Twitter Leads Rescue Efforts of Fazzina Bike Crash

Twitter. Never underestimate its viral engaging power. Ever. Please, just don’t ever do it.

The power Twitter holds for instant viral communication is utterly amazing, and it helped me get rescued last night after I suffered a mountain bike crash in deep evening-lit woods that I was unfamiliar with.

Yes – that’s right. Thanks to the power of Twitter, I was rescued last night by the The Town of Farmington Fire Department (Connecticut) after suffering a serious mountain bike crash where I ended up off the beaten path alone in a wooded forest that was totally foreign to me.

I participated in a min-triathlon with my cousin John at Winding Trails in Farmington, Connecticut. We did a lake swim, a mountain bike ride and a run (well, I didn’t make the run). I was doing so well at start… I had just completed a ¼ mile swim, then jumped on to my mountain bike and proceeded to ride this pretty hardcore mountain path trail for several miles (lots of hills, roots and rocks, etc). I was to be riding on the marked “blue” trial (there were “green” and “red” trails too). In my 20/20 hindsight, I definitely missed a turn on the “blue” trail where the rest of the pack was riding because I was focusing too hard on avoiding the roots (you see, riding on an unfamiliar trail can be very tough – especially in a race when you are being timed). So I rode out of the way. For a while there were one or two people near me, then eventually they were all gone. A bit of the way into the ride which felt like forever, I realized I had to have been lost and on the wrong trail. This resulted in me riding further and further away on a different trail which was not part of the race and where eventually no one was in sight. Oy!

The woods seemed forever long, deep and thick to me. I pride myself on having a great sense of direction, but I couldn’t see where the sun was setting because the trees were very tall, and my natural compass sense was not working. I was really confused. Again, this was the first time I was ever in the trail.

Being slightly panicked in foreign dark woods reminds me of The Blair Witch Project or the Into the Wild story. I was feeling a tad uncomfortable and a bit scared. With that, and with the sun starting to set in unfamiliar territory, I kicked my body into high gear and began to high tail it out of these woods on the “red” trail (a totally different trail than the triathlon was on). I was flying… I must have been riding at about 25 miles an hour down this hill. During this speed, I hit some roots while making a right turn, pulled on my brakes and – BOOM! I had the worst biking accident I’d ever been in. I flew up and off the bike and over the handle bars about 10 feet into air (I was on a hill). Prior to hitting the ground I saw my life crash (literally) in front of me, and it was all downhill from there (again, literally) as I rolled. When in air all I kept thinking was “OMG – I’m going to break my neck!” And there is no one out here with me!” The noise my body made when it hit the ground was unbelievably loud and awful. And the bike hit me too.

When I landed, the wind was knocked out of me, I was hyperventilating a bit, coughing, dry heaving, spitting up dirt, shaking, going into a semi shock and slightly panicking…  I landed on my shoulder first, then rolled on my breast bone, my rib, my pelvis. My neck got thrown to the right. My helmet hit so hard it was dented and flew off my head. The water bottle was crushed like a car had hit it and my bike looked like a Mack Truck hit it. The handel bars were turned in a 180 position and the wheel and tire were busted.  I thought to myself “How on earth did I just survive this?” Then I started crying, felt the shock, and began to panic more. Then the pain started to set in. Then I realized I was alone. I could hear a pin drop in the woods it was so quite. I waited about 10 minutes or so thinking a rider or a triathlon staff member monitoring the trails would eventually ride by me… But when I didn’t see anyone, I then began screaming for help.

I shouted out in tears many times:
“Hello is anyone out here?”
”Can anyone here me?”
“Help!”
“I need help!”
“I’ve been in an accident! Please help!”
My words fell onto to deaf ears.

As I laid there crying on and off, I was wet from the swim still. Bugs were now biting me. I was full of dirt in my mouth, ears and nails. My face and legs were chaffed. My skin was scuffed on my shoulder that caught my fall. And I was starting to cramp up. I tried to stay calm, but the shock was taking a bite on me. I had to think clearly. I’ve been  trained and certified in First Aid and CPR (I’m a certified Spinning instructor), and for many years I was lifeguard… So I knew how to respond to these situations. But when shock sets in you go a bit numb and get confused no matter how mentally strong or knowledgeable you are. And this is what happened to me. I was teetering from slight shock to rationale thinking. It was an odd mental position to be in.

After not seeing anyone or having anyone hear me, I then crawled myself to my BlackBerry that was in my bike pack under the seat of my bike, and I had prayed that it was not wrecked. When I saw the phone on and working I immediately attempted to call my cousin Maria with whom I was visiting with all week  (Maria was at home, not on the race with us, but knew I was on the race).  But the signal strength for a phone call was so low and the connection was dim with the call saying  “connecting….” Her phone rang once, then it went silent. I tried calling a second time but no luck. Her phone didn’t even ring. At this point I knew the connection was too low for a call, so I decided the Twitter route.

I’m definitely digitally connected. My BlackBerry Bold 9700 (a top BlackBerry smartphone) has me connected on 3 emails accounts, Facebook, 3 Twitter accounts, SMS and MMS messages, BlackBerry Instant Message (BBM) with voice notes,  phone/voice calling and the Internet. I knew Twitter and the UberTwitter application that I had installed on my phone (always open and running on my BlackBerry) would get me an immediate response as my messages would be sent to the 1,000 or so people in my network. I also knew that my Twitter network being comprised of mostly healthcare communications/public relations colleagues would take me seriously. My thought was “I’m a communicator who uses and counsels clients on how to use social media to communicate their healthcare needs, and now here I am with a needed medical emergency asking others with similar background to help me. Of course my Twitter network friends would respond immediately and help me! It was a no-brainier for me to take this course. [I didn’t go the Facebook route b/c I didn’t think it would result in immediate help where asking breaking news happens on Twitter in just seconds.] Remember, it was getting dark and I needed help immediately. So Twitter it was.

Thankfully, the signal I had was strong enough for an Internet and texting connection. I also learned in the midst of it all that the BlackBerry instant message (BBM) worked too.

Within seconds, some of my network of Twitter friends and colleagues from Pennsylvania, Canada, Chicago, Oman (yes, in southwest Asia!), New Jersey, Italy, and Washington, D.C. heard me. Within minutes, they kept reading my Twitter stream as I continued to post and communicate with them. They came together as a team and contacted the Winding Trails Park, the Farmington Fire Dept and Police and within minutes I heard the sirens in a far. I was so thankful!

My one Twitter friend Jonathan Vitale of Erie, Pennsylvania, who is in his last year of medical school, kept me calm through his messages. He and Julie Coffey of Canada happened to be one the first people on Twitter to see me shout out for help. It was comforting to know he was there. And comforting to see all the messages come pouring in to me from dozens and dozens of people who were helping. Steve Woodruff ended up posting a recap and giving an update to the community. Steve, thank you so much and thank you for your outreach to me. Thank you also for showing how powerful Twitter can be!

Being injured alone for a good 30 mins in a forest where I had never been was scary. It was also painful and it was shocking. But Twitter and those taking the messages that are posted on Twitter seriously – is what got me rescued, placed on a stretch board, and taken to the Unvisited of Connecticut Medical Center where I was properly treated. So Amen to that.  [By the way, you can click here to see a little video I shot while I was taken out of the woods on the ATV on stretcher.  I finally was laughing a bit… Just thankful to be rescued and laughing at the reality of it all.] But notice in the video how dark it was out.

When the Fire Dept. and medics arrived, Jeff with the Farmington Fire Department told me “we are rescuing you from the Twitter call you did. Amazing!” Another guy named Connor said, “I guess that Twitter thing really works.” I replied, “Yep, it sure does.” We laughed a bit but in all seriousness chatted about it.

Meanwhile while I was on the stretcher and in the Ambulance, I would not put down Twitter. I kept communicating to let people know I was okay in terms of not breaking any bones and that I was in good hands. This was a must for me…

Luckily I have no broken bones. I was poked and pricked and on an IV of some nice anxiety drugs to calm me, and some anti-inflammatory meds. I am extremely sore, very stiff and uncomfortable. When I cough and sneeze, I am in pain. But all in all I am very very lucky nothing else happened.

I will eventually heal. My bike will get repaired. My pretty pink nails will eventually come clean. My # 241 triathlon number marked on my arm will eventually wash off, and I will ride again… but only in woods and on a path I’m familiar with, and making sure my BlackBerry and Twitter is with me.

As for Twitter’s power and all of these other wonderful communication tools that are often misunderstood, overlooked and sadly mocked from time to time – they are indeed powerful. From meeting people to do business with, to sharing information, to communicating crisis situations, to helping people get rescued –– more and more of these communication tools is what is making our world continue  to go around.

Communication in our world and in our lifetime is no doubt forever changed, and will continue to change. So please, continue to embrace it.

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My Note of Thanks:

I am forever grateful to all the Twitter friends who help get me rescued yesterday. Thank you so very much! You are all wonderful people who came together and coordinated the calls, followed up, and updated the community. If I missed anyone who helped with the initial effort to get me rescued, I sincerely apologize. I could not keep up with who was doing what.

@DrJonathan Jonathan Vitale, Erie, Pennsylvania
@coffeyjulie Julie Coffee, Toronto, Canada
@WesleyWilson Wes Wilson, Toronto, Canada
@swoodruff Steve Woodruff, New Jersey
@arun4 Arun Rajagopal, Muscat, Oman (Southeast Asia)
@dcaplick Debra Caplick, Chicago

@francishopkins Francis Hopkins, Washington, DC
@silver_medalist Sandy Ward, Mukilteo, Washington

It is not possible to thank everyone on here for your outreach to me and your well well wishes. But please know that from the bottom of my heart I thank you all. It means a lot to see how so many people reacted on line and helped me.

What’s amazing to me is that my messages reached as far away as Italy and Southwest Asia. So Simon Lee and Arun – thank you very much for caring and helping that far away!

I of course am thankful to the entire rescue team (which I have now learned was pretty large) who all provided rescue assistance, the Farmington Fire and Police Dept, the volunteers in the ambulance squad and medics, and a random mountain bike rider named Jason P. who escorted the medics to me. I appreciated all of the efforts by everyone.

<— Here is the bent wheel from the front of my bike. Looking down from the top here, the wheel should be straight. As you see, it is very off. Over $200 to fix my  bike too.

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Media Coverage of Story:

Below are just a few of the stories and various versions that ran in the local and national news media. This story has indeed been airing all over the world, from the United States, The Netherlands, Brazil, United Kingdom, to Sweden.

UPDATE 7/30/2010: Here is the original broadcast news story that ran on WTNH-TV, NBC 30 News in Hartford. It was this piece that got sent out on the NBC wire and fed into various U.S. markets including, New York, Miami, Salt Lake, Raleigh, Philadelphia and many others.

UPDATE 7/30/2010:A PR Week article by Christina Donnelly.

UPDATE 8/2/2010: Here is an interview with Jonathan Vitale on the “Doctor Anonymous Show” along with more information about incident from me.

UPDATE 8/2/2010: Here is the USA Today article by Liz Szabo.

UPDATE 8/4/2010: UOL in Brazil.

UPDATE 8/5/2010: ABC News’ The World Newser by Tess Scott.

UPDATE 8/5/2010: Tonic’s article by Marc Hertz. (Tonic is a digital media company dedicated to promoting the good that happens around the world each day)

UPDATE 8/5/2010: Coffee with Harrison by Harrison Painter on GoGladiatorTV.

And hundreds more…

If anything is learned from this its that texting and Internet use can work when a phone call on a mobile phone can’t get through. I hope people from all over the world are encouraged by this information so that it can help others in future emergency situations. If anything, my story can be encouraging to others and may help save a life or two in the future. That’s really positive!

19 Comments

rlbates
When I first saw this last night (after your rescue) and shared it with my husband, he was amazed. Not sure he will get a twitter account, but he has more respect for it. So happy to know how you are doing. I'll have to update my husband. Best to you.
Julie Coffey
Tears flowing as I read this. Thanks for filling in all the blanks about what happened out there. So glad you are fine, and didn't have to lay there in the dark.
Arun Rajagopal
Dear Leigh: A very happy ending to your ordeal, thanks to Twitter. For some strange reason, I woke up at 230am and glanced at my laptop to see your tweets. And I knew there was major trouble brewing. Thankfully, a caring Twitter community sprung into action in whatever way it could. It was very comforting to see Dr. Jonathan be there for you along with Julie. While I was in Muscat, Oman tweeting about getting you help, my friend Sandy Ward in Mukilteo (@silver_medalist) saw my tweet, made the call to the Trail and got back to me and for that I owe her a big one! She was just one of the many who rose to the occasion. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this great experience. Glad to meet you all and be of help! Get well soon, Leigh! Cheers, Arun
Laura
Good God Leigh..I just tried calling..Please call I am worried about you!!!!!!!
Leigh Fazzina
BTW, the medics told me that they got 4/5 calls into them and someone even called back to ask how everything was. That is "power" in its finest. Thank you! @Arun, that is incredible. Thank you for sharing it with me and on here. @Julie, your an angel for helping and being so touched. May good things come your way for helping me! Thank you. And thank you to Sandy Ward in Mukilteo (@silver_medalist) too - I had no idea she helped as well. Amazing group effort. Really amazing.
Abbie S. Fink
Wow!
Jackie Fox
This is truly amazing. Glad you're okay and thank you for sharing.
Steve Woodruff
Arun, what was funny is that I went into my office to close a window, glanced at my screen, and saw your tweet about Leigh (which just happened to have shown up at that moment at the top of the column). One click over the Leigh's Twitter account and the whole situation became clear. To see a team of folks simply form in minutes and take action was awesome. I think the moment Leigh put it out on Twitter, it was inevitable that she'd be helped - even if none of us listed above were on-line, others would have jumped right in and done the same thing. What a comfort that is!
Tim
Congratulations on your quick thinking. I know from experience how hard it can be even to dial a phone when you are shaking with adrenaline after an accident. Something else to know, is that 911 can sometimes connect when other calls do not, due to your cell carrier's preferences for their own equipment on non-emergency calls. We are a stone's throw (well, a 20 min bike ride) from Winding Trails. Lots of perfectly good pavement to ride on. Come on back for the folliage in early October :)
The Pulse Network
Absolutely...one of the great things about social media is how it lends attention to news stories that previously would have been ignored. It really gives you a "pulse" of what the people are talking about.
The Pulse Network
Wow! This really details how much of an impact social media has. Your story was amazing! How did you manage to add some humor to this article when it happened to YOU? This was a really great read and I am glad that you're okay. We've featured your article today on our show, "The Pulse Network." Check it out by going to www.thepulsenetwork.com.
Doug M
So I guess that was you. Made national news. I was just clicking through the stations in my car, not paying attention - either NPR, Fox or CNN. Hope all is well. Not as big on the social media as I maybe should be in my job, but I see you have grasped it! Did my first tri a couple of weeks ago.
Julie Mandell
Wow, I guess one should never underestimate the power of Twitter! Amazing Leigh! How very scary. So glad that you are okay.
giuliano
It's crazy how sometimes things happens, you had the exact idea i was developing in that days and that now it's ready in his first beta version release, it's called Twittelp. Maybe it's not fitted for extremely high priority emergencies (first of all i would call 911 in that case) but for much other cases it would fit perfectly. A quick tweet with problem type and geolocation infos, mentiong a fav list of users. It could become a tool for monitoring what's happening in a city using the strong connection between twitter users, a community that loves helpin each other. If superman exist it would use Twittelp to look for realtime updates about whose need some help! Unfortunately there's no superman so let's take the hero that is in everyone of us and let's spread each other. Take it back to the real meaning of social, get people togheter! the app of course it's free and actually there is only the iPhone/iPod version, hope to be able to get it on other platforms asap.. http://twittelp.com Best Regards Giuliano
Vincent Wright
Leigh, 1: I'm happy things worked out for you as well as they did 2. I appreciate your sharing a great, strong demonstration of what sites like Twitter can do...(especially with a well-maintained network of professional contacts) 3. I learned about your story indirectly via Buzz Stone talking about the top ten most powerful tweets of 2010 on The Today Show earlier this morning. His conversation lead me to this link where I saw your story listed at Number 4, I believe; http://yearinreview.twitter.com/powerful-tweets/ 4. You did an outstanding job in writing about your harrowing experience. I intend to read it once more - once I've had coffee! :-) Keep STRONG, Leigh! +Vincent Wright
    Leigh Fazzina
    Vincent, thank you all around. If I had to go through it all again just for the sake of letting the world know that social media communication platforms, networks and technologies have forever changed our communications world and do work in emergency situations - I would definitely do it. At the end of the day, if my story can help people in some way – I think that is positive. :)
Chris Niemeyer
Hi there, you are #3 on "The 10 Most Powerful Tweets of 2010". :) Hope you're alright. Just found this story in some IT-related news and then your site here. All the best.
    Leigh Fazzina
    Thank you, Chris. While no broken bones, concussion, or critical injuries, I was pretty banged up internally for about 3 months. I was very out of alignment and my neck, upper back, shoulder and ribcage were as sore as could be for that time. It took me a full three months to recover. But I'm doing okay now. In a deep yoga stretch I will feel the soreness on my left side still, but nothing like it once was. Again, thank you for reaching out.
justice
i feel bad 4 what happin to her :)

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