Two years and two months ago, Grapevine police officer RJ Hudson was pursuing a speeding driver on Highway 121 when all hell broke loose. In this case, hell was a giant roll of bubble wrap that flew out of the back of a truck, causing a chain reaction of swerving cars. One hit the officer. Hudson tumbled the length of a football field down the inside shoulder, finally coming to a stop 10 feet from a split in the elevated highway.
He broke 26 bones. Some of those shattered. He suffered a brain injury and internal bleeding. He ruptured his lungs. He ripped his spleen—the list goes on. Hudson would eventually undergo 11 surgeries. He spent two months in the hospital (appropriately, coming home just before Thanksgiving) and nearly two more years recovering. This fall, Officer Hudson returned to full duty, and even more incredible, he’s back patrolling on two wheels. We caught up with the policeman to ask why the heck he’d get back on a motorcycle, and he told us it’s a miracle he’s even alive.
Did you ride motorcycles before joining the police force? I emigrated here from England in 1980 and started riding motorcycles in probably about 1981. So I’ve been riding since I was about 11 years old. One of the promises that, for me to leave all my family and friends, my dad said, ‘Hey, when we moved to America, you’ll be able to carry a knife in your pocket and you’ll be able to ride a motorcycle.’ We’ll have a yard so big you could ride a bike, which is unrealistic in England. And so he bought me a bike or allowed me to buy a bike. I put 900 miles on my first motorcycle and never left the backyard. My parents live on a half-acre and I was just turning circles in my backyard, lots and lots of circles.
What was your first motorcycle? The first motorcycle was a Honda 350. In fact, I was so small at the time that my dad had to take the seat off and I just put a towel on the battery so my toes could reach the ground. That’s what I learned to ride on. The one that I put all the miles on, it was the first bike that he allowed me to buy for myself, which was a Honda 250 Enduro. I’ve always either rode dirt bikes or raced dirt bikes or rode street bikes or raced street bikes—legal racing for Central Motorcycle Racing Association.
So I imagine you had some scrapes before your accident two years ago? I’ve been a police officer for coming up on 25 years and I’ve been a motorcycle officer for over 21 of that now, and I’ve only had a few minor incidents.
In about 2013, my motorcycle was struck and totaled. I had just stepped off and the motorcycle hit me and we all went flying. But I didn’t suffer near the injuries that I did in this case. For precautionary reasons, they took me to the hospital. It was a scrape on my elbow type of thing, just not a big deal.
Can you tell me a little about the accident two years ago? I’ve been a fatality accident investigator for 20 years and I’ve never worked a crash involving a motorcycle, traveling the speed that I was doing, where somebody’s living to tell about it—let alone coming back to where I’m able to come back to work in a full-time capacity, which I’m super pleased about.
I’ve got to tell you a Godsend story. There was a doctor that was training at the hospital, because Baylor Grapevine had just turned into a Level II trauma center, showing a new procedure, how they can go endoscopically and wrap a wire around an artery and then charge the wire electrically to cauterize the bleeding place without having to remove the organ. He was on site while I was there. They actually did that surgery on me and went through three spools of wire cauterizing the arteries that I had bleeding inside. So I still have all my body parts, including my spleen.
And that wouldn’t have happened if that doctor hadn’t been there? I can’t say that. I don’t know. But I’m blessed that the man that was teaching the class was on site. And I also have use of my hands. I’m not only able to do my job and manipulate a firearm, manipulate a rifle, and manipulate a police shotgun, I’m also able to continue to do woodwork outside of police work. If it hadn’t been for the doctors on site that were able to fix my hands and fix my forearms and obviously fix the internal injuries that were killing me, I wouldn’t be here.
What is the woodwork that you do? I just tinker. I’ve made some furniture. My wife and I, for the first 10 years of our marriage, we slept in a bed that I made. I made the picture frames in our house. I made an armoire, like an entertainment center. I built my own woodworking shop and I framed it myself, roofed it myself.
What was the hardest part of your recovery? From what I’ve been told, the biggest part of recovery is your willingness to want to recover and your drive and motivation. I’m of the opinion, you’ve got the folks that, were you to say a person gets a flat tire on their way to work and their first thought is, ‘Holy smoke, I can’t afford this,’ or ‘Holy smoke, I’m going to be late to work’ or ‘Holy smoke, something like this always happens to me.’ Then you got person B driving the same car and leaving the same house, having a flat tire on the same freeway and his or her opinion of it is, ‘Thank goodness there was a shoulder for me to pull onto.’
It’s not necessarily what cards that you get dealt, it’s how you choose to deal with them. My family and my friends and both the firefighters and police officers that I work with are so supportive to help me keep a good attitude and helping me deal with those cards in the most positive way possible.
So why did you decide to go back to work on a motorcycle and not a squad car? The huge majority of my police career has been on a motorcycle. I like the job function. I’m an accident investigator. I’m a collision reconstructionist for the fatality crashes. I feel comfortable on a motorcycle. And part of my thought process also was, can you really say that you are completely recovered if you didn’t ever go back to what you were doing before the crash? So I wanted to go back to what I was doing to prove that I’m back.
What do you like about policing on a motorcycle? More people have lost their lives in car crashes than all combined casualties of war. So I think getting people to slow down and drive more safely and try to prevent those crashes is saving lives. I like the fact that I’m not restricted to the district by being on a motorcycle. Wherever the need for police presence is, that’s where I can go. Personally, why I like it, I kind of rule my day rather than dispatch sending me to calls, one after the next, after the next. I like getting out there and being a proactive and having self initiated activities.
Are you still riding recreationally? I sold my motorcycle while I was injured and couldn’t ride it. An old Triumph Bonneville T100. I don’t know that I’m going to buy another one recreationally. I may do something a little less risky on my off time. Like go fishing and go buy a boat or something.
Anything else you’d like to share? There’s a chain of events that happened including a medic had taken the day off. He saw the crash happening southbound, but he was on the freeway going northbound in his personally owned truck. He jumped over the wall and he was giving me medical attention in less than 60 seconds.
Not only did I not hit my head on anything, tumbling out in the middle of the freeway, even though there’s tons of things out there, signposts and new light poles and concrete pads for other light poles that I didn’t hit, I didn’t hit anything that that would or could have killed me. Baylor Grapevine had turned into a Level II trauma center less than two weeks earlier…and the doctor being there…
There’s too many moons to have aligned for God not to have been involved. I don’t want to take any credit for anything that I didn’t do. The only reason I’m here is because God wants me to be.