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Death on the highway leaves lasting lesson

Four weeks ago, a man died in front of me.

I didn’t know his name. My husband and I were the first on the scene of an accident where he crashed his moped on Asheville Highway in Henderson County. My husband saw him slump over as he was traveling south while we were going north on the five-lane road. His moped veered to the edge of the road, ejecting the rider onto the guardrail. “He crashed,” my husband exclaimed, and made a quick U-turn, stopping where the man was lying on the side of the road on the other side of the guardrail.

I jumped out of the car and sprinted to the injured man, as my husband called 911. I am a retired nurse practitioner so I was hoping I could do something. He had no pulse, and as I moved his shredded shirt aside to begin chest compressions, I saw his injuries were horrific and there was nothing I could do. He died before the ambulance arrived, never responding to my voice. He was likely unconscious before he crashed. I hope so, given the grisly and gruesome injuries to his chest and more. I stayed with him until the paramedics came with their white sheet.

The Highway Patrol came with cones to create lanes for traffic around the wrecked moped lying in the street, and local police blocked the roadway for the scene investigation, while traffic came to a halt on both sides of the road, backing up in both directions. Flashing lights and uniforms surrounded me, and someone asked if they could help me step back over the rail. I looked down at my hands, covered in his blood, and realized I couldn’t take the trooper’s hand. The paramedic held out his gloved hand, helped me step over the rail and handed me sanitizer wipes to clean up. We waited to give statements, then the troopers let us go home.

I am continually haunted by the incident, and not knowing how it happened. No news agency reported on the accident. The moped rider had a medical bracelet around his wrist from a local hospital, which had ripped off in the impact with the guardrail. Was he in the ER for chest pain? Was he there for a procedure, and decided to drive himself home? Had he been in the hospital for days and released without a ride home? Did he leave against medical advice? I’ll never know.

He wasn’t conscious when I got to him, and he died within moments. But still I wonder, why was he driving himself? Did his family still have contact with him? Was he just stubborn, wanting to take care of himself? Did he truly have no one who could have given him a ride that day? Again, I’ll never know. But he paid for his decision, whatever the decision that was, with his life. I wish I could tell his family that he didn’t suffer. I wish that he’d had someone to look after him, that would have driven him home that day.

And that brings me to my point. Hug your family today. Tell your loved ones that they are loved. Try to seek common ground with those who disagree, instead of vilifying them. See what you can do to help the homeless and hungry in our community. Tell your friends they are important in your life.  Make contact with those you’ve not seen in a while. Make this the holiday season where old feuds come to an end. Apologize for your part, forgive those who’ve hurt you. We never know when our time is up. Moments count, and life is short.

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A retired nurse practitioner, Carole Carter lives in Hendersonville with her husband, Gene. She writes freelance articles and an arts and lifestyle blog at