After surviving a terrifying crash on Sheppard Access Road, a local man is spending the holidays back at home and raising awareness about the dangers cyclists face on the busy streets of Wichita Falls.
“I just heard traffic coming from behind me, then the next thing I knew they were putting a neck brace on me and putting me into an ambulance,” cyclist Gaelen Mills said.
It started out like any other October day. Mills was heading home on his bicycle after training at his new job. and then the unexpected.
Mills was rear-ended by a motorcycle, and a motorcyclist heading home after a night of drinking slammed into the back of Mills, dragging him down the road causing both of them serious bodily injuries.
It was that night Mills’ mother, Traci Roberts, got the phone call no parent wants to receive.
“They told me very little on the phone, so when I got to the hospital, they still didn’t tell me a whole lot and made me sit in the waiting room,” Roberts said. “They finally took me back to the trauma room and blood everywhere.”
The list of Mills’ injuries piled on one another.
“I had a compound fracture in my right leg, a bunch of torn ligaments, the ACL’s torn in my left leg, there was some sort of fracture on that cracked T-12 vertebrae, something else was cracked in the lumbar area,” Mills said.
Mills, also suffering a lacerated spleen and kidney, had surgery the next morning to repair a compound fracture in his leg. After spending six days in the hospital, he was put in a wheelchair and taken to Senior Care Health and Rehabilitation Center.
It was there he spent the next six weeks getting back on his feet, with the help of caring nurses like LVN McKenzie Kelley.
“He didn’t give me any issues at all actually,” Kelley said. “He was good to take care of. He was nice to talk to he was younger, so he was on the same level with us sometimes like he would watch Incredibles 2 some days.”
Roberts said all the employees enjoyed working with her son, and it made it that more special for their family.
“Considering that Senior Care is mostly old people, he was rather the anomaly out there,” Roberts said. “I think that everyone really enjoyed working with him and they treated him well.”
On the day he left Senior Care, it was a send-off fit for a king.
“Everyone who came into the room was congratulating me, and they said there was a ceremony for everyone who leaves, and I didn’t realize they were actually going to pull out a red carpet, but they had me walk out on the red carpet and all the staff was out there cheering me on,” Mills said.
Even with the encouragement from those he shared such a long time with, Kelley said Mills was hesitant to show off his progress.
“He was kind of skeptical about doing it, but everybody loved him, so we did it for him anyways and he enjoyed it,” Kelley said.
On the road to recovery, Mills and his mother share a message for those on the road in a town that hosts the largest bike ride in the country.
“There’s a lot of us out there,” Mills said. “It’s a sport that’s gaining popularity, so it’s not always possible for people to be on the sidewalk and just give us some space and go around us.”
“Just be aware, even motorcyclists, just be aware,” Roberts said. “You know they’re small vehicles, and so you have to have that extra eye out there for them.”
Mills was also a brief member of the Wichita Falls Bicycling Club.
The evening of the wreck, Mills was wearing a proper helmet and had reflectors on his bike as well.
Police officers said they believe the driver of the motorcycle was intoxicated after just leaving a bar and was not wearing a helmet. Sources tell us he’s still in the hospital but will face felony charges once he’s released.