Rebuilding After Disaster

By Elaine K. Howley

May 31, 2022, was a very bad day for Patrick Rose, a member of O*H*I*O Masters Swim Club.

In fact, it was the worst day of his life he says, because at the time, he was an avid cyclist, logging 100 to 125 miles per week. He’d done a very hard Memorial Day ride the day before, and was on a short, stretch-out ride “just to spin my legs a bit,” he says, when about four miles into the ride, disaster struck.

He approached an intersection at 21 miles per hour. The sun was angled just so that a driver also approaching the juncture from a different direction couldn’t see him and started to turn. Impact was assured, but Rose was able to swerve just enough to avoid a head-on collision.

Hit broadside by the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Rose was thrown onto the windshield and then the roof of the vehicle before landing on the ground in a heap. “I don’t remember landing,” he says. “Fortunately, the impact knocked me out.”

The crash occurred directly in front of a brewery where about 40 people were enjoying happy hour on the patio. An orthodontist happened to be on site and rushed to render aid, managing the scene until EMS arrived.

Later, Rose learned that his new bike had shattered into seven pieces, and he’d sustained even more damage: eight fractures, a dislocated knee, three partially torn ligaments, and two broken hands. Riding, which he’d enjoyed for many years, was no longer an option for him.

He spent four days in the hospital and another 19 in inpatient rehab. He endured four surgeries, and finally went home on Jun 23, 2022. On that day, Rose says he decided “the pool was the safest and best way to rebuild my fitness, once I learned to walk again.”

He’d swum in high school and intramurally in college but had left the sport for running and cycling. He dabbled in Masters swimming starting in 2019 but cycling remained his focus. But the memory of Masters came back to him as he contemplated how he could rebuild himself—perhaps in a medium that would be more accommodating to his new physical reality.

That idea of getting back into swimming buoyed him through the next 10 months of grueling physical therapy. By May 2023, he began swimming solo again. He set his sights on competing at the 2024 Spring Nationals in June, and soon joined the Masters group at the Powel Crosley, Jr. YMCA, “because I needed a team atmosphere to hold me accountable.”

He says the first week swimming was rough, but he settled in fast, and having the routine and accountability of the team helped him get back in shape quickly.

Though he still has some minor, permanent disabilities from the accident, “getting back into swimming every morning is the best outcome of this whole event.”

Ahead of Nationals, he acknowledged that his physical limitations might mean he wouldn’t hit his goal times, “but it’s not from a lack of effort and dedication, and I’m fine with that,” he says. The value has been in the work and the road to recovery, surrounded by like-minded friends. “I have enjoyed every minute of my Masters experience and can truly see and feel the difference in my swimming and overall fitness,” Rose says. “With the encouragement of my teammates and expertise of PCY’s coaches, I feel confident that I can hit those goals.”

As it turned out, all that hard work paid off. “I’m really pleased with both of my swims,” he says. He dropped about a second in his 50 free, and “my goal time for the 100 free was a 59.99, and I ended up at 58.27,” just off his Masters best from 2019.

He credits his coach, Stacey Tepe, with giving him “some really good advice before my 100 free, and I think that really set me up for success. This is why I’ll continue to swim Masters, because I wouldn’t get this type of focus and involvement if I were to swim and train by myself,” he says.

About The Author

Elaine K. Howley is an award-winning freelance writer and editor specializing in sports, health, and history topics. Her work has appeared in numerous print and online publications including AARP.org, Atlas Obscura, espnW, and U.S. News & World Report. A lifelong swimmer who specializes in cold water marathon swimming, she has contributed to SWIMMER magazine since 2009 and USMS.org since 2012. Contact her via her website: elainekhowley.com