The value of human life. My personal brush with death…and survival.

Time to get back to work on my writing and posting on SurvivalRing…so here’s my biggest personal survival story. Having been on the dark side of life for a point in time, really brings things into perspective for me, and why I still walk among the living. It was touch and go for a day, way back in 1975. Read on, from my musings yesterday.


Today, at the doctor’s office, while waiting to visit with her about getting the ball rolling for getting my bad knee replaced…I realized something…the significance of today’s date in my life.

Today, at 4:30 pm, mountain standard time, 40 years ago….September 19th, 1975…I nearly died while on my paper route just a few blocks from home in east Plano, Texas. I was riding my 1973 Honda CL100 motorcycle to run my paper route, to a neighborhood just on the other side of my high school on a route I’d had for three years. On this day, I came close to dying, when I was hit and run over by a drunk driver.

Here, 40 years later, I’m lucky to be alive…lucky to still have my whole leg attached…lucky to still have my right thumb still attached to my hand…lucky to not have suffered a major head trauma or brain injury. Lucky to be able to have all the body parts I was born with…lucky to have lived, to get married and raise a family, and to now have 5 grand children.

Everything I do in my life right now, is about helping my fellow man…at work…at home…on the streets….over the web….on radio shows and email…in many jobs held since that fateful day…that could have been my last on the face of the earth.

I’ve never thanked the paramedics and fire department that scraped me up off the pavement and got me into that ambulance, and to the fairly new (back then) Plano Hospital.

I’ve never thanked the surgeons, nurses, and all the other staff at that hospital that helped me through the toughest time of my life, saving me when so many others die from the same injuries everyday in this world.

I’ve never thanked all the fellow students at Williams High School in 10th grade who came to see me while in that hospital bed, in traction for the broken femur, waiting for the hundreds of stitches to heal before they could do anything to set the bones….bringing me cards, well wishes, and a brand new Abu Garcia bait-casting fishing reel (I had fallen in love with it earlier that year at the sporting goods store) that I used for the next 25 years.

I never thanked my parents for worrying about me, seeing that I got cared for, and getting me home to recover over the next several months.

I have always felt that I missed a lot…because of the accident, and all the things that I couldn’t do back then…that I’ve since done and experienced all over the nation.

My brain can not recall, no matter how hard I concentrate or try, the 20 to 30 minutes that occurred, between being two blocks before the accident, and then coming to full consciousness again in the emergency room 2 minutes before emergency surgery.

I certainly do remember getting catheterized, seeing my bloody right hand all bandaged up, a small curtain hiding the lower half of my body from my own eyes, the two policemen to the right of me, talking to my parents who had a look of utter horror on their faces…and then….nothing.

I woke up around 2 to 3 am the next morning, in an ethereal, cotton wisp like cloud, with no pain, no real feelings, and fuzzy, shapeless lights around the edges of my vision…and my mom sitting in the chair next to me…still awake. I drifted off again.

Later that morning, after sunrise, I came to some better state of mind, laying in a hospital bed, right leg with a pin through the shin to attach the u-brace which was the traction to keep my femur from growing back together while the stitches healed.

My right leg was twice the size of my left leg. My right pinky and thumb were heavily bandaged and completely numb. My mom was there, and said my dad had come by before going to work. She left to go get a bite to eat. I watched TV for a bit.

Two men I’ve never met came into the room…neither one appearing to be doctors, medical people or otherwise.

One was the guy that ran over me…now sober. The other was his lawyer. They were checking to see if I was alive.

Right then my mother walked back into the room. Chaos ensued. Momma wasn’t happy.

It took me three years to recover fully from that accident. I lost 40 pounds in 6 weeks in the hospital. I had to catch up on two months of schoolwork. Life sucked for me for a long time. The only two pictures I have of this time of my life are the newspaper clipping above, and a very shaky and blurred Polaroid picture of the remains of the motorcycle. Wish I had some images of that recovery, but it’s ok…it’s ingrained in my brain as much as it needs to be.

But…I got better…twas only a flesh wound.

I look back, and stand simply amazed at my life thus far….and how it might have been without the accident…or without surviving it.

So many possibilities….so many potential other outcomes…positive or negative.

You never know when your number might come up…or how hard staying alive might become, given a certain specific set of circumstances.

Never give up. Never surrender. Let everyone that is important in your life….KNOW that they are important in your life.

Always say thank you to everyone….everyday. You don’t know if you’ll ever see them again.

Finally, to all those who I mentioned above, living or passed on, who helped me come back to life after that period of time….thank you, most sincerely, and most assuredly, from the bottom of my heart.

I will continue to keep paying it forward, for the rest of my life.

Updated: December 6, 2015 — 5:45 pm

The Author

Rich Fleetwood

Rich is the founder of SurvivalRing, now in it's 24th year, author of multimedia CDs and DVDs, loves the outdoors, his family, his geeky skill-set, and lives in rural southern Wyoming, just below the continental divide (long story, that...). Always ready to help others, he shares what he learns on multiple blogs, many social sites, and more. With a background in preparedness and survival skills, training with county, state, and national organizations, and skills in all areas of media and on air experience in live radio and television, Rich is always thinking about the "big picture", when it comes to helping individuals and families prepare for life's little surprises.

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