I believe all things happen for a reason, and although completely
horrific, the afternoon of September 12'th, 2009 changed my life for the better and for many others I
believe as well. Shortly after 4:00 pm I
was traveling westbound on the Mass Pike, just a few miles from my exit, when
my SUV hydroplaned and lost control into a jersey barrier causing my face to immediately
smash through the driver’s window. From
there, my SUV bounced off the wall, flipped onto its right side, and went
sliding down the highway. My body fell
to the highway and got severely torn apart. Luckily, no one else was in my SUV
and no other cars were involved in the crash. I was the only injured party that afternoon. I came to rest some 50 meters down the highway
laying lifeless on the ground while the rain continued to pour down on me. After the
accident had taken place, what happened next, was nothing short of a miracle.
What you’re about to read might be difficult, but imagine being me...if I can
live it, you can read it.
I met with one of the many Good Samaritans (Ben) who stopped that day to help
save my life. The story Ben recanted was very chilling. He wasn't the first person on the scene, but
was the most helpful. Ben flat-out SAVED
MY LIFE. A young man who has wanted to enroll himself in EMT school and pursue
a medical career, but lacked the inspiration, was about to get more than he
bargained for. He arrived on the scene
to see a group of people surrounding my car, all pretty much doing nothing. As
he got closer, carrying his first aid kit and fire extinguisher, he was
informed that none of his gear would be needed. When he asked why, the others around the car
informed him that things were too bad and that I hadn't made it. What he saw was nothing short of gruesome. My body was contorted and laying lifeless on
the PIKE. My right arm was literally shredded from elbow to knuckle to match my
toothless upper mouth and a left ear dangling from my head. One official on the
scene said it was one of the worst accident scenes he's ever been called to. When Ben finally got to see for himself what
the situation was, he saw some sign of life in me that gave him hope. After summoning a few others to help, they
began to tear my car apart to get to me and begin providing assistance.
Breathing? Yes, but keeping
me that way was the tough part. Nothing
could be done to stop the bleeding from my head and, quite frankly, it was too
dangerous to even attempt. My arm,
however, was another situation all together.Ben, now being instructed by a more trained professional, was told to
place a tourniquet on my right arm. It
was a measure not taken lightly due to the consequence of cutting off
circulation.Nevertheless, it was needed
to stop me from bleeding out on the highway. From there, more official personnel finally
arrived and continued to dismantle my car in attempts to properly secure and
remove me from the wreckage.
Ben, already having wedged himself inside the car with me, was instructed to
hold one of the fireman’s jackets over me so as to not get anymore debris on me
as they worked. He was also instructed
to keep talking to me and keep me awake. Falling asleep at this point would have been very
dangerous for me. So that's what he did. He kept me awake until the EMT's could finally
get to me and move me in the ambulance. An ambulance was called instead of the
med flight as originally requested due to the fact that the weather was too bad
and all flights were grounded. Before that, however, my leg was now stuck under
the steering wheel and needed to be freed. Not knowing the extent of my injuries, it was a
very delicate situation.Apparently, I
heard everyone discussing the need to move my leg, so I decided to help out and
move it myself. An action, although luckily not costly, was not in my best
interest. Officials immediately let out a small chuckle then instructed me to
not move another muscle.The funny thing
is, that I vaguely remembered moving my leg, but had no recollection how, why,
or what the situation had been. Thanks to Ben I was able to put some of the
Now that medical responders were finally able get to me and shortly after secure me in the
ambulance, I was off to UMASS Medical Center in Worcester, MA. The last thing I
remember was seeing the bright white lights of the ER and asking the nurse at the hospital if I could fall asleep now. She
said "Yes Michael you can sleep now".For the next 12 days, I would call UMASS my home.It was there that I would go through what I
would call the worst experience of my life! A life that I was fortunate to continue living
because of people like Ben and a few Angels up there that sent him to me...and
one that probably moved my leg for me as well!!!
Once asleep, the real work began. The doctors and nurses spent countless hours stabilizing me, cleaning my wounds, and coming up with a plan. As a result, their course of treatment was to surgically sew my hand into my abdomen and put me into a medically induced coma. That coma was supposed to last for 6 to 10 weeks meanwhile my hand would heal from within my abdomen. Due to my condition, after careful deliberation and much consultation, doctors decided to wake me from my coma early, only 6 days later. From that point forward I remained in the head trauma ward for another week before being transferred to another (less secluded) wing of UMass. I only spent two short days there and was once again moved, this time, to Spalding Rehab (Cape Cod).
That was the timeline of my hospital/rehab stay, a stay that would burn a reoccurring nightmare in my mind. You see, between the coma, constant changes in locations, and heavy medication, I had many dreams, nightmares, and hallucinations. The following crazy story is a compilation of my recollections from this time.
The first thing I remember was water dripping in the background and feeling like I was in some kind of spider-web. I was told that I’d been moved to the basement of the hospital for special treatment because my injuries were so severe. From there, I envisioned laying in an old delivery truck next to the deceased and other severe patients waiting to be transported off to some third world nation for labor since our lives were already over and useless. I had visions of being thrown out into the dumpster with the trash and then put on the dirty dish conveyor belt at a restaurant with ice cream all over me. Suddenly my visions changed a little. Now, I was in the boardroom of Nike and having my dressings changed while I watched sports news. I recall asking my parents why they were there, and how they found me…they responded that I haven’t moved in days!
This led to a whole portion of time where I didn’t think I was even in my room. At one point I believed I was in a boat in the hallway of the hospital and kept asking the nurses when I was getting a room again. They also informed me that I was in my room and haven’t moved since I arrived in the hospital! They told me to look around at all the pictures on the wall. I had seen the pictures before and was convinced that they were following me around everywhere I went. Thepictures were in fact, from my son Gabriel’s (my son) first grade class. The children drew them for me as a get well message. There were so many that the nurses thought I was a teacher! Next, I had clear memories of switching places with Michael Jordan and that he had built me my own separate wing in the hospital. This, of all my memories and hallucinations, is unfortunately untrue! That night, I repeatedly asked the nurses why I did not have any visitors all day! It was only 4 am. Finally, I saw my parents on the other side of the glass while my doctors argued about my treatment. I saw someone looking down at me from the ceiling tiles. The person in the ceiling told me that everything was going to be alright, meanwhile I watched as my father was arrested for trespassing after hours. Clearly, none of this “happened”, but I felt it, believed it, and lived it. Oh, and by the way, this whole time, I was in a coma!
As I started to awake, I felt something in my throat and couldn’t speak. For those of you who know me…this couldn’t last for long. I was immediately faced with my team of doctors who informed me where I was and the extent of my injuries. I was told I was in a serious car accident and had severe injuries. They explained that I’ve lost my upper teeth and my upper maxilla bone. I’ve broken my nose, I’ve lost my left ear, and most significantly, my right arm and hand were severely injured. As a result they had sown my right hand into my groin. I don’t know about you, but if someone tells you that they have sewn your hand into your groin, (coma or not) that is not good. They immediately explained all my injuries, especially to my hand since they didn’t want me moving and fussing too much to disrupt their procedures. I later realized that what the doctors call groin, I call lower stomach…big difference!
I began hearing voices at that point…the voices of my parents, Mamma Bell, and my ex-wife. I remember telling my mother to call Audra (now my wife) and tell her what happened! Little did I know, she was the first one to find out about my accident, and has been in the waiting room almost every day since waiting for the time she could finally come in and see me. Soon after, I’m told I removed the intubation tube on my own and began to get restless. The very next morning, around 5am, I awoke and was coherent. I grabbed the phone, and dialed the only number I could remember at that moment. Audra answered the phone and said “who is this?” Tyler (4 years old and now my step-son) said “Mommy, it’s Mike”. Audra came in to see me later that day! Next, now more awake and prepared, I called Gabriel and struggled to figure out what to say. What do you tell your 6 year-old son whose father has been in a coma in the hospital for a week? Luckily between Amy, Pat, and my parents, he had already been well informed and prepared for what had happened. Gabe informed me that he knew I was going to be ok and that he knew he couldn't come see me yet. He was told I was in a 7 year old and older room, but to call him as soon as I got moved. We talked a bit more about school and soon after hung-up. It was the hardest phone call I’ve ever made, but, at the same time, the sweetest.
Back at the hospital, the nurses had begun changing my bed, attempting to find something more comfortable and more conducive to my situation. I ended up in some special bed that helped my circulation since I was completely bed bound. I remember hating many of the beds they tried. I also remember telling the nurses that I was full and couldn’t eat anymore after she brought me some soft gooey stuff to eat. She insisted I couldn’t be full, since I haven’t eaten anything yet. I promptly informed her that I had just finished a cheeseburger, fries, and 6 pack of non-alcoholic beer (the beer part I think tipped her off to my medicated state. I drink Heineken light!). Nevertheless, the drugs were working well…too well. One morning, one of the doctor’s came in and informed me they were about to change my dressings (ear, lip, nose, shoulder, arm, hand, and stomach) and were going to give me my extra dose of pain meds. I declined. I felt as though I really needed to understand the pain and truly comprehend what exactly I was going through. Several doctors came in shortly thereafter to change all my dressings. I squirmed and groaned but made it through. The next morning, the same doctor came back to administer my additional pain meds. This time, he mentioned that, although it is ultimately my choice, they offer medication to me because they want me to take it. They don’t give out purple hearts for those who don’t take them. I immediately responded “Yes Please”, I felt it once; I was good!
A few days later, I was transferred to a lesser controlled wing, which made many of us weary, however, now that I was out of the head trauma ward, I could have more visitors and kids could come visit me as well. I called Gabe as soon as I could and told him I had great news. I told him dad had been moved to a 7 year old and older room and he could come see me. He excitedly yelled for Amy and said he could come see me now and when could they leave. They came later that afternoon. I could not wait to see him! The nurses wrapped me up in sheets and dressings to hide my wounds, and everyone made sure that he was well prepared. That day, I got the best medicine a doctor could order…a happy, smiley visit from my son. He handled it perfectly, and after ten minutes of visiting, he was ready to tour the hospital. I knew then that recovering and being there for my son was the only option I had. I was also visited by my Godson Tiago, his sister Tori and parents, Mamma Bell, Amy, Pat, Jack and very few others. During this time, my parents also informed me that my friends and co-workers had organized a fundraiser to help me and my family through this tragic time. A fundraiser I was determined to attend. My good friend Matt Geoffroy had also established a “Caring Bridge” website to inform others of my constant condition and progress. Between Matt and Amy everyone was able to keep up to date on my condition as well as post uplifting inspirational messages that would later play a big part in my recovery.
Due to the extent of my injuries, I was still very susceptible to infection and required constant attention. Attention that was apparently neglected in this part of the hospital. One night, while once again heavily medicated, I planned my escape… and I would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for the calf straps, my hand being sewn into my abdomen, and that darn nurse that caught me mid-flight! The next day my mother informed the doctors that, if necessary, she would sleep in the hospital to make sure it didn’t happen again. I was transferred to Spaulding rehab the next night! Thank God!