On Monday night, Crescent City Police Sgt. Erik Apperson received a medal for saving a life. Early Thursday, he nearly lost his own.
It was just past midnight when Apperson decided to stop at a gas station in Cave Junction, Ore., for some hot cocoa.
He was on his way home from Portland, where he purchased his dream bike — a 2007 Limited Edition Suzuki Hayabusa 1300 GSXR.
Downing the cocoa, he was back on the bike cruising south on U.S. Highway 199 on a clear, crisp night.
“I was coming around this sweeping right turn; it wasn’t a very aggressive right turn at all,” said Apperson at his home Friday.
His headlights were catching up to the curve in the road when he saw something reflective shining back.
“I realized there was a deer standing sideways in my lane,” said Apperson.
He decided to veer into the opposite lane, passing the deer by its rear.
“As I’m doing that I see another deer,” said Apperson. “I tried to avoid that one, but couldn’t. I remember starting to lose control of the bike... then I remember being in the helicopter. I didn’t have time to brake. I didn’t have time to slide.”
Found by a dog
He can only speculate, based on what others have told him, as to what happened after that.
At some point, he figures he was “separated” from his bike, flying through the air about 30-50 feet and then hitting a power pole.
“I think I hit it face first,” said Apperson.
He was apparently unconscious and barely breathing when he was found by a dog that belonged to a couple whose house was at the top of a hill near the crash site.
“Their dog found me and ‘Lassied’ it back to them,” said Apperson.
The couple discovered Apperson and he was eventually flown to Rogue Valley Medical Center.
Only a couple of days before, Apperson received a Medal of Life-Saving Service at a Crescent City Council meeting for carrying an elderly woman to safety after she became stuck in a rising tide off Enderts Beach last April.
Nighttime phone call
When he awoke in the helicopter, Apperson said his mind was fuzzy.
“My clothes were off and I was stuck there,” said Apperson.
He couldn’t remember his name or what happened. He was told he had been in a motorcycle accident — a motorcycle he didn’t even remember having.
“I knew if I’m in a helicopter and I’m restrained, I’m really hurt,” said Apperson.
So he began doing a diagnostic check; moving his hands and feet, checking his ears, eyes and nose, and then he got to his mouth.
“My bottom lip wasn’t where it was supposed to be.”
During the crash, the inside of his mouth separated from the jaw, exposing the bone beneath his front, bottom teeth, which remained intact.
Halfway to the hospital, a name popped into Apperson’s mind.
“I just remembered Kyoko and her number,” said Apperson. “I didn’t know she was my wife.”
Kyoko Apperson awoke to a call from a 541-area code phone around 1 a.m.
She had a feeling it wasn’t going to be a good call, so she answered the phone with “This is Kyoko Apperson, Erik Apperson’s wife.”
An officer identified himself, informed her Erik was in a motorcycle accident and that it “looks like Erik has some serious head trauma.”
“I thought if he wasn’t going to die, he was going to have brain or spinal damage,” recalled Kyoko in the couple’s living room Friday.
“I was just trying to be positive” on her way to the hospital, she said.
While driving, she got a call from the hospital stating Apperson was in stable condition and “to drive slowly.”
Then Apperson called her to ease her mind.
“This isn’t the first or last time she’s come to the hospital for me,” he said.
Then he called Police Chief Doug Plack.
“I called (Chief Plack) and told him I don’t think I’m going to make it in.”
Back where he belongs
He returned to Crescent City on Thursday afternoon after medical scans and having his lip stitched back to his jaw. He suffered some road rash and his ribs are sore and possibly broken, he said.
“(Doctors) said it didn’t make a whole lot of sense,” that he didn’t suffer more severe injuries. “I’d like to see my helmet, but nobody knows where it is,” said Apperson.
He has been resting at his residence, where his newly acquired bike is parked.
“It didn’t have a scratch on it ... when I got it,” said Apperson, as he was surveying the damage to the bike in his driveway Friday.
The damage was mainly superficial and he’s hopeful to get it back to proper form soon. His biking gear, which he credits for saving his life, is a different story.
He held up a bloody Joe Rocket motorcycle jacket that was sliced open by paramedics when he was rescued and a scuffed windscreen that is the only remnant of his helmet.
“I’ve been riding motorcycles all my life,” said Apperson, who received his first mini-bike from his grandparents when he was 8. “Riding motorcycles for all those years doesn’t mean you’re not going to wreck ... people have been telling me it’s not my fault, but there’s an inherent risk when you ride a motorcycle at night in a wooded area where you know critters can pop out. It doesn’t matter if it’s an opossum or elk, they’re all dangerous.”
Still, the wreck won’t stop him from riding, he said.
Kyoko quickly chimed in, “more correctly, I will not stop him from riding motorcycles, he’s just not allowed to ride at night.”
A neighbor stepped out to see how Apperson was doing.
“I’m good, I’m good, in a few days I’ll be at 50 percent,” said Apperson.
A large amount of support and care has already been given to the Appersons by relatives and friends in the form of balloons, flowers and food.
After he covered up his bike as it began to rain, he hobbled back into his house, where four people eventually stopped by all within an hour — one group brought lunch.
“The overwhelming support, it’s hard not to get taken aback by it,” said Apperson. “This is a neat little community we live in. It’s easy to beat up on it, but when someone really needs help, a lot of people come. It’s times like this I remember how nice people here are.”