Photo by Aaron Palaian.
It was an extremely hot but otherwise normal Houston summer day, and Cheyenne Meyer was participating in her last bike ride before the big triathlon championship race. Meyer, an elite-level triathlete, was well on her way to becoming a professional triathlete but little did she know that, within seconds, her life would change drastically when she would be struck suddenly by an oncoming car.
Unconscious and with no memory of the accident, she was rushed to the nearest hospital where doctors found her pelvis broken in seven places, her left hip shattered and her left leg dislocated. In addition, her sacrum, sternum, two ribs and left shoulder were fractured.
Meyer’s dislocated leg was causing her to bleed internally, so she was flown by Memorial Hermann Life Flight® to Memorial Hermann Red Duke Trauma Institute in the Texas Medical Center. Emergency surgery was required to stop the bleeding and prevent permanent damage.
Meyer was still unconscious and therefore unable to speak, but luckily she was wearing an identification bracelet that included her name and loved one’s contact information. The trauma team immediately called her family to meet her at the hospital.
“I feel very fortunate because everyone at Memorial Hermann responded and reacted so well in a time of severe trauma,” Meyer said. “The staff was able to take me where I needed to be and keep me calm during the whole process.”
Dr. Milton “Chip” Routt, an orthopedic trauma surgeon affiliated with the Institute and McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, was tasked with re-constructing Meyer’s pelvis. “It was a very extensive surgery,” Meyer said. “Dr. Routt was very kind and gave my family updates throughout the six-and-a-half-hour surgery. I could not have asked for a better care team.”
Meyer would spend a total of eight days at the Red Duke Trauma Institute. She then moved to a rehabilitation facility in Cypress for two weeks where she would learn how to live on her own again and perform basic tasks that before she would have taken for granted, like getting dressed or taking a shower.
“None of this journey has been easy; in fact, most of it has been really, really hard for me,” Meyer said. “There are days that I just think about where I was versus where I am now, and it absolutely kills me. But through this tragedy, some really great things have come out of it.”
Her recovery has been slow and steady and has required much patience for an active athlete. She spent six weeks in a wheelchair, followed by two weeks in a walker. After that, she graduated to a pair of crutches, then one crutch, and finally a cane.
“Now I am walking around without any help and going to physical therapy three to four times a week. I can’t run yet, but I can bike and swim,” she said. She is on the path to being a triathlete again and, by this time next month, she expects to be fully recovered.
Meyer says orange is a special color for her. When she competed in triathlons, she would wear orange ribbons in her hair in honor of her mom who passed away in January 2015. And after her accident, Meyer’s teammates all wore orange and even sold T-shirts to show their support.
Through every challenge she has faced during her recovery, Meyer says she has been surrounded by love and support from those who know her best and even from complete strangers. Even though her bike had not been damaged in the collision, she was uncomfortable at the thought of riding it again and decided to sell it. An anonymous supporter heard this and decided to buy her a brand new one. The Good Samaritan’s only request: for her to get back out there as soon as she is ready.
Click here to learn more about Memorial Hermann Red Duke Trauma Institute.