On the day dedicated to matters of the heart, Will Teeters struggles to adequately express the overflowing love in his, even after sleepless nights of pain.
The life-threatening wreck that underlined in bold the Dayton man’s love of life happened on a ride that began normally enough.
The avid outdoorsman had rolled out “Simone,” his 1979 Yamaha motorcycle and taken off with a friend for an afternoon ride. The two-wheeled pleasure came recently into his life in and Teeters was deeply in love with the bike.
The hills above Dayton, where Teeters works as a 911 dispatcher, beckoned Jan. 31. The weather was mild and he wasn’t due to report to work until 6 p.m.
Teeters comes from outdoors stock, he said, and loves exploring everything in his world. He camps, canoes, hikes and hunts. At 29, he’s one state shy of his goal of being in 50 states by the time he’s 30 years old — only Hawaii hasn’t been crossed off, and he intends to get there by August.
The man loves his job, where plenty of excitement comes his way, even in quiet Columbia County. Teeters just didn’t ever plan to be the one the one stirring things up for emergency dispatch.
He and friend Chris Stamper were headed back to town after a drive to the windmills that sunny afternoon when a deer ran in front of Simone.
They had been seeing deer elsewhere, Stamper said Wednesday, “but it was a sweeping straight stretch. It must have just jumped off the side of the road.”
As seconds went by in what seemed like stretched-out minutes, the trio — two humans and a deer — spun out on the asphalt, going round and round, Teeters and the animal in a “spooning” position, Stamper recalled.
She and Teeters were wearing full face helmets and motorcycle jackets, which probably saved their lives, she added.
The deer, however, had no such protection and did not survive the impact. “It was just eviscerated.”
Stamper knew she was running on adrenaline when she was able to stand up as soon as she stopped skidding. Her pant leg was shredded “Zombie-style” and she told herself not to use her bleeding leg. Stamper, who lives in College Place, immediately began trying to help her friend, hoping he would stay alive, she said.
Teeters, however, had gone into full dispatcher mode between screams of pain, she said. “I could see his leg was twisted. He was saying what he thought was wrong with him. I could tell it was just that ‘shock talk.’ He kept asking me how I was doing and saying he was sorry.’’
Then everything that is supposed to happen at these times did. Someone saw the wreck and called 911. Two ambulances arrived. Teeters and Stamper were taken to Dayton General Hospital, then brought to Providence St. Mary Medical Center.
There Stamper was diagnosed with a fractured elbow and lacerated knee and Teeters was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
Or, as Teeters likes to call it, “the big boy hospital.”
His catalog of injuries is impressive. Three broken bones in the left leg that required setting with a rod and plates is matched with three broken ribs. There’s the Stage 5 ruptured spleen that had to go before it drained Teeters of blood, a broken hand and a covering of road rash. A lot of which is on his … hindquarters, he noted.
The next week brought a “lifetime of experiences,” Teeters wrote on his Facebook page, including a “newly zipped up gut” from spleen removal and a blood count that was not cooperating by rising.
Eight days ago, despite all the challenges, he decided to try sitting up. By himself, without anybody telling him to go for it. At 4 a.m. he swung his legs off the hospital bed and became upright for the first moment since leaving the seat of Simone, staying that way for two hours. “It was so liberating and honestly exciting,” he said.
From that position, Teeters later stood up, moving independently and stepping into a rate of progress that surprised his medical providers.
He’s kept it up, getting discharged a week ago to his parents’ home near the west entrance of the Columbia River Gorge to finish “a paltry amount” of recovery, he said. Teeters hopes to be able to return to work early next month and plans to hit the ground running with a fitness regimen, to complement the 15 pounds he’s down.
He’s also been pleased to discover medical bills won’t be as debilitating as he’d feared, he added, and his vacation and sick leave have covered his time off.
Teeters is still disbelieving of the outcome. Not just happy to not be dead, but truly and breathlessly ecstatic to be alive, he said from his mom’s couch. “When you almost died and then you don’t, and you’re given the chance to be completely recovered, it’s just amazing. Such a blessing. I get to live again and in the same way as I did before.”
Well, except he won’t be replacing Simone, which he had planned to take on a South America tour, he added. “I’m done riding a motorcycle, there’s just no point. It’s just as dangerous now as it was then, but I’ve had my big accident. And one’s enough.”
Because he’s not going to waste a second chance, he added. “I get to live again.”