TUPELO – Jan Morgan was motionless in the intensive care unit at North Mississippi Medical Center on Thursday, the latest victim in a string of car-on-bicycle accidents in the region.
At least three cyclists have died and several others have been injured in the past couple years after vehicles slammed into them on Northeast Mississippi roads.
Morgan, a 57-year-old Starkville resident, was riding on an open stretch of Highway 50 in Clay County on Sunday morning when a sedan struck her traveling about 55 miles per hour. It carried her 200 yards on its hood before stopping. Another cyclist riding ahead of her was spared.
The accident happened just two days after Tupelo’s Bike Safety Week, launched by the family of another car-on-bicycle crash victim, John Paul Frerer.
Frerer was killed by a truck in August 2009 near Thaxton while cycling on Highway 6.
This latest incident “just proves how important it is that we raise awareness about cycling,” said Liria Frerer, John Paul’s mother and Mississippi’s matron of bike safety. She visited the Morgans at the hospital this week.
“No road is safe,” she said, “if we’re not paying attention.”
Morgan was airlifted after the accident to NMMC, where she has since been kept alive by a network of machines and intravenous drips. Her family, including a husband and two adult sons, keep vigil in the waiting room. Her four grandchildren remain at home, too young for the hospital scene but aware that their “Mimama” has been gravely wounded. All pray for a miracle.
Although she was wearing a helmet, Morgan suffered extensive injuries: bleeding in the brain, fractured ribs, fractured sternum, fractured hands, fractured fibula, two collapsed lungs, a burst fracture in one of her thoracic vertebrae, numerous lacerations and severe bruising, according to her husband, David, a radiologist who practices in Columbus.
His wife has shown small signs of improvement, but she remains in an induced coma and her prognosis for recovery remains unknown.
“People need to realize that these are human beings on the bike – imagine your own family member on that seat,” David Morgan said while sitting just outside the hospital in the bright afternoon sunshine Thursday.
A tall, athletic man with salt-and-pepper hair, David Morgan spoke about his wife’s zest for adventure. The couple had just returned from a global scavenger hunt two weeks before the accident. And her 50-mile bike ride that day was in preparation for the Ironman Triathlon.
“She was in the Ironman last year and did 130 miles of the 140.6-mile trek,” David Morgan said. “She was really beating herself up about that, so she was going to do it again.”
Jan Morgan, a retired anesthesiologist and co-owner with her husband of Boardtown Bikes in Starkville, also is a stickler for safety. She always wears a helmet and bright clothing and rides in the right of ways. It was no different Sunday, her husband said.
A spokesperson from the Mississippi Highway Patrol wasn’t immediately available for comment Thursday, but the driver was identified by the Columbus Dispatch as Robbie Norton, 44, of Cedar Bluff.
No charges have yet been filed, and the accident is still under investigation, David Morgan said.
“She is a mother, she is a grandmother,” said one of Jan Morgan’s sons, Sean Dyess. “She is the world to my two daughters, and they need her right now. This whole situation was entirely avoidable.”
Dyess camped out in the waiting room with his stepdad and other family friends. The stream of visitors hasn’t slowed since the accident. And the hospital staff “here are great” David Morgan said. “I cannot speak highly enough of this facility.”
But his wife’s future remains unclear. Will she retain her mental faculties? Will she regain her physical strength? Will she even survive the lingering threats of pneumonia, infection, organ failure and blood clots that accompany such injuries?
These questions plague David Morgan, who said all he can do now is pray and try to raise awareness.
“Put down your phones and pay attention the road,” he said. “It’s not us against them. We’re all in this together.”
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal