Wounded bicyclists, WashU honors, eclipse events

While prepping for a charity ride, bicyclist Rick Rovak (left) suffered serious injuries after an accident on Clayton Road, including (right) a deep laceration above his right eye, broken hips and a broken tailbone. Photo at left:  Scott Rovak

Ellen Futterman, Editor

A (cautionary) tale of three Ricks and their bicycles

What are the chances that three local guys, each named Rick, would be in serious bicycle accidents this summer? In truth, one wasn’t so much a bicycle accident as a post-bicycle accident, but it happened within minutes of Rick No. 2 getting off his bike, so I’m counting it.

In addition, while Rick No. 1 and Rick No. 2 are Jewish, Rick No. 3 is not, but I included him anyway because he’s a true mensch and well, yes, his name is Rick. 

The good news is that the three Ricks, while badly injured, are expected to make complete recoveries. All also were wearing helmets. 

Rick No. 1 is Rick Rovak, 71, who was named a Jewish Light Unsung Hero in 2013 for his volunteerism. Among the nonprofits he actively supports are Gateway to Hope, which arranges medical care and helps with expenses for under-or-uninsured people coping with breast cancer, and the Gateway Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. In fact, Rovak was preparing for the MS Society’s annual Gateway Getaway Ride in early September when the accident took place. It happened before noon July 30 on Clayton Road, just east of Bopp Road.

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Rovak says he was looking to avoid a pothole known to cyclists on Clayton Road when he came across crushed rock — not gravel — often used around new home builds. Rovak hit some of the rock, which set his bike out of control.

“There was no recovering,” explained Rovak, a retired sales executive in the shoe industry. “I was headed to a concrete block drainage ditch, which probably would’ve killed me or left me with permanent injuries.

“Somehow I was able to steer away from it. I didn’t go straight over the handlebars but fell over the front/side of the bike. I don’t have a perfect memory of it.”

Rovak wound up with a hole above his right eye that went down to the bone and required 15 stitches. He also broke both hips and his tailbone. “I have several other fractures and a ton of road rash,” said Rovak, of Creve Coeur, who spent more than a week recovering at Missouri Baptist Hospital, undergoing physical and occupational therapy. More will be needed, but doctors told him because he’s in such good physical shape his recovery should be easier than most.

Rick No. 2 is Rick Bernstein, who like Rovak belongs to Shaare Emeth Congregation. Bernstein, 69, is a retired dentist who  took up biking recently and more as a hobby. His main sport is golf and walking the course.

On July 14, he had just finished biking the 6-plus mile loop around Forest Park and was on his way home, waiting to cross Skinker Boulevard. The temperature was around 92 degrees, he said.

“I was waiting for the traffic light to change and felt a little dizzy so I got off my bike,” said Bernstein, who lives in Clayton. “I laid flat on the ground for a couple of minutes with my helmet on. I was feeling better so I got up pretty quickly, which was a mistake. As soon as I got up, I blacked out and hit the pavement on the right side of my face.”

An ambulance took Bernstein to Barnes-Jewish Hospital’s trauma center, where he underwent a CAT scan for brain injuries as well as various X-rays. One doctor thought his fall was heart-related. He spent two nights in the hospital.

“My fall was diagnosed as being from dehydration,” said Bernstein, who fractured three teeth, suffered a concussion and needed five stitches both above and below his right eye as well as in his lip. 

“My upper lip looked like hamburger meat,” he said. “Right now I’m laying low because I still have some headaches and dizziness from the concussion.”

Rick No. 3 is Rick Wood, 59, an architectural model maker and music enthusiast, also from Clayton. He says just like hundreds of times before, he was riding his bicycle to nearby Shaw Park Pool on June 8 to swim his daily 1½-miles.

“Right when I get to the pool, I do this little wheelie like I’ve done hundreds of times, where I jump up on the curb (with the bike),” said Wood. “This time I lifted up the handlebars and the wheels stayed down. So instead of hopping up on the curb, the wheel hit the curb and I went over the handlebars and landed on my head.”

Wood got up, but felt so dizzy, he sat back down. An ambulance eventually took him to St. Louis University Hospital, where he learned he had fractured his C2 vertebrae. “Luckily, there was no spinal cord damage and the doctors decided against any kind of surgery,” said Wood, who also spent a couple of nights in the hospital. He was sent home with an elaborate neck brace that he had to wear for six weeks so that his vertebrae could fuse together. He hasn’t yet been cleared to swim his daily 1½ miles.

So what’s the take-away from all of this?

Rovak, whose accident story was featured on Channel 5 (KSDK-TV), has raised more money for MS than in the 16 years he has been participating in the bike ride. Before the accident, he had raised $3,400. As of Tuesday, the amount was more than $12,000. (To donate, go to http://bit.ly/1LRgtjD. You’ll see a link for Rovak on the page.)

Bernstein is done with biking; he’s sticking to golf. But he also now knows to hydrate before exercising, especially in hot weather.

Wood says he will continue to bike to Shaw Park, but promises “no more wheelies.”

As I see it, the biggest take-away is the importance of wearing a helmet. Oh, and this: If your name is Rick, be extra careful if you’re heading out on your bike this summer.


Kudos to Wash. U.

Washington University has been named No. 3 among 171 colleges and universities in the United States as the best place for Jewish students, according to the Forward College Guide.

The first of its kind, the guide comes from the Forward, a national Jewish newspaper, which analyzed more than 50 factors, including academics, costs, Jewish life and Israel activity on campus. 

Wash. U. was behind Emory University and University of Pennsylvania. University of Missouri ranked No. 153. 

Fore more information, go to forward.com/jewish-college-guide.


The eclipse through a Jewish lens

Looking for a place to watch the solar eclipse Monday, Aug. 21 with other Jewish friends? Here are a few suggestions:

• Crown Center, 8350 Delcrest Dr. It’s  hosting a Solar Eclipse Viewing Party in its backyard, beginning at 12:30 p.m. Special viewing glasses and light refreshments will be given out.

• Central Reform Congregation, 5020 Waterman Blvd. From 11:30 to 1:30 p.m., enjoy a concert and viewing with Andrew Bollinger leading songs having to do with the stars, moon and sun. Mooncakes and a sun-related non-alcoholic drink will be served. The first 50 people get viewing glasses. The event is free but RSVP to [email protected] or call 314-361-1564 ext. 100. The party is cancelled if it rains.

• Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School, 348 S. Mason Road. Join Rabbi Scott Slarskey, Rick Schmidt (middle school science teacher) and Rick Recht (singer, songwriter and Mirowitz dad) at a viewing party from 12:30 to 2 p.m.

Remember, the last time a total solar eclipse occurred in the greater St. Louis area was 1442.