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Thursday, December 8, 2022

Campus

Communication senior recovers from motorcycle accident


Klich and Klaus with their dog, Loopis, on their bike earlier this year. Loopis accompanies the couple on their longer trips. “Riding the bike is a different experience,” Klaus said. “It’s like camping versus staying in a hotel. You are more exposed to the environment.”

Advertising senior Lauren Klich and Hunter Klaus were on their daily commute when a motorcycle accident set their lives on a different trajectory.

Klich and Klaus have been together for a year and a half. They got their first motorcycle last April. The couple uses it to travel frequently and reached the 10,000-mile mark in October.

“Even before the motorcycle, we liked to travel,” Klich said. “We went backpacking and camping when we could. The motorcycle made traveling a lot more affordable and gives you a different perspective.”

Klich and Klaus became iconic for their motorcycle travels, ranging from trips into the Great Smoky Mountains, where they visited last winter, to daily errand runs. The couple was planning to visit Alaska later this summer.

On a March afternoon, their destination was less exotic. After picking Klich up from work at the Office of Sustainability at 5:30 p.m. and sharing hot dogs, Klaus was going 40 in a 35 mph zone when the accident happened.

With Klaus in the driver’s seat and Klich in the sidecar, they attempted to “fly the wheel.” The sidecar has only one wheel that occasionally goes airborne during the turn and makes steering the bike a difficult task.

“As a sidecar passenger, when turning, you are always instructed to turn the way you are going,” Klich said. “We were just going a little fast, and it came out of nowhere.”

They hit the median. The bike flipped and landed on Klich.

After a momentary blackout, Klich stumbled to her feet and toward Klaus, who was under the overturned sidecar in the road.

“I knew at the moment I got up something had happened to me,” Klich said. “Then, I collapsed in the street. I don’t know if it was adrenaline or what, but I don’t know how I stood up knowing my injuries.”

After the moment of impact, Klich rolled with the sidecar; her pelvis crushed. As for Klaus, he let go of the handlebars and let various parts of the bike roll over him. He ended up perfectly underneath the overturned sidecar.

“My face was next to a red hot muffler under the sidecar,” Klaus said. “Any other angle would have crushed me, or if it had landed a foot in any other direction I would have been burned.”

Klaus had freed himself from the sidecar when he noticed the blood pooling in his mouth. He spit the crimson out as he ran to Klich. Klaus cleaned up what he could of the wreckage while he waited for paramedics to arrive.

“I looked in the mirror and saw my whole bottom lip swollen,” Klaus said. “It looked like I had another set of lips underneath it. After seeing that, I went into shock and started hyperventilating. So the ambulance picked me up as well and strapped me down. I almost passed out.”

Klaus then rung up his relatives. While strapped into an ambulance speeding toward Memorial Hermann Hospital, Klaus called his mother. Klich’s family said the voicemail messages were surprisingly calm.

The doctors stitched up Klaus’ lip and released him from the ER after 12 hours. He then made his way through the busy hospital to Klich’s bedside.

Klich was admitted under different circumstances. Upon arriving at the ER, nurses wheeled her to operate on her bladder. After three days, surgeons began work on her pelvis.

“I remember the whole hospital visit,” Klich said. “But the first few days were blurry for me.”

Families, friends and Klich’s co-workers rallied around to support the couple.

“The amount of support we got was insane,” Klich said. “I just do not know how to thank everybody. I was surprised that UH was as supportive as they have been. It’s blown my mind and has been awesome.”

Klaus became Klich’s primary caregiver and the couple moved into Klich’s mother’s house. The doctors confined Klich to a wheelchair for six weeks to heal. Klaus had to assist her with everything from picking up things off the ground to going to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

“We are dealing with things that most married couples don’t deal with until they are elderly,” Klaus said.

Klich’s professors extended her deadlines and allowed her to finish her courses online. Her job allowed her to work remotely. When both Klich and Klaus lost their main sources of income to support each other during recovery, friends and family began raising money using GoFundMe.

Temple Northup, the School of Communication’s interim director, assisted in raising awareness for Klich and Klaus’ situation.

“Lauren is an exemplary student, and her presence is missed in our school,” Northup said. “I sent out an email to our students to notify them about the accident and then to let them know about ways they can help out.”

Caring for each other brought the couple closer as well. While they have been together for a year and a half, the dynamic of their relationship changed.

“We were not the type of couple to always say ‘I love you,’ so when we did, it was meaningful to us,” Klich said. “I said ‘I love you’ more in the week after the accident than I ever had. It just changes your perspective — I do not want to take that approach to it anymore. Hunter is someone who I care deeply about and I want him to know that.”

Klich and Klaus both agree that what happened after the accident was the best-case scenario thanks to luck, treatment and the support they received.

“The fact that we were even able to eventually walk away from a bike accident was extremely uncommon,” Klich said. “We had some scars and memories, but also lessons and love.”

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