Posted on July 5, 2016

Kalamazoo bike crash survivor Paul Gobble happy to be home, ready to return to cycling

Paul Gobble’s love for cycling is anchored in his desire to be healthy. About three years ago, he and his wife, Chris (pictured below with Paul), decided to become more fit by eating healthfully, exercising more and losing weight.

“Cycling became very important for me,” Paul said. “It became a very consistent, passionate part of my week.”

Paul is one of four cyclists who survived the June 7 bicycle collision in Kalamazoo County that killed five others. The Chain Gang cycling club members were on their regular Tuesday evening ride when they were struck by a pickup truck.

Paul sustained a head injury, multiple spinal cord injuries that require him to wear neck and back braces, and a fractured fibula. He was treated at Borgess Medical Center before coming to Mary Free Bed for rehabilitation overseen by Dr. Stephen Bloom, medical director of the hospital’s Trauma and Brain Injury Programs. His treatment included occupational, physical, recreational and speech-language therapy. He graduated June 30.

Paul has made significant strides since his admission, Bloom said.

“He is emerging very well,” he said. “I expect him to continue to improve with outpatient therapy.”

Paul, who lives in Richland with Chris and their daughters, Zoe, 10, and Emma, 7½, knows he has a long road to recovery.

“But I am so fortunate. I weathered this storm very, very well,” he said. “I know what happened, I just don’t remember it. Apparently, I and eight of the people I was riding with – this guy ran us down. Five of us didn’t survive. I’m definitely one of the lucky ones.”

Paul knows his broken bones will heal, and he understands his head will, too, with time. Along with regaining physical strength, Paul’s therapy includes improving his cognitive skills.

“Physically, I feel great. I really think that my memory for that week is just gone. I don’t think I’ll ever get it back and I don’t want it back, quite honestly,” Paul said. “I am starting to notice improvements in my attention span. A few days ago, I would sit here and try to read and I couldn’t stay with it. I feel that ebbing, and I’m looking forward to going home and reading a lot.”

He attributes his recovery to the compassion and care he received at Mary Free Bed.

“Everyone I’ve worked with has been bright, eager, knowledgeable, helpful and positive,” he said. “I’ve been surrounded by an amazing group of people. Dr. Bloom has been great. I can’t express how impressed I have been – my care has been exceptional. I have complete confidence that I’m getting better because of Mary Free Bed.”

The Gobbles are thankful to family, friends and well-wishers for their support. Paul and Chris, who chaired Richland’s Independence Day Parade for the past 11 years, are particularly appreciative of the slew of volunteers who stepped up to make the event happen this year.

“We live in a wonderful community,” Chris said. “We’ve been very touched by the support. It’s been amazing.”

As for the future, Paul is anxious to return to his graphic design and photography business, and to get back to cycling. His therapy at Mary Free Bed included riding a recumbent bike and, eventually, a mountain bike, first with training wheels, then without.

“It felt fabulous. I’m very eager, but I understand I have a bit of a wait,” he said. “I know my injuries are all serious. They will heal. I’m trying very, very, very hard to take into account the lessons my therapists taught me and that is: ‘Don’t take on too much, don’t overwork yourself. You need to heal, you need to rest.’”

Paul said he accepts that his return to cycling will take time.

“My goals are to take it day by day, to heal and to rest,” he said. “I have been told explicitly that I’m to play games with my children – that will be good for my brain and I’m looking forward to that. I’m going to build days that work with what my therapists say I need to do and accomplish, and to heal and get better. I’m going to trust what my doctors are telling me and have patience. I’m lucky I have that opportunity.”