Hope, gratitude after near-deadly collision in Berkeley

Meg Schwarzman, with husband Mike Wilson and their 11-month-old son, Oliver. Photo: Schwarzman family

Megan Schwarzman, with husband Mike Wilson and their son Oliver, in September. Photo: Schwarzman family

The Berkeley scientist and mother who was struck by a motorist and trapped beneath his car while cycling near campus earlier this week is expected to pull through, family members said Thursday.

“She’s critical but stable,” said Mike Wilson of his wife, Megan Schwarzman. “Every indication is that she will be coming home. But it’s going to be a long, difficult recovery.”

Schwarzman, 42, is a research scientist at the Berkeley School of Public Health, as well as a physician and an associate director at the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry on the Cal campus. The group is one of the leading academic organizations in the nation focused on chemicals policy, Wilson said.

“She somehow is able to be both a brilliant thinker and the most compassionate, spirited person I know,” he said. Added Schwarzman’s sister, Caitlin, who lives in Alameda: “She loves being a part of the community. Her friends and family are always the center for her.”

She wrote on her sister’s Facebook page earlier this week that “the surgeons are optimistic about her long term prognosis.… We expect a stay of many weeks in the hospital. We are hurting for our Meg, feeling proud of her strength, and looking forward hopefully.”

Sister: “It wasn’t always that clear she would make it”

First responders took Schwarzman to Highland Hospital in Oakland, the local trauma center, after Tuesday’s collision. She’s in the ICU and there have been multiple surgeries. But she appears, by all indications, to have escaped injury to her brain and spine.

“Those are two things that we were really worried about early on,” Wilson said. Though she has been heavily sedated, Schwarzman has been able to communicate, he said, “to let us know she hears us and can understand what we’re saying.”

Tuesday, police arrested 47-year-old Berwick Haynes, identified as a Sunnyvale resident, on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs, causing injury. It is a felony. A witness to the aftermath of the crash wrote on Berkeleyside that Haynes “was distraught, wailing and asking bystanders what to do. It was horrific for everyone.”

Haynes — who is from Berkeley according to his Facebook page — is no longer in custody. He had been set for arraignment Thursday afternoon. A spokeswoman for the Alameda County district attorney’s office said he was not charged pending further investigation.

An actor who lists cycling as a skill on his resume, Haynes was supposed to appear next week in the Berkeley Playhouse’s world premiere of “Bridges: A New Musical.” He has been replaced.

Emergency personnel work the scene of an accident involving a motorist and a bicyclist on Fulton Street and Bancroft Way. Photo: David Yee

Emergency personnel at the scene of Tuesday’s collision. Photo: David Yee

Tuesday, Schwarzman was wearing fluorescent green safety gear and a helmet, and had lights on her bike, as she rode south on Fulton Street near Bancroft Way. Police said Haynes struck her from behind, trapping her beneath his car, and dragged her for a short distance. Firefighters had to raise up the sedan to free Schwarzman so they could rush her to the hospital. Almost immediately, police called in the Fatal Accident Investigation Team due to the severity of her injuries.

The prognosis looked bleak. But, after days of intensive care, there was reason to hope.

“Megan has a very, very long recovery ahead of her,” her sister said Thursday. “We are just feeling grateful that we have that long road ahead of us. Because it wasn’t always that clear she would make it.”

She and Wilson said the trauma team at Highland has been phenomenal.

“We’re just blown away by how lucky we are to have had this care,” she said.

Before embarking on his research career — he also works at the School of Public Health, and the couple have written numerous papers and book chapters together — Wilson was a firefighter and paramedic in Salinas for 13 years. As such, he said he is familiar with emergency medical care and had been heartened to find the local services to be “top notch.”

He thanked the Berkeley Fire Department paramedics, who were on the scene within 2 minutes, and described the Highland team as “extraordinary.”

“She had lost a lot of blood,” he said. “And they absolutely saved her life. Emergency services worked in this case. They’ve been taking such good care of her. And taking care of me and our family.”

It had already been a difficult year. In January, the Schwarzman sisters lost their father, Gary, to a brain tumor. He was 71. Caitlin Schwarzman said she and Wilson are taking it one day at a time, and focusing all their attention on Megan’s recovery.

“I think this is the kind of situation that will change dramatically over time,” she said. “We don’t have a full picture of what’s in store medically for her yet.”

Meg Schwarzman loves the outdoors. Photo: Meg Schwarzman

Meg Schwarzman loves the outdoors, spending time at the beach and in the mountains. Photo: Meg Schwarzman

Husband: “It just says so much about our community”

They also said the community support has been incredible. Wilson said a “network of friends” has been providing breast milk for Oliver, the couple’s 11-month-old son. There’s enough milk now to be spread across three freezers.

“A robust supply materialized overnight from other moms,” he said. “And it just shows up on the front porch in an icebox. It just says so much about our community.”

Many friends and relatives have joined them in the hospital. People have brought the family food, and shared messages of hope.

“There’s been an outpouring of compassion and sympathy from all quarters,” Wilson said. “Having people’s messages of goodwill and support and courage has been so, so important.”

Family friend Zoe Carter described Meg Schwarzman as “a lovely, athletic, strong super smart woman.” Another friend described her as “an uber safe cyclist.”

She was born in San Francisco, went to the east coast for school, then came back to the city to complete her residency at UCSF. She loves the outdoors, spending summers backpacking in the Sierra, hiking, camping and rock climbing. The family gets up to the mountains and out to the coast as often as they can.

Among other research, Wilson said his wife recently published an important paper about screening for chemicals tied to breast cancer. She has a family medical practice in San Francisco. The couple connected over their “mutual interest in public health,” said Wilson, and have worked together on ways to help “solve the underlying environmental health problems of workers and children, and vulnerable communities.”

He added: “She’s an extraordinary person, and she’s a really tough editor, the best you can possibly have.”

Meg Schwarzman with Oliver in March 2015. Photo: Meg Schwarzman

Schwarzman with Oliver in March 2015. Photo: Meg Schwarzman

They also share an avid love for biking. Wilson commutes daily by bike from the family home in South Berkeley to his job in Oakland, while Schwarzman rides to the UC Berkeley campus. Eleven-month-old Oliver is a frequent companion on their bike commutes.

“She’s going to be back with him, when she gets out of Highland,” Wilson said.

(He also has two older sons, one who graduated from Berkeley High, and another who is a current student there.)

Wilson said this week would not have been possible without the many friends and relatives who have pitched in to help.

“Everybody has kind of moved into our house,” he said. “It’s taken four people to try to fulfill the kinds of things that she did every day.”

Hear Meg Schwarzman explain the “circular economy” and its impact on public health. Have a question about a local public safety incident? Write to crime@berkeleyside.com.

Related:
Driver arrested, cyclist critical after crash (02.02.16)
Dump truck collision did not kill visiting Israeli professor (12.26.12)

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  • zenloop

    Glad to hear she is going to pull through. I wish her a speedy recovery.

  • Allison Landa

    Thank you for this beautiful and detailed article. My husband and I have been checking consistently to see how this lady is doing, and I am so glad to hear the prognosis is better. Is there somewhere we may donate or otherwise help the family?

  • GoldenRaisin

    Heal well, Meg.

  • maeve_b

    Thank you for this update! I am so glad to hear that her prognosis is good. Thanks for your excellent coverage of this awful incident, which I know has been deeply felt by so many of us here in Berkeley.

  • Kristen Anderson

    Hi Allison, we’ve put together a meal train here: https://www.mealtrain.com/trains/0zmk55. Even yummy treats from the Cheeseboard would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your kindness.

  • Allison Landa

    Of course! I’m told I make more-than-passable chocolate-chip cookies and I’m happy to put a batch together for them. Thank YOU for letting me know! :)

  • Yasmin

    Thank you for this update. What a relief

  • Don Aks

    No reason to smh, we could be witnessing the wheels of due process operating correctly. DUI isn’t necessarily being over .08, in this case if the police thought it was even remotely a causal factor they might arrest him on “suspicion”, then if he tested lower the DA has a difficult case to make. Or, maybe the DA just wants to get the whole police report before deciding what to go for, and figured he isn’t a flight risk..

  • Robert

    I wish her a speedy recover and her family strength to help her through. Hopefully soon it will just be a bad memory…

  • Pearl Clutcher

    Wishing her a complete and speedy recovery.

  • EBGuy

    Don, per the article, it is “driving under the influence of drugs”.

  • This incident did not need to happen and this woman needs to lawyer up and very aggressively litigate against the City of Berkeley for failing to provide adequate infrastructure. The fact is that she almost died because our city employees are quite literally stealing all the money that should be used for that infrastructure.

    We can either have nice bike lanes or we can have meter maids earning $125,000/year (source: transparentcalifornia.com). We cannot have both. It is time for a very aggressive multi-prong strategy to assault this system and our public servants from every possible angle – ballot measure, legal, and PR. People’s lives are literally on the line – and our city unions have blood on their hands.

  • Pearl Clutcher

    There’s a time and a place for everything. This wasn’t it.

  • You’re right. We should never criminally prosecute people who recklessly endanger human lives.

  • Lin Brand

    Promoting your personal agenda about city politics on the original page made some sense since there was discussion of city bike lanes. However, this is really about this poor woman and her recovery so perhaps you might have considered just posting best wishes to her and her family instead of your rant. As Pearl said above, there is a time and a place for everything.

  • Don Aks

    Ah, so it does. In California the same law covers intoxication of any kind however. And, all the more to the point I was trying to make, unless you meet a clear criteria codified in the law (like BAC>.08) then it’s much harder to get a conviction. For example, there is no set DUI threshold for cannabis.

  • Prinzrob

    As Don said, opting not to charge the driver right away doesn’t mean that it isn’t going to happen. It’s often a good idea for the police to hold off on a case like this, so they can collect evidence and make sure the charges that they do eventually make have the best chance of holding up in court, as opposed to rushing the process and potentially risking a mistrial.

  • Mindy Rex

    Meg and Mike — Your friends in the College of Chemistry are sending lots of warm and healing thoughts your way.

  • Lin Brand

    Thanks to you and Don for explaining why they might be delaying. I hope, for the victim’s sake, that there is justice if he was driving impaired and recompense for her expenses and suffering.

  • joyce

    Bike lanes don’t cure drunk drivers and bike lanes don’t help drugged drivers either.
    Messing up your mind means you will drive stupid.
    Not just alcohol that results in dui.
    So sad.
    So glad she will recover thru a long process, hopefully good as new, or close to it.

  • Nancy Carleton

    So sorry to hear about this happening to our neighbor. Wishing you a full recovery, as quickly as possible!

  • Sayin_something

    Just so thankful that wasn’t one of the times their baby son was with him…… I offer my prayers for this fine woman and her full recovery.

  • emraguso

    We’ll have another story next week about the intersection, bike lanes, bike policy. I think that may be a better place for this discussion.

  • Jim Butler

    It is sobering to think that in a few seconds she went from being incredibly unlucky….. to being incredibly lucky. It sounds almost a miracle she survived with head and spine ok. Heal well!!!!!!!!!! We are all pulling for you.

  • dwss5

    emraguso wrote:
    “We’ll have another story next week about the intersection, bike lanes, bike policy.”

    I think that an additional but perhaps minor benefit of having at least one other story next week is getting more local people to read, pay attention to, and discuss the factors surrounding “this incident” AFTER this weekend’s Super Bowl 50.
    While all the hype about Super Bowl 50 *shouldn’t* make any difference to those of us much more focused on local issues such as the collision, AAMOF the SB 50 hype probably DOES make at least an ever-so-slight difference in what we hear, read, and pay attention to (obviously excluding news of some dire, calamitous, earthshattering event.)

    Note that all you reading this at Berkeleyside.com MUST necessarily be using some sort of electronic computing device in the 1st place, and therefore you’re probably exposed to *some* of the online SB 50 hype however minimal it may be.

  • Stacy Malkan

    Thank you Emilie Raguso and Berkeleyside for such excellent, thorough and compassionate reporting. This story does a beautiful job capturing Meg and Mike and how important they are in our community. This story is truly community reporting at its finest. We are very lucky to have Berkeleyside, and I am so glad for all the support rallying to Mike and Meg. They are going to need it, and at times like this it is helpful to know that so many people pulled together to help, especially the first responders in Berkeley and the excellent trauma team at Highland. The title of your story is perfect too – hope and gratitude, hope and gratitude, hope and gratitude. Thank you Emilie.

  • Cammy

    I agree. So often Berkeley news is never covered or covered in any detail in other newspapers. Berkeleyside fills a big void in news and human interest stories.

    Thank you for bringing this story to light – our prayers are with Meg and her family.

  • Moritz

    You’re darn right they do, Vlad. You can see two of them above in this article, who helped lift the car off of her and saved her life by providing the best care her husband could have asked for (his words). They, quite literally, have her blood on their hands.
    In the way you mean it, however, I think most people here are going to blame the irresponsible driver. They are also going to see your same old agenda here as once again misplaced, callous, and generally ignorant.

  • S THOMSON

    Everything relevant, I think, is OK here. After the 1989 earthquake I listened to people’s talk. Some talked about their emotions, some talked about infrastructure and what anchored, say the Watergate Apartments in Emeryville. In this tragic case, I am deeply heartened to hear about the quick and competent responses of helpers and that she is likely to be OK. As a neonatology-oriented psychotherapist, I am only hoping their baby can see and sit with his mother soon. He needs to know she hasn’t abandoned him, and, if she can convey that she is aware, then energetically she may be able to convey that to her baby too. Her recovery may also benefit by knowing her baby is with her and OK. (Some medical professionals taking care of her may not get that 1) babies can understand if you explain and 2) a (especially nursing) baby and mother are one energetic unit; the more that can remain intact though disrupted the better for healing and recovery and the prevention of trauma in the baby too.

    The breast-milk brigade thrills me.

    Thinking about the politics of cycling lanes is one way to effectively express one’s frustration. And it may be the seed for some change.

  • Em Segmen

    I, too, want to thank you Emilie for writing this article with so much compassion and artistic poise. I’ve forwarded it to many.

  • There is no reason why these firefighters should be earning $300,000/year. None. That’s money that we should be using for bike lanes and pedestrian transportation. Right now our City workers are generating a very negative return on investment (ROI) for the taxpayer. Capping the compensation to $100k/year will save the City $56,000,000 (that’s million) each and every year – now imagine what we could do with that money – how many miles of bike paths could we paint each year? How many new pedestrian crossing signals can we install? How many social workers can we hire to deal with our homeless?

    It is immoral that our City employees are collecting excessive compensation like this while people are sleeping in the streets – and I certainly intend to do something about it. It will ultimately be up to the Berkeley taxpayers to decide this one, and I am fairly confident the majority will be appalled when they discover that we pay our meter maids $125,000/year.

  • William M Popper

    42,000 people are killed each year in the USA in motor vehicle “accidents”…

  • Moritz

    Oddly enough, your proposition is almost EXACTLY what the firefighter in the photo makes (at least the one who’s name you can read), according to your heralded website. And bike lanes don’t stop drivers under the influence. C’mon, Vlad. Argue with the facts.

  • According to TransparentCalifornia, Firefighter Lawrence earned $219,122.45 in 2014 – so more than 2x the cap I am proposing of $100,000/year. The pay alone was $108,897.36 plus the same amount in benefits, “other pay” and overtime. Are you seriously telling me we won’t be able to find firefighters at $100,000/year maximum total?

  • dwss5

    Article quote:
    “The Berkeley scientist and mother who was struck by a motorist and trapped beneath his car (http://www.berkeleyside.com/2016/02/02/after-bike-crash-roads-closed-near-uc-berkeley-campus ) while cycling near campus earlier this week is expected to pull through, family members said Thursday.”

    Assuming that people will read this very comment today, 2/9/16, then perhaps a significant number of family members, friends, and neighbors will be able to attend this evening’s 7 PM Berkeley Council Meeting listed at http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Clerk/City_Council/City_Council__2016_Meeting_Schedule.aspx , in order to not only express Hope for the CYCLIST’s condition but to also express Hope that the City of Berkeley will address the actual STREET conditions that may have been a big part of the collision.

    CoB councilmembers can be directly reached before and after tonight’s meeting via
    http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Clerk/City_Council/City_Council__Roster.aspx

  • Tandem Bear

    My best wishes to you and your family for a complete recovery. So horrible what happened to you. One of my biggest fears. I just reattached my rear-view helmet mirror even though it keeps falling off.

    I’m so incredibly frustrated with the behavior drivers exhibit on a daily basis. Obviously, the habitual drunks are probably a lost cause: confiscate their vehicles and impose lifetime motor vehicle bans is probably the only.way. And any repeat DUI offender caught behind the wheel? Life in prison. I’m serious. No more of this “our prisons are too full” baloney. Not for these people.

    Now the OTHER drivers out there: take heed! I see you EVERY DAY on your phones! You THINK you’re so sly looking down at your stupid little screens. You’re not. You’re idiots! And the biggest idiots are the ones texting on the freeway. Wow, what complete tools!

    I’ve written my legislators asking for a law that would allow citizens to photograph scofflaw drivers on their phones to receive a $100 reward. I’ve taken multitudes of photos (but not from behind the wheel!). We need to impose LARGE fines for illegal phone use behind the wheel – and send the public a reward for turning these idiots in.

    A classmate of my son’s was just hit yesterday walking to school in upper Rockridge. Was this driver on the phone? Good chance. Why, you ask? Because I see parents EVER DAY driving in front of Hillcrest Elementary ON THEIR PHONES!!! JESUS, what is wrong with you????? You’re in a goddamned school zone and you’re illegally using you phones – in front of your own kid’s school!!!! Could you be any more clueless? One of these days I’m just gonna jump on the hood of one of these driver’s cars with my NY lock in hand and scream bloody murder at you!

    And then there are stop signs. I sat at a 4-way stop on Broadway Terrace one morning to observe drivers. All of 7% of drivers not forced to stop by other traffic actually came to a complete stop at the stop sign. In other words, 93% of drivers I observed didn’t bother to stop. Near a school in the morning. Such saints you are.

    And then the red-light right turners. They don’t stop either. I was right in front of the Grand Lake waiting to proceed on the green into the crosswalk when a major jerk came blowing through the red to make his right turn – right in front of me as I waited to cross. What a jerk.

    And just last weekend I rode to and from the Metallica concert, which just so happened to be when the Chevy-driving, doughnut-spinning idiot fled the cops that night. You know, the night the city was CRAWLING with thousands of people enjoying the festivities – and good weather? Well, this driver paid the ultimate price after running multiple red lights, slammed into a taxi and his Chevy burst into flames, killing him and his passengers on the spot.

    Really, drivers. Can you put down the damn phones? And stop at stop signs? And stop driving drunk? And stop fleeing the cops!

    Thank you. Your responsible approach to driving will ensure the safety of everyone around you.

  • Tandem Bear

    I’ve stricken “accident” from my vocabulary when discussing auto collisions and crashes. So happy SFPD has done the same.

  • Tandem Bear

    “Protected” bike lanes is what they’re working for. These do indeed protect cyclists.

    The cycling community needs to demand auto lane removal to install protected bicycle lanes. We’ve given the cars everything they’ve wanted over the decades and it still isn’t enough. Even if we added two lanes to every road in the country, the drivers would just fill them with more gridlock.

    No, it’s time to take away this luxury to provide SAFE transportation alternatives to people making smart vehicle choices.

  • Dale Masterson

    I was struck by an inattentive driver making an illegal turn on Hearst Ave at Arch/LeConte in June 2014 when I leaving the Cal campus. I was unconcsious and also taken to Highland. Considering how many staff and students commute to/from Cal by bike, it’s an outrage that there are no bike lanes near campus!

  • emraguso

    Our update on Bike East Bay’s calls to extend the Fulton Street bike lane, as well as the city’s response, is posted: http://www.berkeleyside.com/2016/02/11/advocates-berkeley-must-extend-bike-lane-on-fulton/

  • Erica Etelson

    I share your rage about distracted and intoxicated drivers. I see people driving while using their phones all the time and studies have shown that this is just as dangerous as drunk driving. We really need a high profile public education campaign and legal crackdown with mega-fines.

  • Erica Etelson

    There are many causes that led up to this tragedy, but union-scale wages is not one of them. It’s pretty despicable to exploit this tragedy as an excuse to trot out your stock union-bashing tirade.

  • Erica, cutting staff compensation to maximum of $100,000/year will save the taxpayers $56mil/year.

    Now can you tell me how many miles of protected bike lanes (cycletracks) we can build if we spent $56 million each year?

    How can you possibly argue that staff compensation has nothing to do with our crumbling infrastructure? Are you serious?

  • Chris

    “C’mon, Vlad. Argue with the facts.”

    You’re kidding, right?