Doug Meis hasn’t been back at work for long; maybe a week and just a few hours at a time.
It’s hard to concentrate while constricted by a neck brace and dealing with lingering pain from having 11 ribs broken in 15 different places.
And he also has a leg brace.
“Yeah,” he said. “I have to wear the neck brace until Aug. 13. It’s funny. I have broken bones in my neck, but the doctor isn’t too worried about that. But a few little broken bones here … they’re worried about that.”
Here would be his skull, just behind his right ear, near where his eye glasses rest.
Meis, 55, suffered the injuries a little less than month ago when a hit-and-run driver smashed into him from behind and left him for dead while Meis was riding his bicycle.
And despite the extensive injuries, the lengthy recovery and the cynically callous act of a coward, Meis somehow manages to sound upbeat.
“There are a few crappy people in the world. Like the guy who hit me,” he said. “But they’re far out-numbered by great people.”
Big show of support
Meis’ story made the rounds in warp speed after it happened just before 8 p.m. June 12. Social media rocketed it around the local cycling community that evening, and it made the front page and the evening TV news the next day.
Whether because of prurient interest, morbid curiosity or genuine concern for the recovery of an innocent victim, these sorts of things attract attention.
But what we don’t hear often is what happens afterward, how someone contends with a rotten hand dealt to them.
An avid and passionate cyclist, Meis was approaching the end of a regular Tuesday group ride when bad luck intervened. He’d dropped a water bottle near the intersection of old U.S. 421 and Conrad Road in Lewisville. He’d turned back to retrieve it and had told others he was riding with to go ahead and finish.
He’d used his left arm to signal his intent to turn left onto Grapevine Road, and looked back to make sure his path was clear before moving in that direction.
Then he got mowed down from behind. A motorist hit Meis with the right side of a vehicle, ripping the passenger side mirror off before hitting the gas to flee.
“I remember making the turn, pointing where I was going — I had a flashing light on my bike — and looking back,” he said. “That’s the last I remember until they were picking me up and putting me in the ambulance.”
Meis spent the next 11 days in the hospital, three of those in the intensive care unit. It goes without saying, but the man could have been killed.
What happened while he was a patient was equal parts uplifting and depressing.
Uplifting for the outpouring of support and love Meis received from family, friends and strangers. Pledges to fund a reward of up to $5,000 poured into Crime Stoppers for any information that leads to an arrest. The offer still stands.
The investigation by the N.C. Highway Patrol got off to a rough start.
The mirror knocked off the vehicle by Meis’ body — evidence — was retrieved by a fellow cyclist rather than a trained professional. Other cyclists traced a part number back to a black Ford Fusion or Lincoln MKZ made between 2009 and 2012.
People who stopped to help Meis moved his bike and the mirror out of the roadway, so there wasn’t much of a crime scene to preserve. Nor were there any eye witnesses to interview.
Still, leaving the mirror by the roadside?
Sitting in his office across Liberty Street from the Forsyth County Hall of Justice, Meis, a lawyer, chose to focus on the positives.
It didn’t matter how an investigator got information about possible suspect vehicles as long as got it. “They’ve been making a real effort,” Meis said. “They said they made a list of all the possible vehicles in the area and they’re working through it.”
Meis, a lawyer who’s done plenty of criminal defense work, knows firsthand the challenge that lies ahead. Leaving the scene of an accident, combined with the severity of Meis’ injuries, adds up to a felony charge.
Short of the driver finding religion, succumbing to a pang of conscience at this late stage or someone eager to put a few thousand bucks in her or his hands, an arrest isn’t likely. Anyone with even a passing familiarity with the legal system or who’s seen more than one episode of “Law & Order” would know to say “lawyer” if asked about it.
“At this point, the window is closing,” Meis said. “The worst thing is, it won’t get this guy off the road. No doubt he saw me.”
Besides, at this point, Meis is focused on his recovery — and getting back on his bike. And the best way to do that is to stay positive and worry about what he can control instead of what he can’t.
“I don’t have any great anger about it,” he said. “I can’t change it. I can’t make it not happen no matter how angry I might get. I can’t make it change, so I don’t dwell on it.
“The same for thinking I could have died. It didn’t happen. So I’ll deal with the reality I have.”
The offer still stands. Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 336-727-2800.