By MIKE COURSON
Great Bend Post
GREAT BEND — November 15, 2021, is a day Jefferson Davis will never forget. That afternoon, Davis and a friend were cruising the highways of northern Barton County on motorcycles when Davis lost control of his bike and crashed into a ditch. The off-duty Great Bend Police Department sergeant suffered two skull fractures, a broken neck, broken ribs down his entire left side, a broken shoulder, ruptured spleen, and bleeding in the brain.
But this is a happy story. A month ago, in early May, Davis returned full-time to his job with the GBPD. He has been overwhelmed by the community’s response after the accident.
“It’s hard for me to put it into words, but it really made me appreciate and love this community that much more,” he said. “That show of support was just amazing. It just inspires me to give back to my community more than I ever did.”
Because of his injuries, Davis does not recall a whole lot about the moments just before and after his accident. He can remember looking down at one of his foot pegs because it felt wrong.
“I remember thinking when I get home, I’m going to loosen it and adjust it and get it fixed,” he said. “I think that was my mistake. By the time I looked up we were coming up on a curve. I attempted to slow down so I could navigate the road. I got on my front brake pretty hard, which I know better, but at the time you don’t think about that. I think I was on that front brake a little too hard. I went to shift the bike with my body weight to move it. It locked up and rolled and sent me flying.”
Coming around the curve, Davis’s friend had braked. Davis was wearing amber-colored lenses at the time, and law enforcement has suggested that may have been a contributing factor in the accident.
“I don’t know if that’s exactly what led to the accident, but it could very well have been a circumstance towards it,” Davis said. “I’ve told people, stay away from the amber color. It does kind of hide the shade of brake lights and you don’t see it.”
Trip to the hospital, Part I
Hoisington EMS was dispatched to the accident. Davis never lost consciousness after the crash, but he is forever grateful for the quick response of Hoisington’s crew.
“If I was going to hat-tip anybody, Hoisington EMS did a great job,” he said. “I was confused, I was scared, I was in a lot of places at that time. I recognized one of them, and she kind of reminded me I know her. It just brought me some feeling of security. They really did a good job of treating me and getting me to the hospital. They stayed there at the hospital while I was being diagnosed.”
That move paid off. In addition to the broken bones, a scan revealed two brain bleeds inside the skull. The same Hoisington EMS team was able to rush Davis to a hospital in Wichita. Fortunately, Davis’s traumatic brain injury rated as the least severe on a 15-point scale.
“I’ve since found the EMTs who responded and I can’t thank them enough,” said Davis. “Every time I see them I just smile and tell them I owe them. I can never repay it but I owe them. I love those guys. They did me a solid, for sure.”
Trip to the hospital, Part II
Davis was released from the hospital five days after the accident. A day later, a home-health nurse arrived for additional care. After asking about his pain level and going through some movement tests, she suggested he visit the emergency room for another check.
“I credit her for keeping me healthy, too,” Davis said. “She said I should probably go to the ER and get checked out again. They scanned and ended up finding several smaller brain bleeds. That’s when I got to take a helicopter ride back to Wichita.”
This hospital stint lasted four days. Davis wore a neck brace for approximately six weeks upon returning home the second time, and began physical therapy at Catalyst Sports Therapy and Rehab in Great Bend.
“That was my first time with physical therapy and I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “That is an amazing process. I was able to heal up and get movement back. I’m probably stronger now than I was before the accident.”
A wave of support
Davis had little time to notice the community response after the first hospital stay. It became quite evident once he was back for good.
“When I got back the second time, my wife started telling me about all the community support,” he said. “I was absolutely overwhelmed. My first question was ‘Why, why?’ She said, ‘Believe it or not, people like you.’”
Davis first noticed a railing that had been added to his front porch so he could get into his home. Wally Eldridge had stopped by to install it. When Jefferson’s brother tried to pay for the services, Eldridge refused to accept.
The Brothers in Blue Motorcycle Club held a fundraiser and requested an appearance from Davis. He was only able to make a quick stop but it made a huge impact on his recovery as he received encouragement from friends and strangers.
“It was a little overwhelming to me,” he said. “It inspired me to get better. I told myself when I get better, I’m going to give everything I have and more to the community. When I needed help, it was there.”
Many in the community lent a hand. The local Fraternal Order of Police, American Legion, and Great Bend Fire Department Social and Charity Fund all helped with moral and financial support.
Back on the bike
Life is slowly returning to normal for Davis. Given his injuries, he was unsure about the future of his position with the GBPD. A police officer since 2003, Davis’s dreams of returning full-time came to fruition in May.
And then there are motorcycles. Davis owned two motorcycles at the time of the crash. His riding days are not as long as they used to be, but he’s back on the bike.
“I investigate accidents,” he said. “Looking at my own accident and understanding it better afterwards, I realize there was a very strong possibility I could have been a fatality. But I was given a second chance. I debated about riding again and, at the end of the day, I ‘m still me. I still love motorcycles. I’ve always enjoyed riding and, in my case, fixing motorcycles. I still wanted to be myself.”
Davis was not wearing a helmet at the time of his accident. That’s a mistake he’s vowed to never make again.
“I promised my wife I’d wear a helmet,” he said. “I’ve owned a helmet and used to wear it before the accident hit or miss. I wear it every time now. I realize how much a helmet can help when we’re talking potential accidents and potential injury. If I could go back in time, on Nov. 15, I really wish I’d had my helmet. That would have prevented a lot of the brain injuries. We learn lessons in life, and I guess that was one I had to learn the hard way.”