Community lends helping hand to paralyzed bicyclist

Only four days before his 57th birthday, Scott Hoppmeyer was riding his bike over a grated bridge in Thibodaux when tragedy struck. Hoppmeyer, an avid bicyclist who took part in several charity bike rides, flipped over his handlebars and found himself facedown on the bridge.

While he did not know the extent of his injuries, he was immediately aware that something was wrong.

“The helmet definitely saved me from having a traumatic brain injury. The helmet shattered. I had a big gash on my forehead going up to my hairline requiring stitches,” he said.

As he lay on the bridge, he came to the terrifying realization that he could not move his extremities.

“I don’t remember the actual accident. I remember coming to. I blacked out temporarily and I came to on the bridge and I was face down and I couldn’t move my arms or legs, so I knew something was wrong,” he said.

Hoppmeyer broke his neck in the 2011 accident and was paralyzed. Only a few days later, he would be fighting for his life in a local hospital.

“On my birthday I was at East Jefferson Hospital and I was in respiratory arrest and had to be intubated,” he said. “So I was in failure for about 10 days and then they had to do an emergency tracheotomy. Then I was on a ventilator for about two months.”

After being stabilized, Hoppmeyer was transferred to a specialized facility in the outskirts of Atlanta to prepare for his life as a disabled person.

It was going to be an adjustment. Hoppmeyer, who worked for Dow Chemical in Taft for 33 years, spent a lot of time on his bike, often going on long rides to relax after a hard day’s work at the facility.

He and his brother, who also worked at Dow, were members of a bike group that featured enthusiasts from Bayou Gauche and Willowdale. They would get together often and ride 20 to 30 miles a day.

“We would go an hour after work and get a good aerobic workout. It was outside and wasn’t something where you were trapped in a gym,” he said. “I saw many a beautiful sunset on the levee.”

Hoppmeyer said the activity was good for him and also helped him build relationships with coworkers.

“There were several guys I worked with who were interested in it, so I saw it as something I could do with them after work. It was just good, clean fun. I ended up joining several bicycle clubs,” he said.

He was with one of those bicycle clubs in Houma when the accident occurred that would change his life forever.

As part of his passion for the sport, Hoppmeyer was involved in charity rides, including one to Hammond for multiple sclerosis and rides with the Livestrong Foundation for fundraising related to cancer awareness and treatment. It was only natural that after his accident a fundraiser was held for him.

Hoppmeyer said people came from all over, including St. Charles Parish residents and Dow employees, to a fundraiser held near where his accident occurred in Thibodaux.

“They had a fundraiser for me and it was unbelievable. They wound up having over 600 people show up,” he said.

Although money raised at the event went to pay for some of his hospital bills, Hoppmeyer still has debt related to the accident and his ongoing treatment.

He currently goes to physical therapy treatments three times a week.

“They get me out of my chair. They put me in a standing frame where I get to stand up,” he said. “They put electrodes on you and stimulate your muscles.”

Otherwise, he has been doing everything he can to adjust to life as a quadriplegic.

Fortunately for Hoppmeyer, in all of his years at Dow he built friendships that last to this day.

“In fact a group that I worked with at Dow was out here last night. Four or five of them came over and they brought some steaks and cooked them for me at the house,” he said.

In addition to maintaining friendships with those in the community, Hoppmeyer has also developed a following on Facebook, and a fundraiser to help with his medical bills is still ongoing.

To donate to Scott Hoppmeyer’s medical fund click here.

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