Lynn Bergenholtz: Saved for a Reason
In late August last year, Lynn Bergenholtz was heading home on her Harley Davidson Street Glide when another driver crossed the centerline and collided with her head on. In another two miles, Lynn would have reached her house unscathed. Instead, she lay mangled in a ditch, bleeding to death, while the driver of the other vehicle, a 46-year-old man, called his mother, presumably to ask what he should do.
The impact of this man’s vehicle threw Lynn from her bike and knocked her unconscious. When she came to, everything was white. At first, she had no recollection of the accident. She was disoriented but could see a nearby street sign that helped her process the situation. As a former EMT, Lynn immediately began to assess the extent of her injuries. In the first seconds after waking, the pain had not set in, and Lynn remembers being disappointed to find a rip in her favorite jeans. She laughs at this pettiness now, but even in the aftermath of the crash, the jeans were soon forgotten.
Within seconds, Lynn realized her injuries were catastrophic. The entire left side of her body had been ripped apart. Her pelvis had been broken, and her left foot had been flung over her head. A wave of overpowering pain struck her like a second vehicle, and Lynn thought she was dying.
In the moments that followed, Lynn recalls a woman standing over her, holding white billowy curtains all around her. She asked the woman to put her leg back in place, but the woman only reassured her help was coming. Soon the pain was so severe that Lynn looked past the whiteness into the shifting clouds and prayed for God to take her.
In that moment, all the pain disappeared, and Lynn momentarily passed out. “It was euphoric,” she said.
According to Lynn, those who responded to the crash didn’t expect her to live, but they did everything they could to save her, and although she prayed to die, something inside her, was determined not to. Lynn said she regained consciousness while being airlifted to University Health Shreveport and remained awake for most of the flight. Once at the hospital, Lynn underwent emergency surgery.
When she awoke from the surgery, she was surrounded by family, but they all greeted her with serious looks. They were waiting for her to process the outcome of the surgery. When Lynn realized her left leg and arm had been amputated, she looked down at the leg and back at her family and said, “They’re gonna put a cool prosthetic on there.” Knowing that people with less severe injuries have been unable to cope, she can’t explain the source of her instant positivity, but said, “I believe it was God all the way.”
Before the accident, Lynn went through a time when she wasn’t sure how she felt about God, but her experience in the immediate aftermath of the accident has changed everything.
Lynn was in the hospital for six weeks, and during that time, a woman she didn’t recognize visited her. The woman brought a smiley-face vase full of flowers and said to Lynn, “Every picture I’ve seen of you, you were smiling, and this reminded me of you.” The woman with the flowers had been the first at the scene of Lynn’s accident and had been the one to call 911 and the one to sit on the ground holding her hand until help arrived. Lynn asked her about the woman holding the white curtains but was told there was no such woman.
Lynn believes the woman she saw standing over her and surrounding her in white was a guardian angel. “God is real, and God is very good,” she said. “When I felt I couldn’t handle any more, He took away what I couldn’t handle.”
During her recovery, Lynn has remained positive. She said, “You could look at this and say my life has been destroyed, but in a strange way, my life is actually better.” She misses her arm, especially giving hugs, but she said the experience has drawn her family closer together and has also allowed her to meet the love of her life Kyletta Delaney. Kyletta was part of Lynn’s care team at Lifecare Specialty Hospital in Ruston where Lynn continued to recover after leaving University Health. Lynn said, “She doesn’t ever let me stay in a negative head space. She’ll pull me right out of it.” Kyletta described Lynn as an “awesome, caring, loving person that does for everyone.”
Last December, the couple were attending the Bleu Bayou H.O.G.’s annual Christmas party when Lynn decided to propose. She was sharing the story of her accident and recovery with the chapter when she came to the part where she met and fell in love with Kyletta. In that moment, Kyletta jumped up and yelled, “Lynn, marry me!” “It was a mutual thing,” Lynn said, “and it was awesome to do it in front of my biker family.” Six months later, she and Kyletta will exchange wedding vows this month.
Aside from bringing Kyletta into her life and bringing her family closer together, the accident has also made Lynn an inspiration to others. She has exceeded every expectation set for her from the moment she was struck from her bike. First responders didn’t expect her to live, and doctors told her she shouldn’t think about walking for at least a year, but Lynn has been using a prosthesis and has recently transitioned to an upgrade with microprocessors in the knee and ankle that sense changes in her weight. She said this new prosthesis allows her to have a more natural gait and will help her avoid falls.
Unfortunately, falls have been a common part of Lynn’s recovery, but she’s determined to be independent. “I’m still a fighter,” she said. “This hasn’t changed that. You get up. You keep going. You don’t lay down.”
Since the accident, Lynn has received over 300 friend requests on Facebook from strangers who’ve heard her story and wanted to connect. Many of them tell Lynn that her story and her positivity have given them hope. Lynn remembers one particular woman who lost her fiancé before they were married. She was in a dark place but said hearing about Lynn helped her keep going.
Lynn has also been approached by strangers outside of social media. She recalls traveling to Richland Parish to pay a speeding ticket her son had received while traveling up from New Orleans to see her. Inside the Sheriff’s office, Lynn was approached by a trustee who recognized her and told Lynn she’d been following her story on Facebook. As word of her story has spread, she’s been offered opportunities to speak and share her story with others. At one particular gathering, Lynn witnessed a group of grown men brought to tears.
Lynn said, “It’s weird to have so many people know me, but it’s nice that I’m known for being an inspiration.” At the same time, this recognition wasn’t something Lynn has consciously aimed for. “I’m not trying to be inspiration,” she said. “I’m just doing me, but I’m glad to be an inspiration—to see people moved by that kind of emotion. I’ve been given a gift.”
Although Lynn has fought to stay positive and beat expectations during her recovery, she’s also met a lot of challenges. Before the accident, Lynn was completely independent and owned her own business, Ishaboos Canine Spa. Regaining her independence and reviving her business have been slow processes. Fortunately, her customers and the community, especially her biker friends, have been very supportive.
In the first weeks and months after the accident, Lynn’s biker friends visited her every day. “I was never alone,” she said. “I never felt abandoned. They kept me in the loop.” They even bought a stuffed dog they named Lynn that continued to travel with them on rides, so the real Lynn could be with them in spirit. “Bikers have a bad reputation because of Hells Angels and that kind of thing, but it’s not like that,” Lynn said. “Bikers are good people.” In addition to keeping Lynn company during her recovery, her friends have helped renovate her house and have raised money to help cover the medical expenses not covered by insurance.
Lynn has had six surgeries since the accident and has had to cope with some serious infections, including one that required her arm to be further shortened and another that required an antibiotic that costs $1000 for one course. Add the hospital stays, rehabilitation, prostheses as well as other equipment, and the costs have racked up quickly. One of the biggest practical things Lynn has learned from this experience is the importance of full coverage auto insurance. At the time of the accident, Lynn didn’t have uninsured motorist coverage and said she wasn’t aware of its importance. It wasn’t something her agent had ever discussed with her, so she had no idea she wasn’t adequately covered.
Although the driver at fault had insurance, his coverage wasn’t enough to fully cover the cost of Lynn’s bike, much less her medical expenses. After the accident, Lynn learned that if she’d had uninsured motorist coverage, it would have kicked in to provide much-needed additional coverage. Lynn now encourages everyone to get this extra coverage. “Let my story be a cautionary tale,” she said.
In the last couple of months, Lynn has been able to reopen Ishaboos. At first, she would open for one day a week, and Kyletta would be her left arm on those days. But now Lynn has a prosthetic arm and has joined forces with fellow groomer Julie Neely, so they are back in full swing. Although Lynn has been able to restore this aspect of her life, so many other things have changed.
Lynn has learned a lot from her experience and is happy to pass those lessons along to others. “If I learned anything that night, it’s that life can change in an instant,” she said. Lynn could have taken a different route home that night, or if someone had bought her bike a few months earlier when she’d considered selling it, she might not have been riding it at all. But she was riding it, and she took the route that brought her face to face with the grill of a truck. Being the positive woman she is, Lynn chooses to believe the route she took was meant for her that night and that any other of path might have resulted in greater tragedy.
“I believe I was saved for a reason,” she said. Since that night, Lynn has realized how important it is to tell those you care about how you feel about them, and she never misses an opportunity to do it. “I’m learning what’s important in life and that you can overcome,” she said. She doesn’t sweat the small stuff, she’s determined to have fun, and she’s nearing one of her biggest goals, which is to ride again. In the meantime, Lynn will continue using her gift of life for good.