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“I thought I was safe; I learned I was not.”

“I thought I was safe; I learned I was not.”

Drew Pisano, 34, doesn’t remember anything about the accident that nearly killed him, but the clues left behind at the scene piece together the story of how his plans for a “quick ride” on a beautiful fall day changed in the blink of an eye.

“I’ve been riding bikes my whole life,” Drew said. “Dirt bikes, quads, motorcycles, I love them all.”

More than his passion, bikes are also Drew’s livelihood. His Colchester-based business MotoBarn sells, maintains, and services bikes of all kinds.

On a warm November afternoon last year, Drew took his motorcycle – a cruiser – for a short ride. As was his custom, Drew drove off without first donning a helmet.

“I always used a helmet when I rode my sport bikes, but I felt my cruiser was a safer kind of bike. I thought that even if I crashed, it wouldn’t be that bad,” he said. “I was wrong.”

More than twelve hours after Drew left his home, police discovered the Colchester man’s damaged bike standing up on the side of the road next to a fresh deer carcass. Concerned friends found Drew, unconscious and bleeding, near the edge of the woods only 50 feet away.

Although he has no memory of the accident, authorities believe that a deer darted in front of his motorcycle, and the collision threw him off his bike.

“My first instinct was probably to get up, take care of my bike and get it standing. Then I probably just started walking until I collapsed.”

LifeStar flew Drew to Hartford Hospital where he was diagnosed with a broken neck and collar bone and a brain bleed. Doctors said his chances for survival, his family later told him, were grim.

“They took half of my skull off,” he recounted. “It was bad.”

Two months later, Drew arrived at Gaylord Specialty Healthcare for intensive rehabilitation. “I could barely talk and walk and had a lot of memory issues. But a month of therapy has helped me to do almost everything,” he said.

Today, four months after his accident, Drew travels 45 minutes three times a week to Gaylord Specialty Healthcare in Wallingford for outpatient care. “This is the only place I wanted for therapy,” he said.

His intense schedule of physical, occupational, and speech therapies and medical appointments is physically and mentally demanding, but the hard work is worth it, he said, because he knows it is his best chance for a full recovery.

“It’s all about my kids. I need to get back to work for them – and back to being a dad.”

Since his accident, Drew has often reflected on how his outcome could have been different … if he had only used a helmet. He says that his “nightmare” experience has also changed the riding habits of many of his close friends.

When it comes to his message to others, Drew minces no words: “Wear a helmet.”

“I get it. I understand what a lot of bikers are thinking. I never thought this could happen to me, but it did.”

“I thought I was safe; I learned I was not.”