When the cars collided, a witness who was in the convenience store at that intersection said it looked like slow motion. My mother struck her head on the pavement of M21 and died of multiple head injuries. My sister, who had been sitting on my mother's lap, or beside my mother, had a cut over her lip, and on the back of the head. My father was pinned beneath the wreckage of our car, and had several broken ribs, a broken clavicle, and a traumatic brain injury. When witnesses lifted the car off my father, they found me alone in the back seat of the car, with the side panel crushed in over my head.
I was in a coma for several weeks. My grandparents told me that for the first few days after the crash, I was encased in a refrigerated blanket to reduce an elevated temperature and to reduce the swelling of (probably cranial) tissues. While I was in coma, my grandparents held a funeral for my mother, on the same day that my father had made an appointment to have seatbelts installed in our car. I didn't have a chance to tell my mother Good Bye. I was comatose at the time of the funeral. My grandparents bought a cemetery plot, because they didn't know if my father and/or I would survive. But we did.
When I woke up from my coma, I discovered I was in a strange place, with a tube running up my nose and down my esophagus. I had a hole in my throat called a tracheotomy, to help me breathe. My left side was paralyzed, and I had a condition called aphasia. Aphasia is the inability to speak. I was incontinent of bowel and bladder, so I had to wear a diaper. I could not control my salivary glands, so I had to have a diaper around my neck to catch my spittle. I had a transistor radio which had belonged to my mother by my bedside. I would fall asleep with the radio on, and when people came in to my room and turned off the radio, I would wake up. I would get very frustrated when the doctor would come into my room and prompt me to say, "Hi." All I could manage to say was "Ha."
When I was stabilized, I was transferred to the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan. At Saint Joseph Hospital in Flint, I had a private or semi-private room, but at U of M Hospital, I was placed in a ward on the thirteenth level with about twenty other patients. At U of M Hospital, I learned to dress myself, feed myself, toilet myself, bathe myself, walk, and talk. I learned to talk by imitating another patient.
When I was discharged from the U of M Hospital, I was sent to live with my aunt and uncle who lived on a farm outside of Dowagiac, Michigan. These were the same aunt and uncle, and cousins who had visited us on the same day that we had our crash. I lived with them while my father recuperated from his injuries and learned a new job at GTE. My sister stayed with my grandparents in nearby Decatur, Michigan.
When my father, sister, and I went back to Davison, Michigan, I was sent to a Speech Camp at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. It was not 'pleasant' to me at all. I was in Mount Pleasant over the fourth of July, which had traditionally been a family time, and now I was separated from my family again. When I got back from Mount Pleasant, my father enrolled me in a school in Flint, Michigan for people who had physical challenges. I didn't feel like I belonged there because I was separated from my 'regular peer group' in Davison.
My father remarried soon after the crash (too soon I believe), and my stepmother and I had a dysfunctional relationship. I was mainstreamed into the Davison Schools, and I didn't feel like I belonged their either, because my 'regular peer group' made fun of my condition. They hung my bicycle on the flagpole in front of the Junior High School building. My stepmother ridiculed me, and she abused me emotionally, psychologically, and sexually. It was because of this that I was placed in a series of foster homes.
I finished my high schooling in Flushing, Michigan, and afterwards I tried to attend a trade school and take up accounting. I did not make this decision on my own, rather it was made for me. I didn't finish this program, and instead looked for jobs in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Some of the jobs I worked at paid me half of the minimum wage. After about twelve years of this, I enrolled at Western Michigan University. Because of a low high school grade point average, I was accepted into Western Michigan University on a probationary status. All the way through high school, people told me I could do anything I wanted to with my life, and now I had to prove it.
I achieved my Bachelor of Science in Communication Arts and Sciences. While I was finishing up my Bachelor's program, I took a job at Croyden Avenue School in Kalamazoo. It was while I worked there that I met a lady named Stephanie Cornell. On May the 14th, 1988, Stephanie Lynn Cornell and I were wed at Saint Thomas More Student Parish in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Stephanie took a job at Hope Network in Greater Grand Rapids, and soon I took a job at New Kent Homes in Greater Grand Rapids. While I worked at New Kent Homes, I talked to a counselor at Michigan Rehabilitation Services, and he told me I could earn a better wage if I got my Master of Social Work degree.
In the fall of 1990, I returned to Western Michigan University and entered the Graduate School of Social Work. In April of 1993, I earned my Master of Social Work degree. Since my graduation I have been working in residential treatment programs for people who have survived traumatic brain injury, people who have developmental disabilities, and people who have mental illnesses. I am still looking for the ideal Social Work position. I am looking for a position in which I don't have to work third shift scrubbing toilets for adult foster care homes of people who have mental illnesses and developmental disabilities.
For the rest of my natural life, I will have to live in this imperfect body. For the rest of my natural life, I will receive rehabilitation treatments, and pay at least a copay for these treatments. The man who hit my family and killed my mother was convicted of Negligent Homicide in 1963, and sentenced to two years probation and 102 weekends in the Genesee County Jail. This young man had been a student at Michigan State University, Flint Junior College, and was employed at Chevrolet Flint Manufacturing. Minds are terrible things to waste. Please don't drink and drive!
This is my story, this is my song . . .