BILLINGS — May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, shining light on driving and riding behaviors that could save lives. It's something that hits close to home for one Billings man after an early April accident left him with a long road to recovery.
“I got off work for lunch and I was headed out of the parking lot, the Lowe’s lot, to go across King Avenue. I was going to go across the street and have lunch. Approaching the last stop sign before King at the light there, a young lady pulled out in front of me and I T-boned the side of her car,” Shawn Tyrolt said on Tuesday. “I didn’t have very much response time. It’s quick when things like that happen. They’re fast. I probably wasn’t even doing 20 mph."
Tyrolt works at Lowe's, located at 2717 King Ave. W. in Billings. He was headed across the street for a quick bite when tragedy struck.
“From the accident, I shattered my tibia, broke my fibula. There’s bone missing from my tibia and I also had a plateau fracture in the head that goes from where the shatter happened all the way up into the joint. There was a fracture. So I’ve got hardware and screws and all that inside to hold it all together,” Tyrolt said. “I was released from the hospital after eight days. I was home for four hours and I guess I passed out into about a two-minute convulsion. They found out I had a double pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in each lung. So I was very lucky that the person that was there with me, Rachel, helped me up and kept me from falling on the ground."
After an eight-day stay in the hospital, Tyrolt was released but quickly returned after losing consciousness.
"(I spent) 17 days in the hospital," Tyrolt said. "They estimated $350-500,000 just for the medical attention that I’ve gotten so far."
Two surgeries and a 17-day hospital stay later, Tyrolt is left with a hefty bill to pay, all while out of work and caring for a teenage daughter. He can't return home due to his injuries. He isn't able to start rehab and is unsure of what the future will hold.
"I can’t go home. I’m non-weight-bearing and immobile on the right leg. So I have too many steps. I have steps up and then steps down to go to my house,” Tyrolt said. “So I’m not even home. I haven’t been home since the beginning of April. I have a doctor’s appointment coming up here at the end of the month. And hopefully, I’ll get good information."
His friends have since set up a GoFundMe account for him and are planning fundraising events.
"I don’t like asking for help. But I do have a GoFundMe account. Also, we’re having two benefits. One this weekend, Saturday, they’re doing a poker run for me and a silent auction at the close of that. And then next Saturday, on the 27th, we’re having a pig roast. That’s going to be at the Lowe’s parking lot," Tyrolt said. "A bunch of friends got together, ‘Hey we want to do this.’ So I put them all together and here’s the outcome."
Tyrolt said his friends refer to him as "Little Brother" and are rallying around raising funds to assist him. He would like to thank those who have helped him throughout his journey, including his care team at Billings Clinic.
“At the scene of the accident, there was a gentleman that was there immediately after it happened. And due to the injury to my leg, I needed a tourniquet. Well, that gentleman is a nurse at Billings Clinic, and I just want to say thank you to him. His niece, come to find out, actually was one of my nurses on the floor I was on. So thank you to her. The place was great. They took really good care of me. Again thank you to him, I don’t even know his name. But thank you. Thank you very much," Tyrolt said. “The EMTs and the paramedics and those guys, shout out to those guys too. You know they save people every day. Be aware of those guys as well. You know, get out of their way if their lights are on, their sirens are going. Be careful. Just be careful out there."
According to Tyrolt, both drivers and riders need to be aware.
“We in the biker community, we ride together. But we have to ride and drive in such a defensive way, we can only do so much. You’re on a piece of equipment that weighs a lot. Just like a car, it doesn’t stop very quickly. Maneuverability, some people get lucky, others don’t," Tyrolt said. "So just please be aware. Please be aware of what’s going on around you."
Be aware and check twice—something another Billings motorcyclist, Walt Gusler, echoed.
“It’s really as simple as look twice, save a life," Gusler said. "I know everybody’s heard it, but intuitively the motorcycles are much smaller than a regular vehicle."
Gusler has been interested in motorcycles his whole life and has five bikes of his own. But like Tyrolt, Gusler was also hit while riding his bike.
“I was hit about three years ago by a drunk driver at 50 mph on Blue Creek Road,” Gusler said. “I got very lucky. I mainly had some serious road rash, but nothing broken or anything like that. Was pretty sore for quite a while. It was actually the first time I’d ever worn a helmet, and that probably did save my life."
But he said this is a commonality among riders.
“If we haven’t been in one, we know somebody’s that’s been in one, or we’ve had our own close calls,” Gusler said.
Gusler urged the importance of motorcycle safety for both drivers and riders.
"That littleness of them, especially the narrowness, is very easy to miss. Even when we’re doing regular speeds. Everybody talks about how fast motorcycles are. And we know that that’s happening out there. But even at regular speeds, a motorcycle is very hard to see compared to a regular vehicle, so really look twice,” Gusler said. “Mainly with the amount of accidents that we’re having. And it’s not just for the drivers. It’s also to remind us riders that we need to ride much more defensively and safely as well."
Tyrolt is just grateful to still be here to tell his story and spread awareness.
“First thing I did when it happened and I was on the ground, you take inventory so to speak. My hands work, my head wasn’t bleeding. I knew my leg was hurt. I didn’t know it was broken until I tried to move it. And I didn’t know it was a compound fracture until the gentleman showed up and said he had to put a tourniquet on it,” Tyrolt said. “My wife and my daughter were actually on the scene right after it happened and they followed in their car behind me. I was more concerned about calming them down."
To view Tyrolt's GoFundMe, click here.
“Just be totally aware. Look a lot. The weather now is motorcycle weather so there’s going to be a lot more people on their bikes out on the road," Tyrolt said. "Take that second look. Make sure you look over your shoulder when you want to change lanes. Think about it, that’s somebody’s dad or brother."