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Monday, October 12, 2009

Motorist helps injured biycle rider

Motorist helps bicycle rider with serious injuries

Shane Opatz

Bonnie Nierenhausen helped Bob Bleskachek after Bob's bicycle accident. Bonnie Nierenhausen stopped to help Bob Bleskachek after he was seriously injured in a bicycle crash Sept. 4 in rural Chippewa County. Days later Nierenhausen checked in on him and brought him a bike helmet. By Christena T. O'Brien

Posted: Monday, October 12, 2009 12:00 am | Updated: 11:32 pm, Sun Oct 11, 2009.

Bonnie Nierenhausen refers to Bob Bleskachek as "the man in the middle of the road."

More than a month ago, Nierenhausen left her town of Colfax home early to pick up her children - Nicole and Tanner - from school in Colfax and came upon a dazed and bleeding Bleskachek in the middle of the road at the bottom of a hill.

The 66-year-old avid cyclist had fallen off of his bike about five miles from his town of Wheaton home, trying to keep the hat he was wearing to shade his eyes from blowing off his head.

Nierenhausen stopped to help the injured cyclist, parking her car to protect him from vehicles that might come over the hill. Fortunately, none did.

Bleskachek was holding a handkerchief to his face, which was badly swollen and bleeding, and it appeared he had injured an arm.

"I took one look at him, and I knew he had to go to the hospital," Nierenhausen said.

However, there is no cell phone service in the remote area where the accident happened, so she took a rag she had used to wash the windows in her vehicle and wrapped one of Bleskachek's arms before helping him into her car and loading his bicycle into the trunk.

Once in the car, Nierenhausen asked Bleskachek where he lived. He told her 34th Street, but that didn't mean anything to her. She started to drive and continued to question him, but his aphasia - a communication disorder brought on by a cancerous tumor doctors had removed from his brain in December 2003 - made his speech a little difficult to understand.

Nierenhausen asked Bleskachek if he lived near certain people or places, such as Albertville, and as she drove he eventually told her to take a right and began describing his house.

Once they found his home, Nierenhausen realized she knew him - vaguely. Her daughter, Nicole, had been to Bleskachek's house, selling Girl Scout cookies the year before, but Nierenhausen didn't recognize him because of his injuries.

Nierenhausen went inside the house, calling to Bleskachek's wife, Pam. Calmly, Nierenhausen told her she had brought Bleskachek home and he was hurt.

Pam Bleskachek went for some ice, and Nierenhausen told Bob Bleskachek - who was worried about his bicycle, which had been damaged in the crash - to sit down. She also offered to drive the couple to the hospital. Pam Bleskachek said they'd be fine and drove her husband to Luther Hospital's emergency department.

Tests revealed Bob Bleskachek had suffered two brain bleeds. He also had a concussion, a cut above his swollen left eye that took 10 stitches to close, and lots of abrasions to his arms and knees, some of which are still healing. Doctors initially thought he had broken both wrists, but that was not the case.

Bleskachek returned home after an overnight stay in the trauma unit, where Nierenhausen works at the hospital. She was off for a weekend camping trip but tried checking on him several times over the following days. She returned to his house four days after the accident with a bike helmet.

"In my day we didn't wear bike helmets," Bleskachek said as he, his wife and Nierenhausen sat around his kitchen table last week.

The same is true when Nierenhausen was growing up. However, everyone in her family, which includes husband Bruce, wears helmets.

"Where I work, I see people coming in with injuries that possibly could have been avoided if they had been wearing helmets," said Nierenhausen, who has worked in the same unit at Luther for more than 13 years.

Bleskachek - who has since returned to cycling after fixing his bike - later stopped by Nierenhausen's house to thank her with a large Hershey's kiss, which her children gobbled up, and tell her he wears the helmet.

"She's Bob's guardian angel," Pam Bleskachek said of Nierenhausen, who has the same first name as the couple's oldest daughter. Her husband agrees.

Nierenhausen, who had taken Sept. 4 - the day of the accident and her 45th birthday - off from work, said she was simply in the right place at the right time.

O'Brien can be reached at 830-5838, 800-236-7077 or christena.obrien@ecpc.com.

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