Motorcycle survivor plans to change state helmet laws

6:17 PM, Jan 27, 2014   |    comments
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St. Petersburg, Florida -- A motorcycle crash survivor has exceeded doctors' expectations and wants to re-write state helmet laws. 

"That helmet saved my life. There are no ifs, ends, or buts about it," said Albert Grella.

Last March, Grella swerved to miss his brother, who was riding in front of him while they were riding through Miami with their friend to the Florida Keys.

"I quickly swerved around him and looked over my shoulder, but I didn't see the telephone pole in front of me," said Grella. "I was thrown 65 feet they told me."

He broke his neck, both collar bones, both arms, both legs, and many other bones.

"They flew me to Jackson Memorial Hospital to put me back together," said Grella.

He was in surgery for 30 hours.

"He should have been paralyzed, or worse," said his physical therapist, Kenneth Olan at Southern Pines Health Care Center.

After his surgery, Grella's brother and friend drove him in their car to Southern Pines Health Care Center in New Port Richey to be closer to home for his therapies.

"We worried when they got here about his transportation here, but his friends wanted to do [it] because no one could afford the hospital to do it, because it costs thousands of dollars to transfer someone," said Olan. 

Olan and his partners at Southern Pines worked with Grella endlessly.

"Some days were challenging, because he thought he would be stuck in his horrible condition forever, but we started seeing incredible improvements," said Olan. "First, he accomplished moving from his bed to his wheelchair, and then would be in the chair for an hour, and that seemed impossible initially."

Grella did the impossible and continued to baffle doctors with his healing process.

"I say good friends, good therapists, and prayers got me through this," said Grella.

After ten months, he is ready to leave and live independently. 

"I am not only walking and driving, but I am ready to get back on a motorcycle and ride up to Tallahassee and get them to change the helmet law," said Grella. "I will never ride again without a helmet, and no one else should either."

Grella has been riding his bike since he was 17 years old. He is now 67.

"In 50 years, I only wore my helmet on long trips," said Grella.

He knows that convincing his friends to sign a petition to change the law so they all have to wear their helmets will be tough.

"It's your life, though!" said Grella. "I know it's freedom, I know the wind in your hair, the macho look, but it's not worth it. They have not experienced what I went through."

Florida law states you must wear a helmet if you are under 21 years old, but you are not required to wear it if you are over 21 and you have medical insurance of $10,000 that covers motorcycle related injuries.

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