Natalie Yarid and Liam Somers hug at Mercy Hospital in Portland on Thursday. Yarid is a cardiac nurse at the hospital.

Liam Somers had ridden the Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park a thousand times.

An experienced cyclist who grew up in Bar Harbor and lives in Scarborough, Somers had returned to his hometown for a biking weekend with friends.

He never saw the car.

Head down, helmet on, Somers was pumping his way up a slight incline on a sunny day last October. He was going along at a good clip, doing about 23 mph, when he crashed into the rear window of a Subaru wagon parked on the side of the road.

“I was riding along and then I was going through a window,” recalled Somers, 49.

Over the next 45 minutes, a series of lucky breaks and critical decisions made by Somers and others would save his life and give him a fresh perspective on what really matters. He would spend the next seven months trying to find one person in particular – a newly graduated nurse from Portland who was his angel in the thick of it.

At first Somers thought he was OK. Lying on the pavement behind the parked car, he checked his extremities and found he could move his arms and legs. Then a passenger in the car – a young woman from Europe who had stopped to take a photo – screamed when she saw him and crouched to hold his hand.

Next, Somers heard a man running toward him and turned his head. That’s when Somers noticed a stream of blood squirting from the right side of his neck. He would learn later that pieces of the shattered window were embedded in his neck and had sliced his jugular vein.

Natalie Yarid, third from left, tends to Liam Somers after his bicycle accident in Acadia National Park last fall. Somers didn’t know who had helped save his life until he found Yarid recently.

Despite his critical condition, Somers had the presence of mind to think holistically about his cardiovascular system.

“My heart rate when I was riding was about 160 to 165, so I knew I had to get it down to slow the blood flow,” Somers said. “I started doing breathing exercises to get my heart rate under control.”

The man who had come upon the accident scene was a retired lawyer from California. That morning he had read a newspaper article about the benefits of putting direct pressure on a wound to control bleeding. He warned Somers that it might hurt and pressed his hand to Somers’ neck.

“He was right. It hurt,” Somers said. “I didn’t care.”

A TEAM EFFORT

Next on the scene was the woman Somers would come to see as an angel.

Natalie Yarid, 27, had graduated in May 2017 with a nursing degree from the University of New England and had been working for two months at Mercy Hospital in Portland. She was in Bar Harbor for the Mount Desert Island Marathon that weekend and was driving through the park with her mother, who was visiting from South Carolina.

Yarid saw a commotion ahead and a red stream running into the center of the road. She immediately pulled over and joined the rescue effort, using her medical expertise to assess Somers’ condition and oversee his care until paramedics arrived. Mostly she talked to him. She kept him focused. She kept him calm.

“She was like an angel,” Somers said.

A flight medic from Florida joined the rescue effort next, and an FBI agent from Boston and his family provided a blanket from their vehicle to keep Somers warm. Paramedics and park workers got Somers to a nearby field, where a LifeFlight of Maine helicopter picked him up and flew him to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.

Somers awoke three days later, stitched and bruised and grateful to everyone who had helped him along the way. In the months that followed, he was able to connect with key figures at the accident scene and offer his thanks.

“It was a whole orchestration of people making sure I didn’t die,” Somers said.

But Yarid eluded him. Despite the information they shared and the connection they made in a moment of crisis, Somers remembered few details about her. In the one photo he had of her, taken by a bystander at the accident scene, she’s kneeling, bent over him, looking down. He had to find her.

“The only thing I remember is looking up at the blue sky and seeing the tousle of her curly brown hair and feeling really calm,” Somers said. “I wanted to find this person and thank her.”

WHAT REALLY MATTERS

Then last month, Somers’ wife, Janine, shared his story with area news agencies and on social media, hoping someone might recognize the unidentified woman. Yarid’s nursing manager at Mercy Hospital saw the story on Acadia National Park’s Facebook page and pointed it out to her.

Two weeks ago, Somers and Yarid met for the first time over dinner with their partners at a Portland restaurant.

“It was amazing because I finally got to see the woman who saved my life,” Somers said.

Yarid downplays that characterization, saying it was a team effort, but she was equally glad to see Somers again.

“It was great to see him in a much happier state,” Yarid said. “The last time I had seen him, there was blood gushing out of his neck.”

Somers said he and his wife, who have two children, plan to take Yarid and her boyfriend boating this summer, and have them over for evening bonfires, and include them in Christmas celebrations.

“We’ve basically adopted them at this point,” Somers said.

Yarid, who works in cardiac care, said the experience solidified her desire to become a flight nurse. Somers said he suffered some nerve damage in the accident, but he’s back to riding four to five times a week. He’s grateful to his family and community members who supported him after the accident.

Somers hopes that sharing his story has some practical benefit for others. He wants people to remember the importance of applying pressure to bleeding wounds and wearing helmets during sports activities, both of which were simple but critical factors in saving his life.

“If I didn’t have a helmet on, I would have been dead on impact,” Somers said.

On a personal level, Somers came away from his near-death experience with a deep appreciation of how fortunate he was that day and what’s really important to him now.

“I’m not the most religious person, but the accident, and how things unfolded, and who was there at the right time – I look at it all as a miracle,” Somers said. “Every person who showed up that day is a miracle for me.”

A business executive who has been active in Scarborough’s heated town politics, Somers said the accident also led him to adjust his priorities.

“I was really sure I was going to die that day,” Somers said. “Not once did I think, ‘Boy, I wish I had more time to fight over the school budget.’ I wished I could hug my kids again. I wished I could see my wife’s face again. The things that matter most to me are family and friends. I try to appreciate them a little more.”

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: KelleyBouchard

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