An after-work mountain bike ride in the Foothills like he’d done so many times before changed Michael Jones’ life.
Jones was rolling down Sunset Peak Road — which connects with 8th Street — toward his North End home one night in June, when something went terribly wrong on a blind curve on the one-lane, unmarked road.
He didn’t make it home to tuck his daughter into bed that night because he was fighting for his life after a head-on collision with a motorcycle.
The 31-year-old, who recalls speaking briefly with a first responder at the scene, woke up nine days later at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center. He remembers nothing else from the day of the crash — but his memory for everything else is fine.
“They said no brain trauma,” his wife, Niki Jones, said. “It wasn’t until he started talking to me that I 100 percent believed that. When I heard his voice, and we could talk, it was like, ‘Oh, there you are.’ ”
Michael Jones has spent the past month and a half in the rehabilitation unit at Saint Al’s. His discharge date is set for Aug. 19, which happens to be his 32nd birthday.
He does several hours of physical and occupational therapy at least five days a week. He’s building his upper-body strength and adjusting to a new way of living and getting around — without the use of his legs. He’s learning techniques for the everyday things most of us take for granted, such as getting dressed and showering.
“I have good days where it seems like some of it is getting routine, and I have days where it seems so daunting,” said Jones, thankful for the support of his family and many friends.
Physicians have told him that his paralysis, which extends from just below his chest to his toes, will be permanent. Jones, an athlete who has been competing in triathlons for the past six or seven years, plans to continue in physical therapy in the hopes that he will regain lost function.
He’s looking forward to going home — and getting back to work. Jones is a salesman at Boise Cascade’s building materials distribution facility on Enterprise Street, south of Interstate 84.
“Mike is a valuable employee,” Jones’ boss, Chris Cramer, told the Statesman. “He’s going to have a long and successful career at Boise Cascade.”
To prepare for Jones’ anticipated return to work Sept. 1, the Boise Cascade staff have modified Jones’ workstation and altered the front doors so they can be opened at the push of a button.
There were no witnesses to the June 9 crash, other than the two men involved, according to the Idaho Transportation Department crash report.
It happened just after 7 p.m. about one mile north of West Sandstone Lane. That section of the road is paved. The posted speed limit in that area is 20 mph.
A motorcyclist who was traveling north on Sunset Peak collided with southbound Jones on the east side of the unmarked road, the report said.
The driver of the motorcycle, which was a 1999 Yamaha BTM, was identified as Marcus Bordges, a 20-year-old Boise man. He did not require any medical treatment, and the damage to his motorcycle was listed as “very minor,” the report said. Both men were wearing helmets, police said. Attempts to reach Bordges for this story were unsuccessful.
Bordges told police that he was traveling about 20 to 25 mph near the center of the road, and he said he took evasive action when he saw Jones coming toward him near the center of the road. Jones told the Statesman he’s an experienced and safety conscious bicyclist who would not ride in the middle of the road on a blind curve.
Neither alcohol nor drugs was detected on either man at the scene, according to the crash report. It’s unclear if any toxicology tests were done to confirm that.
Boise police have investigated the crash and have forwarded their report to prosecutors to determine if there will be any citations or charges.
Jones’ only recollection of that day was asking a firefighter at the scene to tell his wife and daughter that he loved them.
“You’re going to tell them yourself,” the firefighter responded. The memory of that is emotional for Jones.
“I’m happy to be alive,” Jones said.
Physicians at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center had to work fast to save him. He had two collapsed lungs, a broken back and fractures in eight ribs. But their biggest concern was a tear in his aorta, and he was wheeled into surgery the night of the crash.
“The heart was the number one priority,” Niki Jones said.
Open-heart surgery was an option, but Niki opted for a less invasive procedure recommended by the heart surgeon. The tear was accessed and repaired through an artery in the groin.
“I told myself I had to kind of trust everybody because they’re best at their job,” she said. “That same night he had back surgery, or technically, it was the next morning. It seemed like the longest day ever.”
Jones’ right arm swelled so much that it didn’t look like it was part of his body. Injuries to his shoulder have limited movement, but it has improved.
“There’s concern about nerve injury with pain and difficulty with range of motion,” said Dr. Amanda Keel, who is one of Jones’ doctors.
Niki Jones said doctors have said he’s expected to regain full function of his shoulder and right arm.
FRIENDS PLAN FUNDRAISER
Niki and Michael have known each other since they were students at North Junior High School and Boise High School, and they both attended the University of Idaho. They have a large, tight-knit group of friends.
“Mikey is my little brother’s best friend. They’ve been friends since third grade,” said Sarah Thompson, who is organizing a fundraiser for the Jones family at 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22, at PreFunk in Boise. There will be a silent auction and raffle. All are welcome.
“So many local businesses have given us donations,” Thompson said.
For those who can’t make it, but want to help the family, a bank account has been set up at Wells Fargo Bank. The account is the Michael Jones Benefit Donation Fund.
Jones has been outside the hospital a couple times since the crash. One of those times was for his daughter’s 4th birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese.
He recalled helping his daughter, Ava, play a squirt-gun game and feeling frustrated that he was limited to verbally explaining it to her rather than physically showing her.
One poignant moment during the party was when Eva stumbled and fell. She ran to her father for comfort, bringing him a much-needed feeling of normalcy.
“She put her head in my lap,” Jones said. “I was worried she was going to be afraid to come to me in a wheelchair.”
Niki said they recently bought a camper, and they have every intention of using it.
“Next summer we’re going camping. We’re going to have to figure that out,” she said. “It’s just going to take time.