Missed the Party by
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Prompted By The ER

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At the Brigham, 6/28/2019

When Dan does something, he gives it 100% and that was the way he again took up bicycling in 2018. He had his first bike accident the day he got his fancy new bike. The tubeless tires fell apart, so that accident wasn’t on him, though he was still taken to the ER and I, entertaining off-island guests, got the call to pick up his bike and meet him at the ER. This next one, just 10 months later, caused us to miss an event we both looked forward to.

On Wednesday evenings, a group got together to do time trials at South Beach, not far from our home in Edgartown. Dan enthusiastically joined this group. He did a trial run and noticed there was sand on the course (not a surprise, since they biked a triangular course with one leg along side the beach). But once he was racing, he forgot about the sand, and the bike slipped out from under him at high speed. Of course he wound up hurt, still rode home, refused to go to the hospital and asked me to clean and patch him up with the wound care materials we had from his previous accident. I protested and urged him go to the hospital, but it was futile. He was in pain, but soldiered on.

Two days later, we were scheduled to go home. Index Systems, a company for whom Dan had worked for 16 years (and I worked for 8 months when I first went back after having David) was celebrating its 50th anniversary. We were both excited to attend. We were friendly with so many people we met there. We grew up at that company. It had a culture of running and Dan would run with lots of people there during his lunch hour (they had showers within the office space). We remained friends with loads of folks and they have an active alumni group who Zoom monthly and have an annual Christmas lunch. The company was acquired while Dan worked there and became CSC/Index. But those years when Dan worked there were great years of our lives and we wanted to celebrate with everyone. The founder, Tom Gerrity, (along with several of his fellow MIT colleagues), was one of those smart MIT grads (undergrad and grad school), who went from this success to become the Dean of Wharton Business School. He now is in the throes of Parkinson’s, so it felt particularly important to see him.

Index runners in road race, mid-1980s

But Dan was in real pain, so made an appointment at an urgent care facility when we first got back to Newton. I had other things to do and was astonished by the report he gave me when we reconnected. His wounds were infected, they couldn’t prescribe pain killers (which is what he really wanted) and their Xray machine wasn’t working – he needed to come back in an hour, which he did. They found three broken ribs and sent him to the Brigham and Women’s ER. Of course, at this point, I drove him. No wonder he was in such pain – broken ribs on top of infected road rash (the Featured photo is Dan, waiting at the ER). We were running out of time to make it to the party. I got into my dress, just in case, and off we went.

Road rash

ERs are notoriously slow. They finally looked Dan over and discovered not only did he have three broken ribs, but one had punctured his lung! They did all sorts of breathing tests on him. It was a small puncture and he seemed to be able to breathe fine. There is nothing to be done for broken ribs. The puncture in the lung would heal on its own.

But this is a teaching hospital and they wanted to show Dan off to the residents on rounds. We were doomed. I tried to reach the person who had put together the party. I didn’t have his cellphone number. I sent him an email, which he saw hours later. We did not make it to the party. We found out much later that everyone went to an after party at a hotel. We didn’t know. We missed everything…because Dan didn’t seek immediate care while we were still on Martha’s Vineyard.

Nothing to be done…but we do go to their annual Christmas luncheon. I insist on that. And once in a while, I join their once-a-month Zoom calls (but usually it interferes with exercise classes). Now they are putting together a dinner reunion in Cambridge in October. It’s on our calendar. We WILL be there. It is good to stay in touch.

Index holiday lunch, Dec, 2022


Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.

Characterizations: been there, funny, moving, well written


  1. Ah Betsy, I’m sure you wish Dan wasn’t so damn stoic!
    I hope he’s learned his lesson by now
    and errs on the side of caution rather than the other way around!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      I think he’s learned his lesson, Dana. After a third bike accident he is forbidden to ride on the road ever again, so he went back to running (and lots of golf). Now he’s having back pain and is seeking doctor care for that, so that is progress.

  2. Betsy:
    A great detailed story. I thought the ending would not be at a new party, but would have a feeling of exasperation that Dan was right–nothing could be done about his pain except some aspirin. HIs trips gave the E.R. residents good training and you a headache. LOL (your story parallels many of my own and the resulting frustrations of my wife.)

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Unfortunately, Dan has had more trips to the ER, but no longer rides a bike, so at least that avenue is off the list. And we now stay in closer touch with those Index alumni, so I’m not so annoyed that we missed the party. Sorry to hear that my story parallels some of your own. Stay safe, Richard!

  3. pattyv says:

    Betsy, isn’t it frustrating to play doctor? That was the most difficult part of child rearing, especially with fevers. Happily I missed that phase of hubby helping. You were a loyal partner to share in his exasperating trauma, and his continuing dilemmas. Hope he reciprocates. Love how he’s banned from the bike. But you gotta give the man credit, he’s an over-achiever, and seems to endure pain better than most of us. Sorry you missed the party.

  4. Dave Ventre says:

    Time trials! That is impressive bikin’!

    When I was a kid I accepted that road rash was always going to infect. It presented as a thin yellowish coating of bacterial growth before the wound had scabbed over. In retrospect, it was probably S. aureus! Luckily I am one of those people who harbors staph as normal flora, so my immune system has always had a handle on it and it never went systemic. Now, I treat any small cut or scrape like a shrapnel wound, because the bacteria just have gotten too damned clever.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      While Dan watches the Tour de France religiously, this was not THAT! Still, he is one competitive guy. He obviously didn’t realize that his road rash was infected, but as this was just a few years ago, it was probably the bad kind you mention that is lurking around now, so I am relieved that he was finally seen by professionals, even though it meant we missed that party.

  5. Khati Hendry says:

    It is always frustrating when life interferes with fun–and medical problems are about the top of the interference list. Of course Dan should have listened to you, but very glad to hear it was all something that could heal. Broken ribs aren’t fun–Dan may not have been in much of party mood even if he hadn’t delayed getting care. Like the pictures!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      You are right about the broken ribs, Khati – Dan probably wouldn’t have been in much of a mood to party anyway, but at least we knew what we were dealing with, he got his pain meds, and all turned out well. I’m so happy to have those photos!

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    Keep Dan off his bike so you make it to the next gathering. He has certainly had his share of medical issues from accidents!

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