The Left Turn That Changed Her Life

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. JT May III
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
The decision to buy a 624-pound Yamaha V-Star 1300 motorcycle was validated by rides like these. As she rode, she smelled the fresh fall air and felt the wind at her back. The gentle breeze caused wheat to wave back and forth in a nearby field. The civil servant of the baby boomer generation had the bike for two days before she crashed Sept 11, 2008.

Less than half a block from her home, as she started to turn, she momentarily lost sight of the road and panicked. She hit the throttle instead of the brakes and lost control of the bike. At 25 miles-per-hour she hit the asphalt. As she flew off the bike head- first, she instinctively reached out to break her fall, but broke every bone in her wrist, fractured two disks in her back, suffered a concussion and road rash.

Ms. Shawn Mayo, 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs chief of community relations, lost consciousness and was taken by ambulance to Deaconess Hospital, in Spokane.

Ms. Mayo did everything right. She felt very confident in her riding ability because she went the correct speed limits, wore all the correct safety gear and attended all the motorcycle safety classes. One could say she was prepared by all stretch of the imagination.

But, it didn't change the fact she woke up in her hospital bed. The doctors told her the helmet she was wearing saved her life. She recalls being in unspeakable pain. "I would rather deliver three babies without anesthetic instead of the back pain I had," said the mother of an Air Force veteran.

Ms. Mayo was released from the hospital that same night, but didn't want anybody to stay with her because she believed she was going to die.

Four days later, Ms. Mayo went back to work thanks to her daughter-in-law who helped her shower, her son who did housework and her significant other who cooked. She also went to the beauty shop to get her hair done every day. Ms Mayo credits her supporting cast to include her work for helping her get through this time in her life.

Her first surgery on her wrist was unsuccessful because the bones didn't adhere to the titanium rods placed in her wrist and arm. Ms Mayo still has residual effects from the accident such as the loss of dexterity in her hand and chronic back pain. She will always have to wear a back brace to align her back and spends countless hours in physical therapy. Even though she had all the right gear and attended all the required training, a momentary lapse in focus will cause her a lifetime in pain.

A year after the accident, Ms. Mayo opted for a three -wheeled motorcycle, which some consider having the cornering stability of a small sports car. After contemplating the idea of getting on a bike again, she realized she couldn't quit doing something she loved.

"I want motorcycle riders to take motorcycle safety training to heart, if I would have kept my focus I probably wouldn't have had the accident," she said.