Election Day 2004 will never be forgotten, as it is burned into the memories of all my family and friends, and is what haunts many nightmares. It was a Presidential Election, so I felt more compelled to vote than ever, since George W. Bush handled the September 11 terrorist attacks in a way that demonstrated to the world that the United States would bomb the hell out of anyone who threatened our security.
I left work early that fateful day to cast my vote for George Bush. Leaving the polls with a friend to meet up with other coworkers at a bar would be the biggest mistake of my life, and would have lifelong consequences. Why am I blogging about this now? I received so many questions about my accident, and a lot of them were from my readers of my blogs. I’ve mentioned being ran over (literally) by a semi in a few blog posts, and made references to the accident a few times that seemed to spark a bit of interest. I also wanted to extend gratitude to the doctors that saved my life that night.
After a few hours of drinking and keeping track of the election counts, I decided to walk home; alone. Most of the details are being recalled from what I was told and what I have read in the police report and the several hundred pages of medical records that I obtained for the legal pursuit of the negligent driver of that Werner Enterprises semi. Some of the details gradually made their way to the surface of my memory, but like a slide show of incoherent photos.
While crossing Shipway, which is a residential street next to a shopping center, I must have tripped and fell down. I remember hearing a loud sound of grinding gears or something and a bright light just before impact. As I rolled under the semi I didn’t feel any pain or anything, but I knew that I was in trouble. The next thing I remember was hearing someone yelling at the driver of the semi, who just stopped a half a block up the street, letting him know that he had ran someone over. The driver fled, and was never caught, but that’s where the legal part of this whole thing gets crazy.
The incident took just seconds, but the ramifications would take many years. The impact of the truck broke my neck with fractures starting at C2 (commonly known as the ‘hangman’s vertebrae) and ending at C4. The worst injuries were both shoulders and most of my ribs being broken, the bottom two vertebrae (L4 and L5) in my lumbar spine were fractured, and I received a Traumatic Brain Injury when my head hit the bumper of the truck.
I really have to thank the first responders (police and fire/rescue) for their quick response, and the doctors from Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and Johns Hopkins Hospital for saving my life. Since I was paralyzed on the left side of my body, the neck surgeries were first. Doctors Ira Garonzik and Jean-Paul Wolinski, pictured below, performed both anterior and posterior fusions of my cervical spine from C2 to T1, which stabilized my spine and gave feeling back to the left side of my body. Any type of surgery to the cervical spine, especially if C2 is involved is a really touchy task, and I’m glad It was Drs. Garonzik and Wolinski that was on call that night, because they are two of the best in the field of neurosurgery.
Dr. John Wilckens, (pictured below) who is yet another “top doc” performed the scapular fixation on my left shoulder that saved me from a lot of pain and suffering! Dr. Wilckens is an Associate Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at Johns Hopkins, and is currently the Team Physician of the Naval Academy’s Athletic Programs in Annapolis, MD, and the Orthopedic Surgeon for the Baltimore Orioles.
Witnesses reported that I was run over by a Werner Enterprises truck, and one just happened to be parked a couple of blocks away. Detectives notified Werner of the incident, and quickly got a response from the company stating that one of their trucks that may have been involved in the accident. As police investigators followed up on the information, Werner Enterprises claimed they brought the truck in for inspection and found no evidence of damage, and police investigators never got to see the referenced truck. Did Werner repair the truck and hide crucial evidence? To make matters worse, the main witness that identified the Werner Enterprises truck was found dead of an apparent drug overdose, which paved the way for Werner Enterprises lawyers to have the case dismissed. Could the GPS records help prove the location of the Werner truck? Well, the system that Werner uses could in fact pinpoint the location within a half of a block, but the system could be turned off by the driver whenever he or she decides to do so. Upon examination, the GPS records had no trucks in the area; not even the truck that was found parked a couple of blocks away!
Well, the whole experience has been a blessing in disguise anyway. Although I am disabled, and very limited in lifting, bending over, and range of motion for my neck and shoulder, I have been able to fall back on my experience in graphic design, photography, and printing to start working for myself. Pro-PhotoShots is in its third year, and is expanding to include state of the art printing services. My son’s mother always compliments me that I do pretty good work for a guy that had a traumatic brain injury, and my customers have had nothing but good things to say, so things can only get better from here!