Did You See that Car Fly Off the Cliff?
2002 Boaz Rauchwerger
It was an unusually warm winter day in the state of Missouri. December 20, 1967 -- 4 p.m. A twenty-year-old young man was driving east on Interstate 70 from Kansas City to Columbia, Missouri.
He was very tired that afternoon and fighting sleep with every mile. He unsnapped his seat belt in order to get more comfortable. The signpost said "Boonville, 10 miles." As the sign faded, so did his eyes. He fell asleep at the wheel.
Then it happened. As he groggily opened his eyes, he suddenly realized that he was speeding at over 90 miles an hour down the center median of the Interstate. When we're half-asleep, whether intentionally or without purpose, life seems to pass us by in a strange way. Our reflexes are dulled and our reactions come without reason. How many people walk through life half-asleep?
He slammed on the brakes, the wheels locked and the car swerved back into the driving lanes. It screeched wildly out of control -- to the right and to the left. As it came back to the right, it flew off a cliff! The car flipped end over end down a hill. The young man recalls thinking, as he heard glass shatter and metal twisting, "I've done it now."
As the car came to a violent crash at the bottom of the hill by an asphalt road, the driver's door opened and he flew out. Rolling down the road, he came to a stop at a nearby ravine.
As I said, it was a warm day that December. Luckily, a truck driver had seen the dust that the young man's car had stirred as it flipped down the hill. He used his CB radio to call for an ambulance. One from Boonville, Missouri, responded.
Feeling more pain than he ever knew existed, the young man was wheeled into the emergency room at Cooper Country Memorial Hospital in Boonville. It was quickly diagnosed that he had ruptured his spleen, broken his pelvic bone, had internal bleeding and had yellow jaundice. His condition was too critical to operate until he stabilized.
He was a sophomore in college at the time and had been taking the Dale Carnegie Course. He'd been taught that attitude is everything and that, whatever his job, he was to be the best at it. His new job was to be an excellent patient. Thus, since the Carnegie course put a great deal of importance on people's names, he called everyone in the emergency room by their names, according to their nametags.
A few days later, when things stabilized, a nurse came to see him in his room. She said, "You scared us to death. You were almost dead when they brought you to the emergency room. But you were the most courteous almost dead person we'd ever seen."
About a week after the accident, an exploratory operation resulted in the young man's spleen being removed. We never know where life's turns can take us. It's not what happens, it's how we react that's important. Not having a spleen kept him from being sent to Vietnam the next September.
Through the five weeks that he spent at that Boonville, Missouri, hospital, he made it his job to have a positive attitude, to cheer up everyone around him and to encourage other patients. The nurses liked his attitude so much that they would bring him cookies and other treats at all hours of the day.
A broken pelvic bone usually means bed rest for a number of weeks and then crutches for another few weeks. Although he was unable to walk, the nurses brought a lift to the young man's room. They lifted him onto a gurney and took him for tours of the hospital and to the big picture window in the chapel. By now there was a blanket of snow on the grounds outside.
The nurses and doctors were amazed at the recuperative abilities of this young man. Beginning in the emergency room, he seemed more concerned with everyone around him than himself. He always had a smile and a positive attitude. He saw his condition as a momentary inconvenience. He saw himself being perfectly healthy. He appreciated all of the kindness and help that he received from the wonderful doctors and the incredible nurses and he told them so on a regular basis.
They told him that a broken pelvic bone could mean not being able to walk normally. He let that thought pass right by him. They must have been talking about someone else.
After an emotional "good bye" to the people who saved his life, he returned home. Six weeks after the accident, he started the second semester of that college year on crutches. That lasted one day. The second day he left the crutches behind and has walked normally ever since.
Difficult moments happen to all of us. To re-state the bottom line of this message: It's not what happens to us. It's how we react. I know that this young man's attitude was an important element in saving his life and in his quick recuperation. I know because that young man was me.
A Daily Attitude Affirmation
No matter what happens, I always look for something good.
Article reproduced with permission from Boaz Rauchwerger. You may reprint any of these articles in any publication or Web site so long as you credit Boaz Rauchwerger as the author and include this Web site address, www.Boazpower.com.