Grandpa was sitting at the table, kicked back in the usual fashion, with the big glass of water in one hand killing the bowl of peanut M&M’s in the other. His goal was simple, really just to stay awake on this lazy Tuesday afternoon in the mid summer. We sat and talked throwing back the dry weather and other mindless banter. It wasn’t his style after all. He was a workingman, whose hands were old and worn from the paintbrushes and saws that he held his whole life; which is probably why this day his finger lay outstretched on the table. Sensing some release to the tension of the weather and the bore of eating m&m’s, I reached forward and pulled his outstretched finger. Quickly pulling away with a big grin in his face, and a sharp rebuke on his tongue, “Careful, that thing is loaded!”
The beating of the helicopter was probably enough to scare my mother, what with the asphalt being covered in blood. But that was really beyond her in her panic stricken shock. After seeing a covered stretcher, she thought that her worst fears had come true, that her first-born son had died.
Having spent a little time at Matt’s home, we grew anxious for adventure. Eager to try to something new, and long past asking our mothers to cross the street, the two of us at a mature age of nine years old decided to venture across Thirty-third South in Salt Lake. With a posted forty miles per hour, but regulated around fifty, it made for a fast street for any type of person. The other side was our goal, an Arctic Circle that offered free kiddy cones. There we found childhood pay dirt, free ice cream.
I was worried right away. I felt that with our mature age that there was no chance that we were going to see free cones that afternoon; nevertheless, luck was with us and we were able to get our free mint dip cones. Finding the model train on the ceiling to provide our young minds with only modest entertainment, we headed off with our new conquest. It was just a few hundred feet to my friend’s home across the street form Arctic Circle, but it was a path that I would not be able to complete that day.
Simple enough I guess, just six lanes of traffic, and to a nine year old, it seemed to pose no threat to the two of us. We waited for the traffic to cease on half of the road, and proceeded to the island in the middle of the street. The roar of the cars was a little nerve racking for my juvenile mind, but ever anxious to exceed another rite of passage, we began to cross. At the island, we waited for a split in the traffic; it was greeted by a large
Lay’s potato chip truck pausing from an afternoon delivery. With the driver’s signal my friend and accomplice Matt headed across the street to find refuge on the sidewalk. I was not the veteran of street crossing that he was, so with a little more caution I started out across the last half the asphalt gauntlet.
The trip was a short one, what I remember of it. I would just explain it as a quick flash of light and then nothing. As a bystander would later relate, I crossed in front of the truck, and quickly met a 1986 Toyota Corolla in a very personal way. The bumper would hit my knee; the hood my hip and arm. When a car is traveling near fifty-five miles an hour, it will take a small, seventy-pound body and throw it forty feet in the air. As the saying goes, what goes up must come down. This is true not only for basketballs, but for humans as well. The fall was as devastating as the primary impact.
From a forty-foot fall, whether the collision is to asphalt, snow, water or even pillows, it can be traumatic. As a nine year old, the collision was much like the American Indian method of scalping. With that much force, an impact literally causes the scalp to tear away from the skull. For me it was much the same, causing a split in my forehead nearly 180 degrees around my head. This was just the beginning though. With an accident like this, traffic was soon to stop. Someone ran to Arctic Circle and called 911; my friend Matt ran to his home and echoed the call. It was reported around five o’clock, the sixteenth of March 1992.
It wasn’t long before the ambulances arrived. I was really in no rush; I had been unconscious since the primary impact. Matt called my home and informed my parents that I had been in an accident. My mother, and my father who had recently returned from work, gathered the rest of my siblings and rushed to Thirty-third South. When they arrived at the top of the street they were greeted by over a mile of backed up traffic. My parents in an adrenaline induced frenzy parked the car and ran towards the scene of the accident. Upon arriving they were greeted by paramedics putting a linen covered stretcher into an ambulance. This only made things worse for my ailing mother.
In the beginning they intended to take me by ambulance to Primary Children%92s Hospital, but with the nature of the injury, they decided that it would be better by helicopter. Lifeflight was called and before long, I was being flown away to the hospital. Looking back, I wonder what the point of Lifeflight was. From my home to the hospital, I once drove there in eight minutes. I guess that with the present traffic situation they decided that it would be better to fly.
The beating of the helicopter was probably enough to scare my mother, what with the asphalt being covered in blood. But that was really beyond her in her panic stricken shock. After seeing a covered stretcher, she thought that her worst fears had come true, that her first-born son had died. This was not true yet, but quickly getting there. While in the midst of my first helicopter flight, the apparent excitement of getting to fly was enough to stop my heart from beating. Throwing the medics into a shock of their of own, the mobile defibrillators were administered to recharge my dying heart. Adding the spark that I apparently needed to cope with my present situation, I decided to breath.
After hours of intensive care at Primary Children’s, I was placed in the intensive care unit where I would eventually regain consciousness. I remember the late hours of the night hearing the voice of my father calling, Jake, Jake.
Do you know where you are?
In the hospital.
Do you know what happened?
I was hit by a car.
For my parents, this was the breath of life that they needed. To hear words escape my mouth was a comforting act. They had seen me in a very fragile part of my life at birth, and now again, I was hanging by a thread to my life.
The surgeons had done very well with my head. With the trauma they had stitched my forehead back together. At final count they had put over two hundred and fifty stitches along three different levels of the skin. No small feat, even for plastic surgeons. There was also a lot of internal bleeding that had been stopped. They said that it was a miracle. It was a rarity for a child of my age. That day there had been two other children that were hit by cars in the Salt Lake valley; they, however, had not been so fortunate.
The next day the orthopedic team at Primary started on my knee. My pelvis had been fractured in three places, a break that does not require any form of surgery or casting. All that was necessary was some rest and relaxation for that break. The major problem that the orthopedists found was that my knee had been completely blown apart. After five hours of surgery the surgeons released me with a cast from my hip to my ankle. They completed orthoscopic surgery on a torn MCL and ACL. It was another eventful day that was spent with my eyes closed as I laid unconscious in the intensive care unit.
The rest of the week was spent playing a mobile Nintendo that was brought into my room at the hospital. This was only when I could stay awake from the heavy medications they had me on. Time seemed to fade from one day to the next in some kind of drug induced haze. This was to pass as I left the hospital after about a week of intensive care, nurses, and hospital food.
After leaving the hospital, to say that the story was over would be a lie. It was just the beginning. What followed was lots of rest and therapy. This time that followed was crucial to the recovery. I had to keep off my right leg for nearly three months going from a wheelchair, to a walker, and finally to crutches. This was a hard thing for an active nine year old, but time passed and brought a steady recovery.
To see me now, one doesn’t see the wheelchair or the split in my forehead, which is now mostly covered by my hair that had to grow back after the accident. The real miracle is not that I am living today, but that I am living with only a few scars. These are my memories of the accident.
I am a miracle.
Well, a few days later, and a few hundred more miles on Melissa’s Celica, we arrived back in the happy valley. It was a pretty crazy drive. About 95% off the return trip was spent driving in the snow on the way back to Utah. Melissa was a little scared at the trip, and the fear of crashing the car landed me in the drivers seat, and I got to pilot the car back. It was really fun to get to meet her parents and the rest of her family.
One of the highlights of the trip was the chance to go rappelling on Bath Rock in the City of Rocks. After having to do a fairly difficult free climb, we set up the descent on the face of the rock. Melissa’s Dad estimated that it was about a 100 foot cliff, and that there was 120 feet of rope. We set up holds for a belay rope and a rappel rope. The wind was blowing about 30-40 miles per hour with a cold, 25 degree temperature, which, as Cecile so aptly put, made it cold as hell. The girls were anxious to get off the rock, so they were the first ones down. It had taken about an hour to get everyone up the mountain. They wanted to be belayed up the rock, with the ice and the cold weather making it kind of difficult to do the ascension. So with everybody shivering at the top, we began the decline. Laura was the first to be strapped in and lowered over the edge. She began the rappel, and everything was going fine, until we saw only about four feet of rope on the ground from the belay rope. Meaning that she was probably at the end of her rappell rope. We radioed to the bottom were we were told that there was still about 40 feet to go, and we were stuck without any rope. After some tricky knots and some patience on Laura’s part, the ropes were extentended and she was at the bottom in safety. I had a great time, the sudden gusts of wind that made it feel like you were going to fall off the edge of the cliff made it really fun.
Well, I am headed off to Idaho today… I get to meet Melissa’s Parents and the rest of her family. I am really looking forward to getting away from work and school, and just relaxing for a few days. I wonder if there is a chance that in the next few days that I can become proficient in the art of potato farming. Probably not going to happen, but that is ok. I think that my education and career will take my away from potato farming. In french you would say pomme de terre to say potato, that means apple of the earth… Well, This is just ridiculous so I bid thee all adieu.
I guess that this was going to happen eventually, the little thoughts that are running around in my head would someday endup on the world wide web… I hope that this blog can be a means for some kind of creative output on my part, and some input form others as well. Along with the chance for me to post some blogs for brothers and friends who bmay be away from home. Here’s to the Blog…