Following a bike accident that left him with major injuries, an Island man and member of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), J.J. Mendez Jr., is progressing steadily through his long recovery process.
In early June, Mendez was riding his electric bicycle down the County Road bike path when he came around a blind curve and struck a tree.
Although Mendez was wearing a motocross helmet, he sustained significant injuries: a cerebral fracture, fractures to his hand, right femur, pelvis, and ribs, along with lacerations to his liver, spleen, and a punctured lung.
A couple driving by witnessed the accident, as well as a neighbor who heard the impact and called 911.
Once Mendez arrived at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, he was airlifted by MedFlight to Massachusetts General Hospital, and brought straight into the intensive care unit.
A GoFundMe fundraising page was set up by some of Mendez’s friends to support any expenses related to his recovery, which will include travel costs to and from Mass General (boat tickets and gas), along with any medical bills not covered by insurance or by financial assistance from the tribe.
Mendez will be out of work for a projected six to nine months, so the GoFundMe money will also go toward his regular bills, such as other insurance, car costs, and school.
All of the funds are deposited into Mendez’s bank account, which is jointly managed by his mother, Bethany Scanlon.
“I can personally say as his mother that I am incredibly emotional and grateful, with the amazing support you have shown for my son. A huge thank you to Cole Powers, Lara Dario, and Tim Williamson for putting this GoFundMe Page together for J.J.,” Scanlon wrote in an update on the fundraising page.
Most recently, Mendez underwent facial fracture surgery, and is now at his home on Martha’s Vineyard to start the healing process.
He will have visiting nurses and physical therapists at his home until he is in good enough condition to go to rehab, but Scanlon wrote on the GoFundMe page that Mendez is doing “remarkably well, considering all of his injuries.”
“He is positive, and his determined mindset will push him to heal as quickly as possible. He is adjusting to the fact that he needs someone to do pretty much everything for him (hard for someone who is fiercely independent) but he is doing well nonetheless,” she wrote.
Scanlon told The Times in a phone interview that, although an accident like this is “every mother’s worst nightmare,” she is thankful that the situation wasn’t any more dire, and expressed her immense gratitude for those who set up the GoFundMe and donated money.
As of now, the GoFundMe has almost reached the fundraising goal of $20,000 after just four days of the page being online.
“Getting that phone call is something you never want to have happen, as a mother,” Scanlon said, referring to the call she received after Mendez’s accident. “It’s just one of those freak things you can never really prepare for. I had just talked to him 15 minutes before the accident.”
Scanlon gave a shout-out to the emergency responders and medical personnel who helped Mendez following his accident, and said the Steamship Authority was accommodating when the family needed to hop on a boat to go visit Mendez at Mass General.
Scanlon said she is grateful that Mendez was wearing a helmet, which she said most likely spared him from a worse outcome. “His motocross helmet cracked in two places, so I think that really may have saved him,” Scanlon said.
As for the immediate outpouring of support for Mendez’s recovery, Scanlon said there are few words to describe her level of gratitude. “It’s absolutely unbelievable and incredibly emotional to see so many people supporting J. It’s going to be a long road, so he really is going to need a lot of help going forward,” Scanlon said. “I just want to say thank you to the community for their overwhelming support.”
Mendez also spoke to The Times in a phone conversation from his home, saying that he was showing his friend his new electric bike during the waning evening hours, when it was “pretty dark out.”
“It was kind of a poor-judgment situation. It was pretty dark out, so there was bad visibility. Going down the bike path on County Road, there was a little S turn section. I saw the tree and tried to dodge it, but wasn’t able to get out of the way in time,” Mendez said. “When I woke up at Mass General, I knew something really bad had happened — everyone was looking at me and they all looked super-concerned. Then I started getting told all the injuries I had.”
Despite the tragic situation, Mendez said he is happy things weren’t worse, and is facing his road to recovery with a positive attitude. “You can’t stress about it, you can’t worry about how long the recovery is going to be. I’m just going to take it one day at a time. Every day I make more and more progress, which keeps me optimistic and motivated,” Mendez said.
Mendez thanked his family, friends, and fellow Islanders for stepping up to donate money to the GoFundMe in support of his recovery. “It’s absolutely incredible — I can’t express how much I appreciate all the support. I never thought we would be able to get to that goal [of $20,000], let alone how fast we reached it,” Mendez said. “It makes my heart happy knowing that we have people like that here — a community like that makes things a lot easier.”