Have you ever been in a situation where you thought you might die?
I have had a couple of incidents where I thought I might die. One was when I got injured playing soccer and the other was when I was in an automobile accident.
After my freshman year in college at Iowa State University I was home for the summer. Our family friend Ray Scuffham had just started a new soccer team, the Comets. I tried out for the goalie’s position and to my surprise, got it. We practiced at Roosevelt Junior High. There were quite a few foreign kids on the team and they had a tremendous advantage over the rest of us because they had been playing all their lives. The Americans were basically just starting to learn the game. One was a Danish kid who had great control over the ball. On one occasion he came dancing down the field acting like he was going to kick the ball into the right side of the net, but at the last minute he gently tapped the ball to the left. That was the kind of trick that usually allowed him to score a point on me. This time however I was more onto his tactics so when he kicked the ball to the left, I dove for it and flicked it out of the way with my fingertips. But in order to reach the ball I had to throw myself horizontally, completely stretched out. I did save the ball, but I landed hard, flat on my stomach.
After the game my friend, Keith Andrews, and I were walking home and stopped at the Dairy Queen. By this time I was having difficulty walking and my abdomen was really starting to hurt. Keith’s dad, Lennie, just happened to be making a delivery to the ice cream stand and gave me a ride home. The next morning I could hardly get out of bed. Mom took me to the doctor who discovered that I was bleeding internally and had me admitted to the hospital. The next morning I went under the knife.
As they were wheeling me down to the operating room I was quite scared, thinking I might die during the operation. But I realized that if I did, I would be unconscious and if I woke up, I probably wasn’t going to die. A great calm came over me.
That injury had a huge effect on me. I couldn’t work while I recovered, so I couldn’t earn the money to go back to school. This was the time of the draft and I would almost certainly be sent to die in Vietnam. That part turned out OK eventually and I never did get drafted.
The Auto Accident
The next spring I found myself back at school. I would often hitchhike home on weekends to do laundry and other odd activities. Sometimes I would try to get someone to give me a lift out to the highway but on this occasion I just walked down to the corner of the block where my apartment was. I lived on Lincolnway in Ames, which was highway 30. No sooner had I put my thumb out than a Volkswagen beetle pulled over. The driver was in the Air Force and had a 3 day pass. He was trying to get home to Indianapolis from Colorado Springs and back in those 3 days. As we got close to Cedar Rapids, where I lived, his car blew its right front tire. It started to veer left and right as the guy tried to control the wheel. We screeched left and right across the highway and back. Luckily there were no oncoming cars. As the tire got flatter the car got harder to handle and at one point the right front tire got onto the soft shoulder and pulled us into the ditch. When the bumper hit the ground we started to roll and eventually ended up, right-side-up next to the fence.
As we rolled, my head hit the ceiling of the car, then back into the seat as it revolved another 180 degrees. Three times. I didn’t get seriously hurt. As I sat there I noticed that the driver’s door was open and all I could think of was that I was going to have to get out and look at the squashed remains of the unfortunate air cadet. I heard a groan and turned to look in the back seat where the kid was ass-over-tea-kettle. He got a bunch more scratches than I did. Otherwise, he was OK too.
By then, all sorts of cars had pulled over to offer assistance. A guy came up and helped us into his car and took us on into Cedar Rapids. He dropped us at the Highway Patrol office that was just at the west edge of town. I never saw the cadet again. They let me call my folks who came and picked me up. That was pretty much the end of the story.
Except, years later we were at a bar with some friends who had some other friend there too. We were talking about auto accidents by some coincidence. Our friend’s friend said she had seen a car wreck one time and went on to describe our accident exactly. It turns out she was a little girl at the time of the accident and it was her father that gave us the ride into town.
The worst problem I ever had health-wise was a perforation in my intestine. I am generally a very healthy person and rarely get sick with even a cold as a rule. This was the sickest I had ever been and was the most seriously dangerous thing that ever happened to me.
The day started out with me waking up and feeling a bit out of sorts. I was not in any pain but just did not feel well in a general way. Our microwave had stopped working and we had decided we would go shopping for a new one that day. I really wanted to get this taken care of so even though I was feeling crummy we went to an appliance store. After only a few minutes of walking around, I started feeling worse and asked Butch to take me home. I went to bed and immediately fell asleep. By the time I woke up I felt really terrible and decided to go to an urgent care center to see a doctor since it was after regular office hours.
In the past I had had bladder infections that really made me sick and feverish and I suspected that might be the problem in this case. I had pain, felt hot, and was beginning to feel sick to my stomach. The urgent care center had a lot of patients in the waiting room and the longer I waited the worse I felt. By the time I was called into an examination room I was feeling very bad and had started to vomit. The doctor examined me and rather quickly made his diagnosis. He called Butch into the room with us and told him to take me directly to the hospital and to tell them that he suspected an intestinal perforation and to give me a CAT scan as soon as possible. He told us not to go home first but to go directly there.
When we got to the emergency room, it was a madhouse! I had to wait again. There was a big ruckus with a handcuffed guy and several policemen as well as a full waiting room of sick people. It seemed like it took forever for them to call my name but after that things went pretty quickly. They examined me, heard my story, and got me ready for the CAT scan. I remember them showing us the scan and a small pinhole allowing fluids to escape into my body. They admitted me right away so they could start administering antibiotics to heal the perforation. I ended up hospitalized for almost a full week. I was given antibiotics, pain medication, and fluids intravenously for that whole time. I was not allowed to have anything by mouth for the length of my stay. The doctors made it very clear that the perforation, though small, was very serious and could have led to infection and other bad consequences. Before I left the hospital I met with my family doctor and a surgeon who recommended a bowel resection to remove the section of my intestine that had perforated.
The surgery was scheduled for six weeks from then to make sure I was well healed. By this time I felt fine but they assured me it would be best to go ahead. On the surgery day, I was not so worried even though I knew it was the most serious health problem I had ever had. Poor Butch was the one who worried now. Apparently the surgery took much longer than expected and Butch had to wait it out while I was unconscious and didn’t even know. They told me I would have to stay another week in the hospital but I ended up doing very well and going home after only three days.
This post is part of the StoryWorth project that I am participating in.
At the ButchieBoy main page click the “StoryWorth” category to see the rest of the entries.