June 2nd, is a memorable date for me. On that evening twenty years ago, I was driving home from work in Fairfax County, Virginia in my cool 1990 Nissan 300Z. (1990 was the last year before mandatory air bags.) My wife and two young children were waiting for me to share dinner.
Ahead of me and just over the hill, a drunk driver approached. He veered off the road to his right and sharply turned to his left –his truck careening toward me. I jammed on my brakes! Bam!
My seat belt tightened, torso twisted, collar bone ripped apart as the seat belt gripped, ribs broke, ankle snapped against the brake pedal as my sternum crashed into the steering column. Pain was incredible – I struggled for breath and feared incineration as I pried the door open and collapsed consciously to the pavement. Paramedics asked me to count backwards, name the President, the date, etc. to gauge my level of internal injuries and shock. I mumbled to a bystander to call my wife. (This occurred in “prehistoric times” – the pre cell phone era.)
My wife met the ambulance at the hospital where the ER docs told us that my sternum was broken and if my aorta tore I would die. A helicopter was landing now – I was going to a Level One Trauma Center. (I later learned that a torn aorta is a common cause of death in high impact collisions.)
I spent three days in the intensive care unit and left the hospital about a week later. I survived. It took another month for basic recovery. My first day back to work (on crutches) coincided with the annual shareholders meeting where I received a standing ovation before a large crowd. It’s great to be loved.
Last week, I learned of the unexpected death of a popular high school classmate. It brought back memories of how short and fleeting life is. Tomorrow, the days will become shorter as another summer begins to end. It seems like the spring of our lives just began. Tomorrow the alarm clock will ring at 6AM.
June 20, 2012