All I had to do was push the throttle forward and pull back on the stick, and none of this would have happened.
That’s why my eyes glaze over whenever someone tries to sooth the reality of life-changing injuries with some mystical nonsense like, “Everything happens for a reason.” In my case, I know the reason; I didn’t add power and pull back on the stick when the glare of the late afternoon sun got in my eyes, and a gust of wind pushed my right wingtip into the trees at the little grass airstrip where I was landing my airplane.
Also, you might have heard it said that shock always numbs the pain immediately after a traumatic injury. This too, I can report, is bunk. I was dazed and confused after the nose of the airplane augured into the ground, and I might have been content to take a little nap right there, except for the pain, which was immediate and intense. I couldn’t move or see my legs, both of which were still attached, although they had been thrown out the window next to my seat when I was turned sideways by the impact, with my seatbelt still fastened. In fact, the only limb I could move was my left arm, which I used to grab my cell phone and call my friend Mike, who lived at the far end of the runway.
By then the greatest volunteer fireman in the world had arrived, willing to sit on the wing of a crashed airplane in a pool of 100 octane avgas and talk to me while keeping some traction on my legs. The rest of the Berkley Fire and Police departments were not far behind, and with some technical advice about airplane structures from Mike, they soon had me out and strapped to a backboard, just as the Med Flight helicopter was landing to whisk me away.
“How are you doing?” the flight paramedic asked.
“I want drugs.”
This, from non-drinker who hesitates to take anti-histamines because of the side effects.
I have to admit that I got a little nervous when I heard the Med Flight crew passing their assessment of my injuries to the ER on the radio, but that was also when I managed to close my eyes and do some deep breathing. I was in good hands.
The ER crew at Massachusetts General Hospital was playing the Top Gun Anthem on the stereo when the Med Flight guys wheeled me in. Maybe they always do that for the helicopter crews, but it actually made me laugh, considering how I got into this mess. They told me that I had multiple compound fractures of both legs, and a severely dislocated right shoulder. Then they asked me at least a dozen times if my head or chest hurt, as if they ought to.
Of course I couldn’t see what the orthopedic team was doing when they came in and hovered around my legs, but I soon realized that they were re-arranging the bones into a semblance of alignment. So I did my best to sound nonchalant when I asked, “Hey Doc, will I walk again?”
“I think so,” the surgeon replied.