MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s a story of survival that even the people who lived it can barely comprehend.

A Twin Cities man survived a brutal mountain biking accident, thanks to a risky move by a highly-skilled stranger.

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The challenging Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails, near Crosby in Crow Wing County, are a therapeutic distraction for Todd, an Eagan father and corrections officer.

“It’s a huge stress reliever, just with the nature of my job,” Todd said.

It’s a place where Dr. Jesse Coenen — an emergency room doctor in Hayward, Wisconsin — comes for post-work solace, too.

“Mountain biking is an activity that I enjoy, which is why I happen to be in that spot that day,” Coenen said.

Dr. Jesse Coenen and Todd (credit: CBS)

And that spot is where two strangers lives would tragically, and beautifully, intertwine.

“I mean, what are the odds?” Todd said.

Todd, an experienced cyclist, took a violent fall near a ravine more than a week ago. He first spoke to WCCO Wednesday afternoon from his bed at HCMC in Minneapolis.

“I remember landing on like my stomach, and my chest took the brunt of the impact. I managed to kind of scoot myself up on this embankment on the left-hand side, and that’s where I sat,” Todd said. “I was starting to see white spots. I’m like, ‘OK, this isn’t cool … this isn’t normal.’”

Even though Todd had just about the worst accident possible, he turns out he had the best timing, because of who was behind him on the trails.

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Dr. Coenen approached the hard-working medics who realized death was looming, so he joined in and tried a technique he’d only trained for: an impromptu tracheotomy.

“It’s not something that you want to have to do, but we found ourselves in the situation where there’s not another option. I must’ve been pausing before I doing it, and one of the paramedics looked at me and said, ‘We need an airway,’ meaning this has to be done, and that’s when I proceeded,” Coenen said. “That’s an uncommon procedure, and when I had the scalpel in my hand, I was hesitant to do that because obviously cutting someone’s neck, you’re leaving a scar.”

(credit: CBS)

It worked, and Todd was flown to HCMC, where he was treated for a traumatic brain injury. He doesn’t remember the doctor, but he does realize his fortune.

“It does really sink in,” Todd said. “I got a wife, I got a daughter who’s 16 years old, she’s a sophomore in high school.”

So when Todd was released, WCCO made the virtual introduction.

“It’s great to know that you’re alive, to be honest,” Coenen said to Todd in a Zoom reunion Wednesday evening. “I was not optimistic about the outlook, so being able to sit here and talk with you today, only 10 days later, is really unbelievable.”

Todd told Dr. Coenen how grateful he was for saving his life.

“I can send you the biggest virtual hug that is known to anybody,” Todd said. “It’s kind of like, you know, when a kid gets a teddy bear and he’s holding the bear so tight, I mean, that’s kind of what it feels like right now.”

And just like that, a new friendship was made between two bikers who somehow ended up on the same path. The two men have already made plans to meet next summer and go for a ride.

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Todd was wearing his helmet and had all the safety equipment needed that day. He wants to remind others to do the same.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield