As her car rolled to a stop behind several others, Bethany Eudy could see a person lying in the road. She hadn’t seen the crumpled bike or the dented car with a shattered windshield yet, but she knew something was wrong.
“I came out of the car and said, ‘I’m not a human doctor but I’m a veterinarian, is there anything I can do?’” she said.
It was just after 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 18, 2016. A cyclist had been hit by a car from behind at highway speed between Coram and West Glacier.
Eudy walked past a growing crowd of bystanders pacing the side of the road and talking to dispatch. As she got closer she could tell the woman was critically injured.
“I knew there was medically nothing I could do, I work on animals not humans,” Eudy said. “So I grabbed her hands and started talking with her. I made sure she could see me — told her ‘I’m here, you’re not alone — keep breathing — it’s going to be okay.’”
When help arrived, Eudy followed the emergency responders’ instructions as they loaded the cyclist onto a stretcher. As the ambulance pulled off, Eudy stayed behind and told first responders all she knew — which wasn’t a lot.
“I had just spent 20 minutes on my knees, holding her hands, begging her to stay with us — and I didn’t even know her name,” Eudy said.
THE INJURED stranger was an Ohio woman named Shelli Snyder who had been making a solo trek from Cleveland to Seattle to join her fiancé.
The prominent cyclist had already traveled roughly 2,000 miles west. She was using her trip as a fundraiser for Bike Cleveland, which she co-founded.
When the accident occurred, Snyder was wearing a helmet and safety gear, including an orange triangle attached to her bike.
She suffered a fractured skull along with arm and leg injuries. At Kalispell Regional Medical Center, she entered a medically induced coma due to swelling in her brain.
News of the collision quickly spread to Cleveland. Separated by thousands of miles, fellow cycling advocates and friends of Snyder’s took their concern and love for her online.
Bikecleveland.org began writing updates about Snyder’s stay. Others worked to raise support for her medical bills and recovery expenses.
THE NIGHT that Eudy met Snyder on the road, she went home with Snyder’s blood on her hands.
“I wanted to know if she made it. I felt like I had formed this bond with her,” she said.
The next day, Eudy posted her experience on Facebook. She described trying to make eye contact with the stranger in what Eudy imagined to be their most terrifying moment.
Eudy shared what she had said to her and even the woman’s brief responses.
The post was shared more than 90 times. And soon, friends began posting links to articles about the collision.
“I finally had a name, and knew at least at this point, she was alive,” Eudy said.
One of Snyder’s close friends messaged Eudy with an invitation to join the family in the Intensive Care Unit at Kalispell Regional Medical Center.
As Snyder was in a coma, Eudy and Snyder’s family exchanged information. Eudy talked about how she found Snyder, while Snyder’s family described who she was as a person.
“Her strength, her love for biking and family and her fiancé,” Eudy said.
When Snyder was stable enough to return to Cleveland, still in a coma, Eudy watched her recovery from afar via friends and online pages dedicated to Snyder’s story.
Eudy knew when Snyder was finally out of her coma. Through videos, she watched Snyder communicate for the first time with pen in paper since her accident.
“She wrote ‘I love you all,’” Eudy said.
She heard when Snyder was able to talk and when she began to relearn how to walk.
MONTHS INTO the recovery, Eudy received an invitation to join Snyder and some of her friends in Cleveland. It was for an anniversary party of an outdoors club called FAGOWEES, or Fun and Games on Week Ends Especially Skiing.
Eudy was invited to meet Snyder — awake — for the first time since they met on the highway.
Eudy didn’t know she was set to receive the club’s Trustees Award for holding Snyder’s hands until the ambulance arrived.
“They gave a speech and read most of my Facebook post. It was overwhelming hearing my words from that day with me sitting right next to Shelli at the table … and remembering what it was like sitting with her on the pavement,” Eudy said.
The award plaque had a map of the United States with Snyder’s journey represented in a thick black line from Cleveland to Kalispell. The lines become dashes where she never got to complete her trip to Seattle.
Eudy said after months of surgeries, in-patient care and physical therapy, Snyder was finally able to make her journey to Seattle this week. Though this time, she took a plane.
“Last post I saw from her was her and her fiancé eating sushi and drinking wine,” Eudy said with a smile. “She still has a lot ahead of her to recovery, but we’re all amazed of how far she’s come.”
Eudy said when she stopped on the road that day, she didn’t realize her actions would tie her to a community in Ohio, or that she would find so much strength and admiration for the woman she leaned over.
She said the experience made her want to be the type of person who always stops to help a stranger.
“When this started, I never thought it would turn out as good as it did,” she said. “Who would have?”
Reporter Katheryn Houghton may be reached at 758-4436 or by email at email@example.com.