The Anniversary of My Near-Death Experience

Today is the Anniversary of My Survival

My wife phoned me today and wished me a Happy Anniversary.

The odd thing is that our Anniversary is actually in September, so I was rightfully confused.

The haze cleared when she reminded me that it was four years ago today that I survived a car crash that most people think I shouldn’t have.

The Set Up

In the Winter of 2001, our office had gone through several improvements, which left roofing nails scattered all over the parking lot. I parked on top of one of these in my Honda Civic (with new tires, no less) and ended up getting a flat. I took it to the gas station around the corner and they patched it up. Never having had a tire patched before, I asked a few questions (as is my normal way):

 

Jorge: So, will this patch hold until I go get a new tire?
Service Station Employee: What do you mean?
J: Well, I figure I’ll need to get a new tire, right?
SSE: No, not at all.
J: So, this patch will hold in all situations?
SSE: Man, it’s like having a new tire again. It’s like there never was a hole.
J: Wow! Thanks!

 

What he failed to mention was that it was like having a new tire if it had been patched properly. More on this later.

Fast Forward to August, 2001

Mrs. J was a bridesmaid in a wedding in Brockville. She arrived there on the Friday of that weekend, and I was to head up on Saturday, check into our hotel room and proceed to the wedding.

I left early that morning (Just before 10:00, to be exact) to make it to Brockville for a 16:00 wedding. I stopped at a McDonalds before Kingston to have myself some cheeseburgers for a quick lunch, and ended up spilling ketchup on my white t-shirt.

I continued on my journey, reaching Kingston at around 13:00.

I was in the passing lane keeping up with the flow of traffic, when suddenly, as I drove under a bridge (John F. Scott Rd, to be exact) I heard an explosion. My Honda Civic wrenched violently to one side and I heard the rush of wind hit as I hit open road again. My car wanted to veer into the people in the adjacent lane, so I accelerated a little to avoid them.

Something was wrong though. I couldn’t pull out of the turn.

The next thing I know, the car has spun 180 degrees and I’m hitting the ditch backwards. My car cartwheeled, spun and came to rest with a crunch upside down.

That’s the short version.

It probably took all of 5 seconds.

In my time, though, it took a full two minutes. I know because I counted while I dealt with what happened. It was an interesting experience being able to move faster than what was happening. I remember relaxing my legs and arms, so they would not end up hyperextended upon impact. I remember pushing the suitcase back into the area under the glove compartment (I had packed it in there for easy access amd moved the seat up to hold it in place. Hitting the ditch backwards caused the suitcase to push against the lever, thus releasing it). I remember ducking twice. I remember the feeling of the seatbelt digging into my shoulder.

Surreal.

I was upside down in the car collecting my wits when I heard Dude, can you hear me? Shut off the car!

 

I easily slid out from underneath (thinking about how they make it look so difficult on Fear Factor) and stood next to some folks that had stopped to help. Everyone was relieved to know that I was the only one in the car.

Good Fortune Shines Brightly

An ambulance pulled up shortly after. They had finished a patient transfer to Kingston and were driving back to Brockville. It was sheer luck that they were only a few minutes behind me.

They looked at the car wreck, obviously concerned that there would be other people inside…

 

Paramedic: How many people are in there?
Jorge: Just me.
P: Excuse me?
J: Just me. I was in there and then I crawled out.
P: [Seeing the red stain on my shirt.] Are you bleeding?
J: Oh this? No, it’s ketchup.
P: [Coming forward to take my arm after a quick glance.] Sir, please come with me.

 

We walked together to the ambulance and I climbed in.

I needed to tell Mrs. J what had happened, so she wouldn’t worry when I was late…

I tried calling Mrs. J’s friend, who I thought lived in Brockville. Turns out her parents lived in Prescott, and there were 15 people with her surname in Brockville anyway….

 

Jorge: Crap!
Paramedic 1: What’s wrong?
Jorge: I need to get in touch with my girlfriend so I can tell her not to worry. I figured I’d try the Bride’s parents, but I don’t know which number they would be at.
Paramedic 2: You’ve got some glass in your hair. not much, but let me get that for you. [Starts to pick it out.]
J: I suppose you’re going to give me the once over? Check for shock, mental acuity, all that stuff?
P1: Yes.
J: Well before we do that, I need one of you to find a wedding invitation. It was in the front seat of my car, so it’s probably in the ditch somewhere.
P2: Um….Okay?
J: I’m not crazy. I figure that the brides parents are locals, so they would have made all the arrangements. If I can call the hall, they can give me the bride’s mother’s number and I can call using my cellphone.
P1: Woah. Mental acuity? Check! [Everyone laughs.]

 

One of the paramedics ran out and fetched the invitation. As I suspected Mrs. J’s friend’s mom booked the hall and I explained the situation to them. They gave me the number and I dialed…

 

Person: Hello?
Jorge: Hi. It’s Jorge. I’m Mrs. J’s boyfriend.
Person: Oh. Hi!
Jorge: I’m sorry to disturb you, but is Mrs. J there? Can I speak to her please? It’s important.
Person: Sure. Hold on a sec.
Mrs. J: Hello?
Jorge: Hi Mrs. J. Don’t be upset, but I’m going to be late.
Mrs. J: Why? [Her tone was not a good one. I found out later that she thought I was out late with the guys or something and that I was going to be late because I had just got out of bed when I called her.]
J: Well, I’ve had a bit of an accident here on the 401. But I’m okay.
Mrs. J: What? What accident?
J: Nothing to worry about. I’ve just flipped the car, but I’m fine.
Mrs. J: Are you okay?
J: Yes.
Mrs. J: Ok.

 

She then hung up.

I laughed and told the paramedics.

They laughed too.

One of them mentioned, though, that it is a bit of a shock to hear about accidents.

Mrs. J called back shortly after (glass of wine in hand for calming effect) and we had a much better discussion of what I was to do. She said that they could come pick me up, but I told her that it was okay, as the paramedics had mentioned giving me a ride. Since that was the case, we figured that it would be better if I showed up after the wedding because she wasn’t sure how she would react when I walked in.

That was fine.

I told her the paramedics were just finishing up checking me over and that I would figure out a way to get to Brockville somehow and check into the hotel. I would show up after the wedding was done.

The paramedics completed their evaluation and found nothing really wrong with me. I had a bruise where the seatbelt met my shoulder and a small scratch on my thumb, but that was it. My vital signs were barely above normal.

An OPP officer had arrived at this point and the paramedics offered to give me a ride to Brockville if I wanted. I declined, as I wanted to stay and talk to the officer.

I went over the details of what happened with the officer and he did a quick inspection of the tire (or what was left of it). It had blown up into three pieces. He’d never seen anything like it before, and asked if he could take the wheel for an inspection. I had no problem with that.

He officially took my statement and then walked around the wreckage. In the mean time, I took a few pictures of the wreck with Mrs. J’s camera.

The officer walked up, bearing my garment bag which contained my suit. It was torn in quite number of places and steaming. It had fallen into the water at the bottom of the ditch and the heat transfer from the car caused the water to steam.

My poor suit.

My poor car.

 

Friends Can Be a Boon

While waiting for the OPP officer to finish up, I called a few friends. They helped take the edge off the accident.

Observe…

 

[Calling Mike, who happens to be at the car show.]
Jorge: Hey Mike.
Mike: What up, Jordy?
J: I just had a car accident on the 401.
M: Seriously?
J: Yes.
M: Are you okay?
J: Yeah.
M: Is the car totalled?
J: Yeah.
M: [Thoughtful pause.] You getting a Beemer?*

 

[Calling Dave C.]
Jorge: Hey Dave.
Dave: Hey Jorge. How are you?
J: Okay, considering I just flipped my car on the 401.
D: Wow. Are you okay?
J: Yeah.
D: [Thoughtful pause.] Did you save the replay?**

 

I called Dave M after that, but he wasn’t home. I left a message on his phone to the effect of Hey man. I wrecked the driver’s side mirror of my car…along with the rest of my car when I flipped it. At that point I was just happy to be okay and my sense of humour was in overdrive.

 

Horseshoes Up My…

In an effort to use every possible writing format, I will do a bulleted list of the next few events:

  • A tow truck driver on his way to Prescott pulled over shortly after the officer presented me with my suit. He offered me a ride back to Brockville
  • When I got there, I needed to get my things from the car. The side panels at the rear had collapsed over the trunk lid. The tow truck driver offered a crow bar, but I had so much adrenaline that I tore the trunk open. Paint pieces of trunk went all over the place.
  • I had clothes and things for Goodwill in the trunk. The tow truck driver offered to take them in for me, as there was a Goodwill down the street from his office.
  • I checked in. One of the ladies was going off shift, and offered to take me to the hospital.
  • I got to the hospital and bypassed a three hour wait because everyone in Brockville had either seen or heard of the accident, so they let me go through so I could make the end of the wedding.
  • The doctor that saw me actually drove past the accident scene just after it happened. The same doctor saw the car being towed past the Tim Horton’s she had stopped off at. Looking at the state of the car***, she didn’t think that there were any survivors.
  • She administered some simple resistance tests to see if everything was working properly. I ended up lifting her off the floor with just the strength in my arms. Talk about adrenaline.
  • I caught a cab back to the hotel after I was cleared, called my parents to let them know what had happened (in a similar manner that I told Dave)
  • My body had accelerated to the point where I had two-days worth of stubble on my face in the space of 3 hours.
  • I pulled my suit of the torn, wet garment bag. It was untouched. I still have the suit today.

Unbreakable

I arrived at the wedding minutes after it was done.

I’ve never felt so happy to be alive as I was when I walked down the hill and saw Mrs. J. It was all I could do to not break down and cry (that happened later on that week).

At the reception, the bride’s brother talked about how he almost put his car in the ditch a few times running over emotional speech in his head for his sister that evening. I shouted out Been there, done that!

 

What a day that was.

 

 

I’d made a promise to Mrs. J when we started getting serious that I would never leave this Earth before her. The first thing that went through my head as my car started to careen towards the ditch was I am not allowed to die. Mrs. J would be really pissed off.

 

* – Mike had been previously on my case to buy a BMW. He would ask every week if I was going to get one. This was no exception.
** – Dave and I would play Need for Speed a lot. That racing game would allow you to save replays. One thing we would do is try and have the most spectacular stunt crashes. Then we would play them back.
*** – The roof on the drivers side had been crumpled down so far that if sitting upright next to it, it would have just reached the top of my shoulders.

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