On Nov. 2, 1996, Cynthia Pletcher experienced the unthinkable: she was in a car accident resulting in a traumatic brain injury.
She gets around with the help of a walker because she loses her balance easily, and can’t drive because she can’t see out of one eye and has no depth-perception. The worst part is that nobody knows what exactly happened or how. Pletcher can’t recall the accident and barely recalls the first four months following it. With no witnesses to the event, there is only speculation: It is possible she swerved to hit a deer, possibly fell asleep at the wheel, or it could be another car hit her. All she knows for sure is that when she came to, she was in a ditch.
“I was coming home from work one night — I lived in Lodi and worked in Mazomanie,” said Pletcher, now a Sauk City resident. “Whatever happened, I ended up in a ditch. And during the course of the accident my headlights were knocked out, so nobody saw me for a while.”
The next day some hunters stumbled upon the wreckage and went to the nearest house to notified police. Afterward, Pletcher was put in a medically-induced coma for three weeks to reduce the swelling in her brain.
It was a long journey through rehabilitation and adjusting to her knew circumstances. For a while after the accident, she remained in Lodi, where her daughter still resides. Eventually, Pletcher invested in a three-wheel bike so she could get around and get exercise. The trouble was Lodi tends to be hilly, as Pletcher put it, and the biking was hard on her knees. It was a difficult decision, but Pletcher decided she needed to learn to be more independent and find a place where biking was a little easier. That’s how she landed in Sauk City.
The first three-wheeled bike Pletcher had was bigger, heavier and only had three speeds. She eventually replaced it with her current bike, which is lighter and has 21 speeds. It has a basket for groceries and her cousin made a holder on the bike for Pletcher’s foldable walker.
While she got along well enough, the addition of the Great Sauk State Trail has been a benefit for Pletcher.
“On the trail there is very little incline,” Pletcher said. “With the railroad not being there anymore, it’s brought new life to two things: the land and me.”
Knowing how much Pletcher’s bike means to her, Rita Amundson couldn’t sit by and do nothing when Pletcher mentioned her bike needed repair one day. Amundson said she and Pletcher attend the same church, and they got to know one another during a water aerobics class.
“She’s a very positive person,” Amundson said of Pletcher. “She’s an inspiration. Despite her limitations she helps when she can at church and did that water aerobics class.”
Amundson said one day Pletcher mentioned her bike needed repair and didn’t know how she would get it to Madison for the necessary work.
“I knew Brian Weeks did some work on bikes, so I connected them,” Amundson said.
Weeks and his wife, Mary, have enjoyed getting to know Pletcher. “She’s such an inspiration; she’s so positive,” Mary Weeks said. “She loves getting people excited about the bike trail and has been independent despite having some limitations.”
The Weeks keep in touch with Pletcher and help her with her bike whenever they can. Brian Weeks even created a little outdoor shelter for Pletcher’s bike to keep it protected from the elements.
Although she doesn’t have the stamina she once had, Pletcher makes a point to a few miles a day, several times a week. “I can only go so long then I get wiped,” Pletcher said. “It’s taken a lot of getting used to. Sometimes people don’t understand.”
The Great Sauk State Trail has enabled Pletcher to see things she hadn’t seen before. “I’ve always been a nature person,” Pletcher said. “It isn’t possible for me to get out into it much anymore. But on the trail, I can see the beautiful trees along the river and the beautiful landscape. And I can’t wait for when the section to Devil’s Lake opens.”