There was blur of blue, a flash of light and then darkness. For Timothy White, life had just taken a U-turn.
“Before the accident in 2002 I was coming into my own,” the man sporting tattoo sleeves, remembers of his uphill climb from a deprived past. “I had worked really hard and had a specialized welding position with Seimens Energy. For the first time in my life, I was able to pay off bills and have things.”
Passionate about motorcycles and a competitor in amateur motocross, Tim had just purchased a new Honda RC 51, 1000 CC Sport Motorcycle he describes as “very powerful with a lot of torque.” The 35-year-old was looking forward to riding the impressive red machine after some final customizing.
Then his cellphone rang.
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“Some friends were at the gas station just up the street,” Tim recalls the Friday invitation to ride to the Grand Coulee Dam light show. “I was in the process of putting on new handle bar grips and I started rushing. I didn’t get the rubber cut off correctly on the throttle side.”
It was a mistake with horrific consequences.
As the seasoned motorcyclist approached a busy Kennewick Avenue, intersection from a side street, to his horror, the throttle stuck. Braking while both tires slid, clutch engaged and turning sharply, traffic on the left was still a city block away.
“I was thinking I’d be okay, make it through both lanes” Tim remembers his last thoughts before the peripheral blue image on the right slammed into him.
It was a hit and run. Abandoned with his right leg grotesquely positioned next to his head, hip and femur broken and ankle crushed, the journey ahead would be grim.
But Tim was no stranger to a rough life. Growing up in various Eastern Washington towns with a divorced mom who struggled to make ends meet, he’d learned what it was to be poor, to be bullied at school, and the white minority in a rundown neighborhood.
What he experienced during his growing-up years hardened him in some ways as an adult.
“I would choose to go ride and I’d leave people in the wake, people that wanted to spend time with me and I’d blow them off for a bigger, better deal,” the 47-year-old says regretfully about broken commitments. “I didn’t realize how it hurt their feelings because moving so fast (in life) I didn’t stop to think about people in that way.”
Now at an almost dead stop, Tim pictured the road ahead. He realized that for his girlfriend, Therese, to continue on this unexpected ride might be asking too much. She, however, didn’t agree and so the two married. It meant suffering through six years of surgeries, hoping to repair the destroyed ankle – and his former life.
Even so, in a defining moment at Cannon Beach, Ore., Tim was poignantly reminded that he might be holding back his wife and little son forever. Their walk together on the sand that day was too much for his ankle – and he fell. Still, he insisted that the two go on to the tide pools without him.
“My son kept looking back,” Tim comments about the look in the eyes of his 5-year-old. “And I realized I wouldn’t be able to do all kinds of things with him in the future.”
It seemed hopeless, but what Tim now describes as a “God thing” happened shortly thereafter. The Tri-City Herald featured a story about a former roofer with a crushed ankle.
“I saw the article about how this guy decided that amputation was the best course of action,” Tim recalls the epiphany that this might be the perfect option. “I needed to 'fire' my foot and get information on a prosthesis.”
On July 10, 2008, Tim told his foot and lower leg good-bye, amputating the limb just below the knee. He suffers “phantom pain” at times, but believes it was the right choice.
Nowadays, the Pasco resident walks without a limp, rides his lime green “crotch rocket” and visits the Oregon Raceway Park; a track where he teaches rookies body position, how to take a turn, when to brake, throttle and rider rules.
“I think the confidence my new leg has given me allows me to do this,” Tim explains, “even though I have a risk factor because of the hardware in my femur.”
But then Tim has never been afraid of risks.
“My mom will say it all started when I jumped my tricycle off of Grandpa’s porch,” Tim says with a grin about the landing that sent the toddler to the hospital for a few days.
Nor is Tim afraid to risk his macho image to talk about the faith he discovered after his tragic accident. Through the national Alpha program, he says he learned the basic facts about Christianity and then later had a life-changing experience during a Walk to Emmaus weekend.
“I was led in a kind way into understanding,” the gentler, more compassionate Tim says with a catch in his voice, “and soon I was running to God.”
And in that moment, it was a complete U-turn to a new direction – one they would travel together.
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