reflections on my accident, part 1

I got out this morning for a short run, and some crunches. Lots of crunches, actually- 10 sets of 10. My abs are feeling it!

It’s been a challenging week, in terms of exercise, which got me to thinking. I’ve written about this before on my other websites but I think it’s time to add it to this site. It’s my story of survival, I guess. I’m not really sure what else to call it. But it does make my running and my races all that more extraordinary, when you consider that, in a lot of ways, I shouldn’t be able to do this at all.

This is a long story, and it will likely cover many posts.

See, when I was 17, I was in this car accident. I was a senior in high school and actually exactly 17 years, 6 months, and 3 days old. You have to understand that I was a classic geek in high school. I was not an athlete but I threw myself into academics with a passion. During my senior year of high school, I was taking enough college credit courses to *technically* qualify as a college freshman, plus I was on my high school’s newspaper staff. I was also on the varsity academic team. I was a straight-A student and, in fact, if not for this accident, I might have qualified for the “top 1%”- the top 4 students in the graduating class, our school’s version of the valedictorian.

On the evening of November 8, Wednesday, I had been out with friends and was driving home (alone) on the interstate. It was after dark, and we were receiving the first ice storm of the year. We get a lot of ice here in Missouri. I don’t remember the accident- in fact, I really don’t even remember the day of the accident or the time surrounding the accident- but as I was driving down the interstate that night, I hit a patch of black ice. My car spun and careened out of control into a semi ahead of me.

My seat belt held me back, just as it should have, but my collarbone snapped in the process. (Painful though this was, it was definitely preferable to the alternative. Had I not been wearing a seat belt, I would’ve been thrown through the windshield, into the semi, and onto the interstate. And yes, I would have likely died.) My head snapped forward and hit the steering wheel and possibly also the windshield. When my head hit the steering wheel, my nose broke. Worse than this, my brain was thrown forward against my skull, causing several blood vessels on the arachnoid mater and the dura mater (two of the membranes covering the brain) to tear and bleed. The blood built up inside my skull, causing pressure on the brain and loss of consciousness. It’s akin to getting a bruise on the brain.

I don’t remember this. It is not uncommon with brain injuries to have amnesia surrounding the traumatic event, and I believe that is merciful. I don’t think I want to remember this accident! I have learned a lot about brain injuries since then, though. With brain injuries, it is not uncommon to remain conscious for a short time until the pressure inside the skull reaches a certain “critical mass”. I’ve often wondered if I was conscious for a time after the accident. What did I say? What did I think? What did I feel? I may never know.

Since the accident involved a semi, that driver (and the drivers of several other semis that were out that night) had CB radios. They used those radios to contact the police. The fire department was the first to arrive. They stabilized me, but they could not immediately remove me from the car as I was pinned. They used the hydraulic tool colloquially known as the “Jaws of Life” to cut the car apart. It took them 30 minutes to get me out.

By that time, of course, the police and ambulance had arrived. I was in pretty bad shape, and under normal circumstances they would have brought in a Lifeflight Eagle helicopter air ambulance service. However, the ice storm had worsened and it was no longer safe for the helicopter, so I was taken to the hospital by a regular road-ambulance.

Once I was out of the car, of course, I was secured to a backboard, with a cervical collar and heaven-only-knows what other medical equipment. I was taken to Truman Medical Center, which was (and still is!) the BEST hospital in Kansas City for traumatic injuries. (In fact, it’s not politically correct but it’s a well-known fact around Kansas City that one reason TMC is so good is that their primary campus is in the, *ahem*, bad part of town, and they get all the gunshots and stabbings and other serious injuries in that area.)

I was unconscious this whole time, of course. In addition to my broken nose and broken shoulder, I had a very serious brain injury and I was in a deep coma.

3 thoughts on “reflections on my accident, part 1”

Comments are closed.