s hand. It is hard to imagine not being able to move, it is something I often think about, and it is not an easy topic. This condition is life altering. And after seven months we now know just how hard it really is.
Never again will our lives be the same.
Although this heavy weight is on my Aunt’s shoulders. She chooses not to dwell on this fact. She is pushing forward, she makes sure she is their to attend as many fundraisers she can and thank people for their support. I wish I could summon the same strength she has within. She inspires me to keep going, to look at life with passion and to find the beauty in every small moment.
Although, when I first heard the prognosis, I can remember being speechless like the wind had been knocked out of me.
What could I say? What could I do? I was sad but I was also angry and resentful, angry at the people around me, angry at god, angry at myself.
Why? I wanted to know why this had happened to my family! Why did this have to happen the week I was supposed to start high school? What lesson was this supposed to teach me? I was also angry at myself for being selfish, I wanted and needed my parents but yet I knew my aunt needed them more
My Aunt is 41 years old. She has three boys, Christian 13, Malcolm 12 and Thomas 7. The fact that my Aunt has been raising these three boys with no husband for the past six years astonishes me. My Aunt’s life was not easy, she experienced a very painful divorce from her husband and still she’s managed put her life back together and built a beautiful house in Bedford Park.
My Mom often comes home from the hospital and recounts the tales of the day. There are hard days and there are times my Aunt does not feel so strong, but what I think makes her so inspiring is that she wakes up the next day with a smile on her face and ready to fight. She doesn’t let her condition paralyze her mind or her soul. She has faith. She knows that this is major setback, a big bump in the road, perhaps a mountain, but she wants to make it!
Although we have had many struggles and trying times, it has brought us closer as a family, and taught me many things. The first of which is that we must be grateful for everything we have and seize every opportunity we can in life. It has also strengthened my faith, I believe that there is reason this has happened to us! The relationship between my mother and her sisters had strengthened and that is not to say that there isn’t sadness and anger but every day my family learns to over come it.
My Aunt is my hero. When I think of her situation, I am saddened, and I often find it hard to explain. Yet when I think of how she is dealing with it I want to be strong for her, to push on and be the best person I can be. If she can put a smile on her face, I can make it through High School. If she can have optimism and look forward to her life, then I can too.
I’ve learned a lot about who I am after this accident. Seven month’s later and our family is still learning new things and new skills to coup with this tragedy. I have come to realize that family is one of the most important things in your life and that good friends make all the difference. I have become more understanding, less judgmental and although I always knew it I’ve realized there is much more to life than my own small world.
This accident may have changed who I am but it will be for the better, and I know that with my Aunt’s spirit and my brave family we can get through this.
So the next time you get up in the morning and you want to complain about how early it is or the test you have the next day, think about how lucky you are to even be able to get out of bed.
Please leave Abigail a comment and let her know what you thought of her speech.
Good morning, I’ve decided to share a post this morning from the young man who found Tracy on the side of the road. His name is Mike Hermanovsky and he cared for Tracy until the ambulance arrived.
He’s studying in Waterloo at Wilfrid Laurier University and we tracked Mike down through friends of friends. Lesley reached out to him and he graciously came to Toronto a week or so ago to talk to our family. As Lesley said to him that day, “Mike you are a hero.”
He had the courage to stop when others would have simply driven by. As it turns out, Mike is in the kinesiology program at WLU and is one of Canada’s top downhill mountain bikers. He was at Blue Mountain that day shuttling Mountain Bikers up the escarpment. Tracy couldn’t have been in better hands.
Mike is now part of our family and we are so very grateful to him…
He originally posted this to FaceBook shortly after Tracy’s accident.
It was probably my 4th or 5th trip up the hill and I was heading back down to possibly pick up another group of guys. Like usual I put Rob’s truck in second gear so I wouldn’t fly down the road or have to ride the brakes and burn them out. I drove most of the way down the hill and noticed something a little strange as I drove closer to the final left hand turn on Scenic Caves road. In front of me was a white Acura parked on the left side of the road with its 4 ways on as three Asian dudes stood on the right side looking into the ditch, one was on a cell phone. I rolled by slowly and looked carefully to my right and noticed a narrow skid mark dug into the gravel for about 30 feet. As I rolled further I noticed a woman lying on the other side of the ditch curled up like a small child with her head on the down slope facing the ditch. I kept rolling through and thought about how embarrassing it must be when roadies crash since there are always people around to see it happen, and they always look so awkward when they go down. I took another quick look at the lady and kept rolling by; I was still focused on helping my teammates get to the top of the hill.
Once I passed the roadie, I didn’t speed up, but rather I kept rolling slowly, thinking, wondering. From the two times I looked at her she hadn’t moved or budged an inch. I know when I crash I usually bitch and moan or hop and move around, something seemed weird this time. Also, the three men were just standing there, looking at her, nobody was with her, talking to her, asking her questions, seeing if she needed help. Something was wrong, really wrong, so I turned Rob’s truck into a driveway on the left side of the road, and drove back up the hill. As I came closer I started to run through scenarios in my head. Did she get run off the road? Was she just going too fast? Or did her brakes randomly happen to fail? I parked the truck on the downhill side of the road, half on the gravel, half on the road to block traffic. I turned on the four ways and stepped out of the truck.
It was only now that I really understood what had happened. The spot where the skid marks started was roughly 60 feet back from where the lady now lay still. She had ridden 30 feet on the soft shoulder of the road, hit the bank of the ditch and slid/rolled for another 25-30 feet to where she came to a stop. Immediately after stepping out of the truck I asked the three men if they had called an ambulance and one said “yes it should be about 10 minutes.” It had been at least a minute since I last saw them, they still hadn’t gone up to her. The woman lay silent with her head facing the ditch, the bank was steep so her head was below the level of her feet. Her face and neck were red and purple in some spots, the veins on her head bulged slightly. I assumed that she had been lying there for a couple of minutes. I stepped across the waterlogged ditch and knelt down by her head. She was on her side facing towards the top of the hill so I did the best I could to stabilize her head and neck.
She was breathing, she was conscious, it made me happy. I asked her what her name was, she replied with a faint yet audible “Tracy.” She was around 35 to 40 years old, she seem frustrated that I made her talk. I asked her what her last name was, she paused, her breathing was laboured and shallow. She had forgotten I assumed, but after a short wait she said “Dorch.” From that point on I said her first name every time I asked her a question so that I didn’t forget it, just in case she did later. Tracy clearly hit her head, her helmet was cracked and sitting in front of her face. The buckle, still clipped together rested on her dusty lips, I moved it. I told her my name and that I was there to help her. Each time I said anything to her, her response was “Can you please move my head, I can’t breathe.” This statement was oddly ironic, she was talking, she could breathe. I explained to her that we would both face serious risks if I tried to move her head. The ambulance still hadn’t arrived. As I waited with Tracy asking her questions I had some time to notice the half dozen small saplings that her speeding body had flattened.
I told her that I was going to feel her spine and that she should tell me when she feels pain. From T12 to T1 she seemed fine. I moved up towards her neck, looked closely, and didn’t bother to check by touching. It was clear that it was very important that I needed to make sure that her head, neck, and body didn’t move. What I saw when I looked at the back of her neck was not normal and any movement could make it worse. Again she begged me to lift her head so she could “breathe.” Her hands were up against her face so she asked me if I could move them for her. I thought this was an odd question, but didn’t see an issue with moving her hands slightly so they wouldn’t be so close to her mouth. I held her hand, moved it to the ground and placed it down gently, it was limp. The ambulance still hadn’t arrived.
I asked the men some more questions, confirming that an ambulance was coming, how long ago they called, and made sure they gave the right directions. “Who are you,” she asked. Again I told her my name and why I was there. I decided to pinch the back of her arm to see if she had possible nerve damage. I caught a good amount of skin between my two small nails and pinched as hard as I could. I asked if it hurt, no response. At this point I still hadn’t seen her move her legs or hands on her own. Still no Ambulance, but I could hear the sirens in the distance. My knees and calves were getting sore from squatting but I knew I couldn’t move.
The ambulance finally arrived and it seemed like forever before they brought the stretcher over to the ditch. By the time I got the chance to turn around and see the road there were 2 ambulances and 4 police cruisers strategically placed around the scene. A paramedic slid his hands over mine and took my spot holding Tracy’s head. I proceeded to give the paramedics all the information that I could and then crawled out of the ditch. As I stood up my calves started to cramp and I felt a sharp pain in my right knee, I had been kneeling on my stitches. I started talking to one of the police officers, gave her my information, and told her everything I knew about the situation. When I was done, the paramedics asked me for my help lifting Tracy onto the backboard and so I went back over the ditch. I held her feet as we lifted in a swift yet smooth motion. She now lay flat on her back on the bright yellow board. We began to strap her in but in the process her arm slipped off the side and dangled straight down, she still could not move it. We carried her across the ditch and onto the stretcher, it had been 20 minutes since I first laid my hands on her head.
The Paramedics wheeled her over to the ambulance and placed her in the back, they thanked me and then mentioned something to each other about a helicopter and London. I assumed they were going to have her flown to London for more specialized treatment. The ambulance left and so I went back to the Police officers and asked if they needed anything else from me. They said no, thanked me, and said I could leave. I walked to Rob’s truck, hopped in, and drove back down the hill. It wasn’t until I left the scene that I realized that I had forgotten to put on my seatbelt before I drove away.
So now its 3:35AM and I am extremely tired. This weekend involved the strangest series of events that I have ever experienced, from going to the hospital and getting stitches, to seeing the first ever mid-weekend course switch, to helping a fellow biker on the side of the road, it was just all so unique and odd. At this point, all I can really leave you with is to learn from the mistakes you make and the ones others make. Whether you decide to not wear knee pads just because you’re on an XC bike, or if you decide to go as fast as possible down a road regardless of what’s ahead, it’s important to know that there are always people that have made a similar mistake before you. Just make sure you know the right answer when you come back all bandaged up and Shane J. asks you, “What did you learn?”
It is now Tuesday, September 7, 2011 and my mind is still unsettled about the whole situation this weekend with Tracy. I realize that I did my best with the circumstances that I was faced with, and that there wasn’t anything else that I could have done for her, but I still feel a little bit empty. My concern is that I have been going about the past couple of days without any closure about the incident. I knew nothing about her, I don’t know where she went after I last saw her, and all I have is the vivid memory of looking at her bleeding eyelid as she begged me to lift her head so she could breathe. I normally consider myself an emotionally strong person, but this situation happened to break me down and leave me quite restless. It’s hard to see one of your own go down, even if they do wear lycra and spend all of their time on the road. Regardless, it broke my heart to see a person who’s passion was torn from them in a quick accident. I couldn’t leave it at this, I had to find out more. This morning I Called the Collingwood O.P.P. office and tried to find out more information about what happened to Tracy after the Ambulance left the scene. All they knew at the time was that she was flown to Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto. The receptionist sent an email to the Constable in charge of the accident that day and said that he would call me with more information. It wasn’t until later this evening that I received more information from a friend regarding Tracy’s condition…
Late Sunday they had to move Tracy from her nice bright room in the CCU to the area where people having day surgery recover. She’s in a different section, but there are no windows and it doesn’t have a good smell. The roof in her room was leaking – apparently bad plumbing.
Her infection seems to have subsided with the antibiotics, and when I was there late yesterday the nurse said “no more fever”.
Mom and Lynn brought the boys in to see her after school. It went well – as well as it can go when you’re a kid visiting your Mom in the hospital with a life-changing prognosis. One by one they went to visit their Mom. First Christian who gave her a big kiss on her forehead and announced “I love you Mom”, then Malcolm who came out saying “well that went better than last time”, followed by little Thomas who brought his Mom his special blanket.
Prior to the boys visit, Tracy was anxious and emotional. The respiratory therapist put her back on full oxygen/vent, and she told me to “stop talking” – as I was trying to offer comforting words of wisdom – saying how resilient kids are, and that her boys are strong just like her… bla bla bla. She clearly did NOT want to hear it. So, I stopped. I guess it was my way to ease my own trepidation about their visit.
After the boys left, I had only planned to stay with Tracy for a little while longer, and told her that she needed to rest. She agreed, but somehow my “little while” turned into several hours. I realized on my way home that her only control right now is to ask the people who visit to do things for her – water, hair brush, rub shoulders, scratch nose or cheek, fluff pillow, bed up, bed down, read, don’t read, …
I read to her from a book written by Chelsea Handler. It’s kind of crude, and very funny. At one point she made me stop because she wanted to laugh and couldn’t breathe!
I was tired. I went back to work yesterday and then went straight to the hospital in the later afternoon. I hadn’t eaten and I just wanted to go home. But each time I’d come close to the end of the chapter she would look at me with a little smile as if to say thank you and please don’t go. So what if I was tired and hungry?…. I thought to myself. …and so I read on…..
KUDOS: To all the freinds who have spend time with Tracy recently! Thank you for all your caring and help.
VISITS: Email Lynn – she is the keeper of the schedule email@example.com
REMEMBER: To be grateful for each day.
GRATITUDE: to my sister Lynn – she is the leader, the decision maker, the planner and most of all the most loving sister ….! anyone could have! thank you Lynn!!
On Friday September 16th in the late afternoon Dr. Peter Chu performed the surgery for Tracy to have a tracheotomy. We are all so thrilled as the tubes for intubation were very bothersome to her. We can now read her lips.
Dr. Chu came into her room that afternoon and apologized for not doing the procedure earlier in the day as planned. He went on to suggest that he was called into two emergency surgeries, and I should listen to the radio on my way home to hear the details. I did. It was a shooting and the boy who jumped off the Mavis overpass onto the 401.
Today Tracy is fighting off some infections and has been put back on more breathing support, although she gave it her best shot!! Yesterday with Cash she was feeling and doing better with her breathing and the new trache. Everyday is different.
CENTURION: Luck and best wishes to all the riders this weekend!!
VISITING TRACY: If you want to visit Tracy please send Lynn an email with “VISIT TRACY” as the subject line firstname.lastname@example.org Be advised that “Visiting” Tracy involves helping her. It’s not a sit down, read a magazine kind of visit. It’s hard work some days. It’s giving her water, rubbing her shoulders, putting cold cloths on her head, brushing her hair, getting nurses or doctors as requested.
Please don’t forget to send a card or a note in the mail, as per my previous journal entries.
Cherish today and every move you make.