On Tuesday morning, November 11, I got news that no one wants to hear. The text sent by Clean Wrench, president of the Iron Knights MC, simply stated, “Breadman is at University Hospital in Newark. He was shot while working. So far info is that he should be OK. Joker and Repo on the way.” Joker is a past president of the club and an active law enforcement officer, and Repo, also a club officer, is retired from the Newark PD, so we were somewhat comforted by the fact that these two would be able to navigate through this devastating situation.
Our club has certainly suffered its share of tragedy. In the past 15 years we’ve buried six members due to illnesses and motorcycle accidents. Yet despite our clubhouse being located in Newark, New Jersey, with the third-highest murder and violent crime rate of large cities in the U.S., none of us had been met with this level of savagery. Until now.
Stunned by the news, I reached out to Joker to get more information. I was informed that Breadman was working in Newark where several scumbags attempted to rob him. Had the morons watched even one stop, they would have realized that Breadman carried no money; rather, he dropped the coin into a locked cash box in his truck. No matter. They shot him anyway.
I remember when Breadman joined the club more than a dozen years ago with his best friend and riding buddy Lucky Leo. Breadman got his road name from his job; driving a bread truck for a local grocery chain. Every time the Iron Knights threw a party, and there were plenty, Breadman would supply the rolls and pastries. We’ve gone on many road trips together; most notably for me, my first ride to Sturgis in 2003. What a blast! Sadly, in 2007, Lucky Leo was killed in a motorcycle accident, but Breadman stayed with the club. As a single dad who had waged a bitter war with his ex for the right to have his son, now in his mid-20’s, be part of his life, the support of his motorcycling family is vital.
Just over a year ago, the grocery chain he’d worked for ended its delivery service. With the help of his former employer and others in his industry, he was able to purchase his own bread truck and keep his former delivery routes. In short order, he grew his business and brought on some employees to keep up with his expanding territory. This is one hard-working guy, and a generous one, to boot. Anyone in the club needed anything, Breadman was there.
Later that fateful day came a few more updates: “…prepped for surgery… in ICU recovery… next 72 hours are crucial with his lungs, due to the blood he swallowed.” A few hours later: “Breadman took a slight downturn. His lungs became inflamed and he has to have his ventilation machine ratcheted up and maxed out. If he continues to have respiratory problems he will be forced to go through another procedure. As of now, he remains in critical but stable condition.”
The next few days were a blur. Joker’s wife Joanna provided daily updates via Facebook. Club members who lived close by took turns at the hospital, and reported every encouraging bit of information to balance out the scary stuff. Things like, “He squeezed my hand and tried to open his eyes,” and “I think Breadman tried to give me the finger today.”
In the meantime, Joker and Joanna stepped up to take the lead with Breadman’s day-to-day responsibilities. Joker made sure the mortgage was paid, and Joanna is taking care of the insurance claims and hospital bills. Petal’s mom, whose profession is medical billing, offered to review those bills and make sure the charges are appropriate and that his insurance will cover them. Vicki alerted us to Medicaid availability. Repo looked into the Newark crime stoppers fund and crime victim compensation which Joanna is handling. Joker and Joanna are keeping in touch with Breadman’s son and shuttling him back and forth to the hospital, as well as taking turns house sitting. One Sunday, several members hung out at Breadman’s house watching the Giants game. That prompted its own drama when Joker and Joanna’s puppy escaped from the yard. The local police found him and he spent the night at the county animal pound. Omaha’s worried “parents” didn’t sleep a wink until they could bail him out of puppy jail the next morning.
After our last club meeting, some of us went to the hospital to visit Breadman. The hospital staff didn’t even flinch when nine of us, colors and all, crowded into the tiny ICU room. There were tubes running everywhere, but it didn’t look like he was in pain, or even uncomfortable. I’d heard that during a prior visit, a serenade of “You Are My Sunshine” went over well, so I thought we should try again. We could tell he was aware of our presence and I led the group in a rousing rendition of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” replete with hand gestures. By the time we were done, he was out cold. I guess that meant no encore was necessary.
The doctors tell us that he is showing slight signs of improvement, but that it will be slow going. The medical staff at University is outstanding. They are skilled, efficient, dedicated, caring and compassionate. But most impressive is the way some of our club members have pulled together to take care of our beloved Breadman. It will be a long, hard road to recovery, but our club—his chosen family—will be there every step of the way. It is comforting to think that if anything like that happened to me, or to any of us, the rest of the club would have our backs. It is the epitome of club brotherhood… and sisterhood.