June 16th 1972
Note: This account is of what little I remember, filled in with eye witness, hospital and police reports.
It started out as any other Indiana day. I was 16 and involved in all the activities any school kid was - especially band.
My two friends and I (Sammy - my girlfriend and my best friend, Steve) were attending a band practice. Sammy had just purchased her first vehicle, a 1968 Volkswagen Beetle. During a break, we decided to take it for a spin into town and try it out. We all took turns driving all over town. Then Steve took his turn at the wheel. Sammy was in the back and I in the passenger seat.
Steven was driving down the highway when a tire blew sending us out of control. I remember looking at my watch moments before it happened and it said it was 12:33 pm. The car traveled down a 20 ft. steep embankment for several hundred feet before going up the slope into on coming traffic where we hit a brand new Pontiac head on. Needless to say there was very little left of the Beetle. (I have pictures somewhere. One day will find them and post them.) Where I was sitting was flatter than a pancake.
Fortunately, I was thrown about 65 feet from the vehicle exiting out the passenger side window on impact. Sammy and Steve were killed instantly.
Within minutes ambulance crews arrived and began taking the injured. I was loaded first. The crews attending held little or no hope. In fact, I was pronounced dead. As they were unloading me to take the other injured, an observant paramedic saw me blink and I was rushed to the hospital. They revived me about halfway there. I came to briefly and spoke with them. I remember seeing the local dairy and wished I had a chocolate shake before I passed out again. I still had no clue as to what happened or what was to come.
Upon my arrival, hospital personnel went into action. I can only imagine what the scene looked like. I know I woke up as the nurse was taking my pants off. I reached down, grabbed her hand, looked at her and asked, "Can I trust you?". Talk about a comedian..yea, right....You should have seen the look of horror on her face. It is my understanding that just a few minutes before, I had gone into another cardiac arrest. I imagine she thought she had seen a ghost! I again passed out and was out for another 3 weeks in a coma.
As you have guessed, my injuries were quite extensive. I had shattered both hips, crushed my right leg, severed my right leg from the kneecap down, ripped my liver, fractured my skull and had a collapsed lung. To this day, the doctors in my little town of Wabash, In say they have never seen anyone with such injuries live. There is still talk of the miracle that day. Whether it was a miracle or God working through them, these guys and gals stepped up to the plate.
A team of doctors were flown in to reattach my leg, something that was very new at the time. Only 3 had ever been attempted. But they did it and were successful! A metal plate was installed to hold my liver together. Metal pins were place in my leg as they guessed how long to put the space between bones so that it would not be shorter than the other. Holes were then drilled through my knees to place pins to hold the stirrups for traction. You should have send the bed with bars and weights hanging everywhere as it pulled me every way conceivable! I was then wheeled to my room where I spent 3 weeks in a coma.
When I awoke, all I saw was this blurry face (I wore high powered glasses when all of this happened) of someone who told me he was my father. I had absolutely no recollection of anything or anyone. Total amnesia. They tell me it is not uncommon for someone with that much trauma. But it was scary! And what a stir it caused in the hospital! The boy was back and alive!
I think it funny now as I look back and all of the unfamiliar faces that came to my room to see the miracle child as one tv station put it. It hit the front page of the Indianapolis Star! Reporters were everywhere, from just about everywhere. I looked at wonder as I had no clue as to why.
It was then I was told the extent of my injuries and what had happened. To their credit, the doctors were always positive to me. But I remember many conversations that were held with my parents when they thought I was asleep of their concerns about whether I was going to survive or walk again. It was during one of those private conversations that I surprised everyone in the room when I announced that I was back and watch me, I will walk and run like never before! Needless to say, if anything was ever said again, it was never in my presence! I was such a cocky kid!
I was in traction a total of 54 days. I spent 6 months in a body cast, 2 years in a wheelchair, another year on crutches and an additional two years with a cane. I learned to walk again. overcame a morphine addiction and after several more surgeries, I do RUN!.
I remember very little pain and my memory came back to me in bits and pieces. It took nearly 15 years. There are still a few "holes" but the major parts are there I believe. I still flash back periodically to things that somehow had escaped me. But all in all, I am ok. I have lots of wonderful memories of events that happened during that time. In many ways, the accident was a blessing and I am very lucky.
I owe a lot to God up above, family, friends, doctors, two EMT's and the whole community of Wabash for coming together and getting me though everything. Their support was invaluable!
Little did we know that lightning would strike twice nearly 5 years to the day later.......
May 12th 1977