He was a man on a roll.
Then a freak accident bloodied Greg Parker's face, battered his body – and left him wondering what day it was. It happened on a muddy trail above Cle Elum last June.
The 34-year-old Parker, co-owner of Ellensburg's Iron Horse Brewery, loves mountain biking. He and his wife Natalia, who met as seniors at LaCrosse High School and reconnected in 2000, have been married a dozen years. Their sons, Julian, 9, and Wyatt, 6, share Greg's passion for mountain biking.
Last June, Greg and a friend, Chris Beyer, were riding with the boys when Greg crashed, flying over his handlebars and landing so hard his helmet cracked. Wyatt, hearing the noise, turned back and found his father moaning, the left side of his face covered in blood. "I could barely breathe," says Wyatt, who raced to get Beyer.
Natalia, waiting at the bottom of the trail, remembers Beyer's efforts to calm her. "He's fine, but he probably has a concussion," he told her. "Greg is, like, indestructible," she says. "But when I spoke to him he wasn't fine. He didn't know what day it was, what month it was, where he was. He didn't remember the wreck and wasn't coherent."
KVH Urgent Care - Cle Elum referred them to the Emergency Department at KVH Hospital. Natalia wondered whether she should she take Greg to a west side hospital she was sure could handle head injuries or to KVH Hospital which was closer. She chose the latter. There, a CT scan ruled out bleeding on the brain. Greg was admitted overnight for observation.
Emergency room personnel told her she made the right call. "They said, 'When something like this happens you should bring them here first so we can stabilize them and if there's a problem get them to where they need to be.' That's a good thing to remember for the future," Natalia says. "They're much better prepared to transfer people in trouble than we are."
She learned something else too: When there's a concussion, always consider the possibility of a neck injury too.
That's because 20 percent of concussions – one in five – have associated neck injuries, says Ken Kladnik, director of rehabilitation for Kittitas Valley Healthcare and a veteran of 32 years as a sports trainer. Symptoms of concussion can run the gamut from amnesia, dizziness and nausea to confusion, sensitivity to light or noise and ringing in the ears. Symptoms sometimes worsen which is why it's important to seek immediate attention at the closest medical facility, he says.
Also, he advises, don't think that someone has to have been unconscious to have suffered a concussion. "In 90 percent of concussions, you're not knocked out," he says. "I've seen situations where they're fine – but they can't remember what they had for breakfast." The good news? Most concussions totally resolve in seven to ten days.
On July 3, Greg returned to mountain biking. He and Natalia agree his accident was an anomaly. "I've done riskier things and crashed going harder and faster than I was going that day," he says. "Greg knows his limits – and he rides pretty easy when he's with the boys," his wife adds.
Both laud the care he got at the KVH Hospital Emergency Department. "Cle Elum must have called ahead. They were waiting for us when we got there," Natalia says. "They did a good job. They were thorough and they seemed to follow a protocol to make sure he was safe and protected. I was very impressed."