Jan Morgan remains sedated in the Tupelo hospital, unaware of all that”s happening around her.
She”s unaware of the Clay County prosecutor”s investigation into Robbie Norton, the woman who allegedly struck Morgan with her car while Morgan was cycling with a friend on Highway 50 near Pheba in Clay County May 22.
She”s unaware of all the gaudy, high-visibility yellow worn Friday by Starkville residents and friends across the country in her honor and as a reminder to motorists to share the road with cyclists.
She”s unaware of the concern, outrage, fear and activism her accident has inspired, but she”ll be able to read all about it on Facebook when she wakes up.
Dr. David Morgan, Jan”s husband and her co-owner of Boardtown Bikes in Starkville, has documented every step of Jan”s unfortunate odyssey on the social networking website Facebook. He”s using his wife”s Facebook page, which is available for all to view, to provide daily updates on the condition of his “Little Darlin.”
“I feel the same as a lot of other people in that I can”t really get my day started until I see his update and see that she”s hanging in there and taking baby steps toward recovery,” said Trisha Phillips, one of approximately 20 well-wishers who gathered Friday morning at City Bagel Cafe to show support for Jan.
“Baby steps” seems an apt description for Jan”s recovery.
While Jan was able to communicate with emergency room staff on the day of her accident by lifting one or two fingers when asked, she has been heavily sedated ever since to allow her body to coalesce.
“She”s better this week than last week. But with extensive trauma, you can”t expect anything more than very slow improvement,” said David. “The bottom line is her body heals slowly and you put out fires as you go.”
The list of Jan”s injuries is long and severe. The impact from the car, which hit her at an estimated 55 mph, then being thrown to the asphalt caused intracranial bleeding, which could produce untold neurological consequences, a collapsed lung, an occipital condyle fracture (at the base of the skull), a fractured vertebra, fractured ribs, broken fibulas in both legs, a cardiac contusion (bruised heart), a fractured hand and bruises and abrasions all over her body.
“I saw her in the ambulance before they put her in the helicopter (at the North Mississippi Medical Center-West Point) to be flown to Tupelo. I didn”t know how bad her injuries were,” said David. “I was worried I was about to lose my wife. That anxiety is decreasing a little bit, but she”s not out of the woods yet.”
Jan”s Facebook followers have anxiously consumed the stories of her medical victories and setbacks as quickly as David can post them. But one post in particular grabbed everyone”s attention.
On June 2, David posted a copy of the crash report from the Mississippi Highway Patrol. The report is not a public document, but was supplied to David as Jan”s next of kin.
The entire entry reads, “THE CYCLIST WAS WEST BOUND ON MS50 NEAR THE TRULOVE LOOP INTERSECTION. V1 WAS WEST BOUND ON MS50 APPROACHING THE CYCLIST FROM THE REAR. THE FRONT OF V1 COLLIDED WITH THE REAR OF THE BICYCLE. THE IMPACT THREW THE CYCLIST INTO THE AIR BEFORE LANDING ON THE HOOD OF V1 AND ONTO THE WINDSHIELD. V1 CONTINUED FOR A FEW FEET BEFORE COMING TO A STOP. THE CYCLIST WAS THEN THROWN TO THE ASPHALT WHEN V1 STOPPED. THE DRIVER OF V1 EXITED THE VEHICLE AND OBSERVED THE CYCLIST WHILE TALKING ON THE PHONE. D1 THEN REENTERED HER VEHICLE AND RAN THE CYCLIST OVER AGAIN BEFORE BEING FORCED FROM HER VEHICLE BY WITNESSES. V1 CAME TO FINAL REST FACING WEST IN THE WEST BOUND LANE ON MS 50 JUST METERS WEST OF THE TRULOVE LOOP INTERSECTION. THE CYCLIST CAME TO FINAL REST NEAR THE RIGHT FRONT TIRE OF V1.”
MHP Public Information Officer Brian Mobley could not confirm the accuracy of David Morgan”s post as Mobley had not read official report. He received an initial report from the trooper who worked the wreck on the day of the accident in order to issue details to the media. He could not say if Norton would face charges if the report published by David Morgan is valid.
“At this point all I can tell you is the accident is still under investigation,” said Mobley.
Morgan said the Clay County prosecutor is also investigating the incident to determine if charges are warranted.
Robert McMillen, an avid Starkville cyclist and friend of the Morgans”, said he was “horrified” when he read David Morgan”s post on the accident. He hopes Friday”s highly visible demonstration will prompt drivers to pay attention to cyclists and respect their right to the road.
“Most people here are fairly friendly (to cyclists). They just don”t realize how dangerous they can be when they get so close. I”ve lived other places where there”s more hostility, but here I might have somebody pull past me and take a hard right,” said McMillen. “It”s not intentional, they just look right through me.”
McMillen doesn”t always wear gaudy yellow when he rides, but he does wear colors that won”t blend in with the road or his surroundings. And he uses a flashing light when riding in low-light conditions.
Charlotte Fuquay, another Starkville cyclist, didn”t go into detail but did admit she”s second guessed taking long rides since Jan”s accident.
“As a rider, I”m fully aware this can happen at any time, but I guess we all feel like it would never be us and that we”re relatively safe. But this reinforces that we”re never relatively safe,” she said.
Devon Brenner, president emeritus of Starkville In Motion, said the accident underscores the need for accommodating pedestrians and cyclists with sidewalks or designated lanes.
“Across the state, facilities have not been designed for many years for walkers and cyclists. In the 40s and 50s, we stopped building sidewalks in new developments. Only with the passage of (Starkville”s) sidewalk ordinance will we have sidewalks in all of our new neighborhoods,” she said.
“Every wheeled vehicle has a right to be on the road and we need to keep saying that very loudly.”
Mississippi enacted a law in 2010 requiring motorists to give cyclists at least three feet of space when passing.
David Morgan called the loud yellow T-shirts worn around Starkville and the state Friday “phenomenal.”
“If they save one person”s life by making people aware of what it does if a car bumps a cyclist, it will be a success. Everyone needs to be aware of this,” he said.
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.