timberland boots navy ‘This is just a new adventure’
It was one of the hottest summers on record, yet when 22 year old Erica Bruns of Dundee got ready to ride her motorcycle to her boyfriend house on July 24, she wore her thick, padded jacket and knuckle protective gloves.
She strapped on her bright yellow, back reinforced backpack, and like usual wore her black leggings, Timberland boots and a top of the line full face helmet.
She gotten the tires replaced on her 883 Harley Sportster the week prior, and had been nervous to ride on the fresh rubber. But after riding through gravel, her apprehensions were eased.
Bruns had ridden the 24 miles to Scott Korpi house million times with ease and knew what to expect from the route. It not as though she was a motorcycle novice. The blonde haired, big smiled University of Oregon graduate got her first Harley at age 19 a gift from her biker dad.
freshman year of college, he got (a new) one. I was like, if dad can have one, Erica gets one, Bruns said, laughing. got my first one Memorial weekend of my freshman year.
The bike stayed with her through college in Eugene, but Bruns was always hesitant to take friends for rides when they asked she didn like taking anyone else life in her hands. And while she felt fully confident in her skills, Bruns always thought she would die in a motorcycle crash. Or rather, if she crashed, she never thought she would survive it. at the intersection of Ribbon Ridge Road and Highway 240, she felt her Harley start to slide; she leaned too far into the turn at too high a speed, and was losing control of the bike.
was going probably too fast. Well, clearly too fast, she said. went into the other lane and there was another car coming.
Unable to correct herself and return to her lane, Bruns lifted her bike to an upright position and aimed for the ditch opposite her, a better option than being hit by the car. She was almost in the clear when she collided with the car right bumper, sending her flying over the top of the vehicle and ultimately into the ditch behind it.
The whole time, Bruns remained conscious. She remembers the collision, soaring over the car, landing; she remembers the position she hit the ground in, and makes reference to it with her hands as she retells the story; she remembers mentally checking her body for injuries. As she went down the list, everything was in place except her right leg. Extreme pain was concentrated below her knee, and she couldn feel her toes.
Around this time, Korpi neighbor came over, saying he seen a motorcycle accident on his way home, involving a bike that looked a lot like Bruns
didn realize how much blood I was losing. I didn think that there was anything wrong with my leg other than that it was broken. I never broke any bones. It was just weird I know it supposed to hurt, but this hurt like hell, she said. leg was broken, it was just broken in many fragments. I never thought amputation was a possibility.
After the immediate actions of an off duty responder who saw the crash, followed shortly by an off duty paramedic, Bruns was tended to on the scene, and ultimately taken by Life Flight to Oregon Health and Science University Hospital. There, doctors would tell her that her options were amputation below the knee, or reconstruction that would take months and likely not be successful.
of being in agony for months, I out of (the hospital) and done, Bruns said. decided I not going to be in pain and agony, and I want to get back to my life as quickly as possible, so this is the way I want to do it.
It was hours before her family and Korpi could see her in the hospital, but Korpi said Bruns was her usual joking self when they went in her hospital room.
took it about as well as you could take losing half your leg. She hasn changed. I mean, nothing has changed about her at all. She still the same person, and we still do the same things we always did, he said. just been the same old us. Same her. Same me. If anything, it been stronger because we know we getting through this.
After eight days in the hospital, Bruns returned home and begin recovering. With her right leg amputated several inches below the knee, she retained complete mobility of the joint, and didn suffer any tears from the accident. Much to the surprise of many, all of her injuries were isolated to her lower right leg, and the rest of her body didn suffer so much as road rash. Bruns credits this to the heavy gear she happened to wear that day, and to her quick reactions in attempting to hit the ditch, not the car.
a young age, I always loved motorcycles, and I always loved going fast; that not what led to my accident at all, I was being careful during my accident, she said. never thought that I would survive a motorcycle accident. But I did. So maybe that the point for life. I did survive it.
Always an athlete and adventurer, Bruns hasn been able to cope with this trauma the way she coped with things in the past: through running. She had to focus her energies on other exercises, like weight training and yoga. But, she knows that won be enough long term and recently set up her bicycle on training rollers in the living room to begin working cardio back into her routine. Still, that won be enough and Bruns is applying for a grant and raising money to hopefully fund a running leg sometime next year.
In the meantime, she working with Tualatin based Artisan Orthotic Prosthetic Technologies to get her first prosthetic leg next month and try to get her life back to normal. Actively on the post graduation job hunt at the time of her accident, Bruns put the search on hold to let her leg heal, but also because she didn want anyone to hire her, or not hire her, because of her injury.
don just want to step into a business and them see me as disabled. Because I don see myself like that, she said. can be denied a job because of my disability, but I don ever want that to be the reason why somebody would feel like they had to keep me, you know?
Someone who always worked hard and loved life, Bruns hasn seemed to skip a beat. She start applying for jobs again at the end of December, and still plans to do everything she always envisioned for herself.
is just a step in your life, just like getting through college or raising a puppy, she said. have always had this no quit, try everything attitude. This is just a new adventure. I hope that inspires people, that they see life trials as new adventures, and not trials.
Editor note: We be following Erica Bruns journey as she goes through the process of getting her prosthesis from Artisan in Tualatin. Continue to check The Graphic in the coming weeks for follow up stories.