It takes a community to help an athlete

·5 min read

WALKERTON – Melissa McKie is a single mom (four plus one) and a full-time paramedic working for Bruce County. She’s been competing in triathlons for many years and has set some major goals for herself this year – five triathlons between June and September.

Her children are older, and she has a lot of support from family and friends who help with childcare while she trains and competes.

Her plans were shaken – but not cancelled – by what she describes as “a horrific bicycle accident” that left her feeling lucky to be alive.

On April 4, about 7.5 kilometres into her usual 18-km training, her bike skidded on gravel at the corner of Yonge and Durham streets, sending her careening against a building. She had come down the hill and figured she was going 20-30 km/h at the time when she lost control of the bike.

“Thanks to my helmet, I am lucky to be alive,” she said.

She suffered bumps and scrapes, and what she described as “a significant injury” to her left leg. She flipped over the bike’s handlebars, which penetrated her leg approximately four inches.

“I don’t usually ride in town,” she said, adding that she was turning left to head in the direction of Lobies Park.

“It happened so quickly,” she said.

Two men who were standing outside the building, talking, saw what happened and responded quickly. A woman stopped her car to assist. All of them stayed with her until emergency services arrived.

“I’ll never know the names of the bystanders who helped me,” she said, and added that she hopes they see this story to know how much their actions helped. She recalls that one man held her leg up (the one impaled by the handlebar) to relieve the pain and pressure, for a good 20 minutes, while the other man called her ex-husband, who called her mother to pick up the kids from school.

Two ambulance crews arrived – her co-workers, people she knows well.

“Paramedics and firefighters did a great job,” she said.

They were conscious of the severity of her injury and worked together as a team to get her to the hospital as soon as possible. Firefighters used the “Jaws of Life” to cut off the handlebars – she was transported to hospital with the chunk of metal still embedded in her leg.

She said some of them held her hand or wiped away her tears, and provided words of encouragement as the bicycle was cut from her body.

“They knew the importance of my training… but the significant cost of my bicycle being a huge loss,” said McKie.

Once at the hospital, there were some friendly faces.

“They treated my injuries with speed and an incredible amount of compassion,” she said, speaking of two nurses in particular – Mary Ellen and Michelle, and Dr. Michael Curtis, who usually works out of Kincardine. He gave her the piece of metal he removed from her leg – she’s holding onto it.

“I will forever be grateful that I was able to walk with a lot of assistance out of the hospital with my best friend and go home to my children,” she said.

Eight days after the accident, she was able to return to full duties at work and is back riding a stationary bike and walking and running as much as her leg will tolerate. She’s also back at the pool.

And this is where the real story begins – the story of community support. Her bicycle, worth more than $3,000, wasn’t insured due to a glitch in her insurance policy. The cost of replacing the bike is double that. Replacing it would have been impossible, assuming an equivalent bike could even be found in North America, what with COVID-19 supply chain issues.

Only a few close friends knew that. So a group of local businesses owners and close friends put together a series of Instagram posts which were shared around. And word got around the tightly-knit paramedic community.

Said McKie, “They have collectively raised enough money for me to purchase everything I need to get back on my bicycle for my races. Now, while I do not know the total value raised at this point, it is well into the thousands. And I’m forever humbled and grateful.

“I want to recognize the community I live in for stepping up to help me, not only in the accident itself but in… helping me to get a new bike to still achieve my goals this year,” said McKie.

She makes special mention of Color Envy in Mildmay, Bombshell Salon and Spa in Walkerton, The Guest House in Walkerton, Cody Jefferson Realtor in Fergus, the Brockton Fire Department, Bruce County Paramedic Services and of course, her four small children.

Her children, aged 6, 7, 9 and 10, with the help of her ex-husband Darryl Moulton, put together a lemonade stand to raise money, well over $300.

She’s already looked at several bikes and thinks she’s found “a winner” in Guelph.

“The Bicycle Tailor in Fergus has already said he will tune up my new bicycle,” she said.

McKie added, “They say it takes a village to raise a family, but in this particular instance, that village has raised my very crushed soul and empowered me to continue to compete as an athlete for many years to come.”

She noted she’s already getting ready for her first triathlon of the season, at Guelph Lake on June 18.

Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times

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