Trauma T1571

For a short time yesterday I did not have a name; I was Trauma T1571 at the Cumberland Memorial Hospital in Cumberland, Maryland. Before that, I was flown by helicopter off of Highway 68 Westbound. Before that, I was strapped to a backboard and given an IV. Before that, I was cut out of a car with giant pneumatic pincers. Before that, I had a man holding me immobile and shielding my face and legs from the tools the firemen were using to extract me. Before that, a bystander reached his hand through the smashed window just to hold mine and speak with me. Before that I was in the worst car accident I can imagine. By all apparent rights, I should not be typing this right now.

This past week I was at the BuildaBridge Institute in Philadelphia (which was superb, by the way—amazing people and conversations). Yesterday afternoon I drove back from Philly to Morgantown, West Virginia where my parents live…or at least that is what I was attempting to do. Somewhere east of Cumberland, MD, I was going down a grade (there is a long hill there that trucks tend to barrel through). My cruse control was on; I was just going along in the right hand lane (which, for my friends in the UK, remember to switch this…I was in the “slow” lane). I caught a glimpse of something very large in my driver’s mirror and then was suddenly spinning around and all hell broke loose.

I was hit in the rear driver’s side corner by an eighteen wheel truck that came into my lane as he passed me (apparently rather quickly). This spun me around several times and I then became lodged in underneath the trailer of the truck and dragged along the freeway for some distance. Of course, there is not a lot of room underneath a cargo trailer; fortunately, I was driving one of the smallest cars in existence. I was in a Mazda MX-5 (a Miata); the top of the car was shorn right off as I went under. The firemen who cut me out (they had to extract me through the side as there was no way for me to come out upward) said that, had I been in any other kind of vehicle, I would be dead. Actually, everyone that spoke with me could not figure out how I survived. One of the paramedics said he had never seen anyone come out of an accident like that alive (when they arrived on the scene, they immediately called for a helicopter before seeing me); I have some lacerations on my face and arms from all the glass and a sore shoulder and arm. I was not even kept in the hospital overnight. The medic on the flight took some pictures of the scene with his mobile and shared them around the emergency room; I just kept hearing “Damn…dayyymn!” and then people would just come over and look at me (and then say something like “...damn?”). I felt I was playing out the hospital scene in Unbreakable.

As they pulled me out of the wreckage, one of the firemen looked at me and said, “Man, there must be some kind of plan for you.” I have always valued my life and appreciate the blessings of it—but this is a new life. I remember thinking one thing during the accident, “Let me Live!” and I’ve lived—and that means something very special now. I hope to discover more fully what life is—because I’ve been given a chance to continue anew with living.

Also, a news clip here

Update 10 June: my father and uncle went to look at the scene yesterday; from the skid marks, it looks like we may have travelled as much as several hundred feet together before coming to a stop. Thank goodness the truck driver had the presence of mind to keep us both on the road with my car lodged in underneath the carriage.

Update 25 June: I’ve had several hundreds of hits on this post since I put up more pictures of the accident scene yesterday; someone asked to explain further the physics of what happened after I was hit. Apparently, from the description the investigating trooper gave, the truck drifted over into my lane and hit me from behind, this launched me out in front of the semi into the passing lane’s median barrier, my car then ricocheted off the barrier, spun round and went in rear first under the trailer in the passing lane (or wherever it was at this point). Then we all travelled together several hundred feet before coming to a stop. There were more saving graces there; had we gone much further, there is a chance my car would have flipped under the rear tyres and the trailer would have run over me; I could have gone straight through under the trailer, in which case I probably would have flipped over and again down the freeway; the car could have severed the brake hoses under the carriage, this apparently might have caused the brakes to lock down on the wheels—doing who knows what. Again, it happened exactly how it had to happen.