Technology changes how motorcycle injuries are treated

X-ray of Hyrum Zerkle's leg after his accident, Valley View Medical Center, Cedar City, Utah, March 27, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Hyrum Zerkle, St. George News

FEATURE  Motorcycle injuries can range from mild to devastating. In the case of Hyrum Zerkle, his injuries left him unable to work or watch his son while his wife is out.

Zerkle was taking a test drive with his custom-made bike, which he won in an essay contest. While on 200 South by Southern Utah University in Cedar City, a woman pulled out from the parking lot of the dorms and T-boned Zerkle.

“She just didn’t see me,” Zerkle said. “I mean, I don’t hold it against her, but it’s an important thing for people to know that they have to see bikes. They have to pay attention, and they have to see them.”


Read more: Lives altered; motorcycle safety matters; STGnews Videocast


The injury to Zerkle’s leg was serious. The impact from the vehicle that struck him flung him into the air, and he landed with such force that it caused bone to literally eject itself from his leg. He lost 3 1/2 inches of length in his right leg.

X-ray of Hyrum Zerkle's leg after his accident, Valley View Medical Center, Cedar City, Utah, March 27, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Hyrum Zerkle, St. George News
X-ray of Hyrum Zerkle’s leg after his accident, Valley View Medical Center, Cedar City, Utah, March 27, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Hyrum Zerkle, St. George News | Click to enlarge

In the first two weeks, he underwent three surgeries, Zerkle said. Currently, there is a metal rod with screws holding his leg in while he awaits the next one.

Technology has played a significant role in how leg and bone injuries are treated today, Dr. Darrell Wilson, Emergency Room doctor at Valley View Medical Center, said.

Past choices were to amputate them or leave them deformed, he said. Today, surgical techniques have improved and area specialties have expanded allowing more possibilities to save a severely injured leg.

However, technology does not have an answer for everything, Wilson said. In cases of severe head trauma, damage from a motorcycle wreck can sometimes be irreparable.

Starting in spring and throughout the summer, Wilson said, there are a multitude of motorcycle injuries that are treated through the emergency room. They range in severity, but there are two types they see the most.

The first type is motorcyclist error. These are the type of injuries that occur from traveling too fast around a corner or maybe hitting some loose gravel. These are usually less severe, the doctor said, and a large portion of the injuries could be avoided by wearing the appropriate riding gear.

Hyrum Zerkle's leg after first surgery, Valley View Medical Center, Cedar City, Utah, March 27, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Hyrum Zerkle, St. George News
Hyrum Zerkle’s leg after first surgery, Valley View Medical Center, Cedar City, Utah, March 27, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Hyrum Zerkle, St. George News | Click to enlarge

The other type is vehicle versus motorcycle. While sometimes these accidents can be quite mild, Wilson said, others are at fairly high speed or at major intersections, which can turn out to be a devastating accident.

“The worst of it usually happens to the motorcyclist, because they, just based on the laws of physics, have no real protection,” Wilson said, “and so their body takes the brunt of the impact.”

An avid rider himself, the emergency room doctor said he has worked on patients in the past with injuries that have made him question whether it is worth getting back on his own motorcycle.

Within the next nine months, Zerkle said, he expects to have to have at least five more surgeries, including a painful bone grafting procedure where they will attempt to replace the missing bone in his leg with bone from elsewhere in his body, hoping to save it.

A good friend of his was in a similar accident 20 years ago, Zerkle said, and he lost the injured leg. He said the doctor informed him that if this same injury occurred only 10 years ago, he would be in the same boat; but thanks to new technology, they are attempting what was once thought impossible.

“I am amazed at the technology today,” he said. “It’s fantastic, and we live in a fantastic time.”

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Email: cmiller@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

 

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1 Comment

  • BeckiBronson May 27, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    Great story Carin! Wow.

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