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Unsung hero

A bike wreck left him dazed, hurt and bleeding. Then a Vanderbilt nurse came by.

Where in the world is Carmen from Chicago? Geoffrey Lee would like to be sure she gets credit for a good deed.

by February 7, 2018

It happened so fast, Geoffrey Lee says.

It was an overcast but warm Thursday afternoon in January, and he was riding his bicycle on a trail at Nashville’s Edwin Warner Park when he rode into a sharp turn a little too fast.

“I remember thinking that the turn was sharper than I had anticipated. I needed to slow down, but I slowed down too fast and my rear tire fishtailed.”

He was beside the trail, a mile or more from his car, dazed, hurt and bleeding. And then suddenly somebody was standing over him, asking if he was all right. Lee recognized her as a runner he had passed a couple of minutes earlier on the trail. “She said her name was Carmen, and she was a nurse.” 

He doesn’t like remembering what happened next.

The bike crashed. Lee was thrown off, and “essentially landed on my face. It broke my glasses. I was kind of stunned,” he says. “I thought, ‘Everything hurts.’”

He was beside the trail, a mile or more from his car, dazed, hurt and bleeding.

And then suddenly somebody was standing over him, asking if he was all right. Lee recognized her as a runner he had passed a couple of minutes earlier on the trail.

“She said her name was Carmen, and she was a nurse” Lee says.

Carmen the nurse went about evaluating his physical injuries. She noticed he was bleeding. His helmet had a scratch on it, but his face had taken the brunt of his injuries.

“She was very comforting and helpful, assisting me and providing medical advice and clinical assessment at the same time,” Lee says.

Carmen asked where Lee’s car was parked, and she offered to walk with him the mile or so back to it to be sure he got there OK. They pushed the wrecked bicycle back along the trail, walking and talking on the way.

“I didn’t catch her last name, but she said she was a nurse at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital,” Lee says. He is originally from Illinois and moved to Nashville in 1975 to attend graduate school at Vanderbilt, and he remembered Carmen saying that she was also from Illinois — Chicago.

When they got back to his car, she repeated her advice for emphasis: “She said, ‘I really think you need to go to the walk-in clinic,” Lee says.

“I want your community to know what good solid folks you’re hiring,” Lee says. “I want her to be recognized.”

He says without that advice, he likely would have gone home, taken some ibuprofen, and rested — a natural impulse for anybody who is tired and hurting.

It would have been a bad thing to do. Lee is very glad he took her advice.

“I went to the Bellevue Vanderbilt Walk-in Clinic and had a very pleasant interaction with the nurse, doctor and staff there,” he says.

After the evaluation at the walk-in clinic, Lee was directed to the emergency room for X-rays, which revealed that he had several broken bones in his face — injuries which would require surgery to repair.

The irony is that Lee had taken up cycling as a way to maintain good health and get more variety in his exercise routine. He retired last fall from his job as an insurance company executive, and it was appealing to be able to use some of that new free time riding outdoors.

And, he said, he plans to continue riding — after he has recovered from the surgery to repair the bones in his face.

Lee said he is grateful to Carmen for stopping and helping an injured stranger, but he’s OK not knowing any more about her.

But he does want what she did to be recognized by her co-workers — which is why he contacted the VUMC News and Communications office and agreed to be interviewed for this story.

“I want your community to know what good solid folks you’re hiring,” Lee says. “I want her to be recognized.

“I was so impressed with Carmen that she took that time out, got me back to my car safely. I otherwise would have been alone on the trail — and that would have been rough.”

(If you think you know who Carmen is — or you are Carmen — please contact wayne.wood@vumc.org)

Update: Carmen has been identified! See her story here.

Photo by iStock

Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital, athlete, Running, Emergency Medicine, bicycle, walk-in clinic