Not On This Day - DangerousWriter.Com Not On This Day

by Jon Wedemeyer

It was one of those beautiful fall days that almost takes your breath away. The sky an amazing dark blue, the cold air is crisp, and gives you a rush all over your body when it touches your face. You feel clean and healthy and glad to be alive. You have to take an extra deep breath and fill your lungs again with that wonderful crisp, fresh air.

I went outside that morning to get my clothes off the line and was transformed by that weather. We lived out in the country, so you hung your clothes on a clothesline to dry. I remember watching my favorite shirt, a bright red henley tee, blowing back and forth in the crisp, November breeze with that insanely blue sky behind it. I just had to walk over and bury my face in it. My red shirt had that wonderful smell and feel that only clothes hung out on the clothesline get.

All these years later and I still don't know why that all sticks out in my memory so vividly. Maybe because it felt so good and smelled so clean, maybe the contrast in colors or maybe just that it made me finally feel better. All I know is I've never forgotten watching that stupid red shirt hanging and blowing back and forth in the breeze, with the impossibly blue sky behind it, the cold air brushing my face and the sun warming me inside and out. Why did that simple sight give me so much calm and comfort? I don't know, but at that moment, for the first time since my girlfriend Cheryl and I had split up, as I grabbed my favorite shirt off the line I actually began letting myself feel better again.

It had only been a few weeks but I missed Cheryl, missed her family and missed New Jersey so much it hurt. When Cheryl and I decided to separate for a while, I came back to my hometown of Gainesville, Florida from Jersey to sort things out and figure out what to do next. I was staying with two of my best friends Ann and Smitty, who lived just outside of Gainesville. They were really good people and I always roomed with them whenever I came into town. It had been very hard leaving Cheryl and things had felt pretty upside down for me, until I walked out the back door that morning and saw that perfect day.

Ann didn't drive so Smitty drove his motorcycle and left his '66 Mustang at the house while he went to work, in case we needed to get into town. When Ann asked me to take her and the dog to the vet, I was only too happy to say yes. That's when we went outside and took the clothes off the line, got dressed, packed her beautiful blonde daughter Lisa and the dog in the car, and headed off to the vet.

We headed north out of their subdivision, which was still under construction, down a paved road and made a 90-degree turn to the left. Now we were headed west into the noon sun and I squinted and smiled as Ann and I giggled at something Lisa had said or done, I don't remember which. I was finally feeling happy for the first time in weeks, and as I let the Mustang wind out in second gear, windows rolled down and cold air streaming in, I began to feel like my old self again, I began to feel like things would all work out.

I looked over at Ann to say something but the words never got out of my mouth. I saw a bright flash of white light and my eyes closed tightly shut. Then I felt the impact. It's hard to describe, like a baseball bat on the side of my face, slamming and ripping my jaw as my face hit the steering wheel. My body twisted sideways then up and my belly hit the steering wheel, bending it grotesquely. I could feel the muscles tearing, the bruising, the instant swelling as I bounced off the wheel and blood started to rush to the impacted areas. I guess that's when the sound caught up in my brain and I heard the crash, the ripping metal and shattering glass. The car was spinning and finally came to rest. I opened my eyes just in time to see a white pickup truck roll over on its side, beer cans rolling out of it, smoke coming from the engine compartment.

My stomach hurt like I had a knife in it, so I looked down to see if I was bleeding. I wasn't, but I knew I was really hurt. I could hear Ann screaming, "Where's my baby, where's my baby!" A shiver ran down my spine as I began to understand what had just happened to us. I looked over at Ann and saw her crumpled over the dashboard in the front seat, arms hanging limply at her side, screaming and looking for Lisa and I realized I was hanging half in and half out of the car door.

My first instinct was to get up and help Ann. I had to find Lisa and makes sure she was OK. I started to move to get out and get up, when I felt something in my stomach rip with a searing pain and I knew something was seriously wrong. My mind switched into an instinctive survival mode, everything went into slow motion and my mind took over my body. Something told me if I panicked, if I moved, if I lost control, I would die. I carefully opened the door the rest of the way and slowly lowered myself to the ground. I bent into a fetal position and started to take control of my body. I slowed my breathing and made myself lose all emotion and fear. I had to save my own life now, by slowing everything down and buying time. I was not going to die. I looked up at the blue sky. Not here, not now, not on this day.

The next thing I knew there were people all over, talking to me, talking to Ann. I heard Lisa's voice and I heard them telling Ann that Lisa was fine. A wave of relief washed over me. They said an ambulance was on its way and I knew if I could just hang on I could make it. I was so glad to hear Lisa's little voice and know she was OK. It didn't seem like long yet it seemed like forever and then the paramedics were there. My stomach was swelling up really bad by now and it was getting hard. The paramedic looked under my shirt and touched my belly and quickly turned and called for a life flight. We were only ten miles out of town. I knew then I was in deep trouble, but I was not going to give up.

Someone was holding my hand and it helped me focus. I was able to stay in a calm, almost meditative state and kept telling myself, "Breathe slow, make your heart beat slower, slower, slower, you control your body, don't let yourself die. Do not feel fear! Dying is NOT an option here, dying is NOT an option here. Keep your heart beating slow. Stay in control, save your life, save your life."

I could hear the chopper in the distance, getting louder and closer until it was so close it was all I could hear. I could hear the turbine and blades slowing and winding down and finally stop as they got me ready to move into the chopper. More people around me, lifting me up on the gurney, getting the I.V. in, taking my vital signs.

The ground was bumpy and I was bounced around as they got me to the chopper. I could smell the grass, smell the leftover exhaust, feel the cold air, and then they had me inside. All I could see were the white helmets, with huge black visors lifted up and blue uniforms. Their eyes showing concern. I could hear the crackle of the radio as they called in my vitals and my injuries. It didn't sound good but I was not going to give up.

They went to start up the chopper again to leave and it didn't start. I heard them call in a turbine misfire and the pilot told the medic they would have to wait one full minute for it to completely wind down before they could try it again. My heart sank and I felt sick. I could fight to stay alive, but I had no control over this, I screamed to myself, "My God, this can not be happening, I can not die like this, it's got to start." The chopper shook hard as they tried to start it again, the turbine whined then choked once and caught and came to life, the blades churning faster and faster until the tail finally tilted up and we roared off to Shands Medical Center in Gainesville.

I remember thinking back to my Army days when I got to fly in choppers, thinking this was one hell of way to get another ride and how I'd give anything to be back there right now. Wishing I could be a little boy again with my mom holding me tight. A million memories started flooding through my brain, all different parts of my life. For the first time I started to think I might not make it. I couldn't be weak; I had to fight even harder now. I pushed those thoughts out of my mind and summoned the courage to ask the flight nurse if I was going to die. I was afraid of the answer but I had to know. She looked into my eyes for a second and said, "Just hang in there, you can make it." I listened to them calling in my condition and my vitals until we landed.

I was rushed through a tunnel and into the operating room. I watched as they cut my red shirt off me, now with blood all over it from my face, then they cut off my jeans and even my boots. The operating room felt so cold I was shivering and begging them to turn up the heat. They put a blanket on me and I was shaking underneath it as I started to go deeper into shock. I started to shake even harder when they took off the blanket to prep my stomach.

One of the nurses asked me if there was anyone I wanted them to call and for some reason I didn't want anyone to worry, so I told her no. All I could think to say was, "If anything happens, please just tell Cheryl I loved her." I was shaking so bad now my body was bouncing up off the table. I felt myself slipping away and I couldn't stop it anymore, and that really pissed me off. I grabbed my soul by the throat and commanded it that dying was not an option, it cannot, will not happen. The nurse asked me what Cheryl's phone number was. I tried to force my brain to make my mouth work and tell them her number at work, but one of them said, "Forget it, we've got to get him under," and he started to put the anesthesia mask on my face. The first nurse said, "No, wait!" the second nurse hesitated, but still put the mask on my face. The first nurse loudly asked again, "What's Cheryl's number!" and took the mask off long enough for me to whisper her number, then she quickly rushed out of the room.

They had the mask on my face and were trying to to put me under when I finally went into convulsions. I was jerking up and down off the table even faster now as I heard one of them say "We can't wait any longer, open him up!" I was dying.

I thought to myself, "Crap Jon, this is really bad, but dying is just not an option, it just cannot happen. It is not an option, you have to have tomorrows, you can't die, it's not an option..." over and over again. "You have to live. Hold on. Fight this damnit!" They were holding down the mask, telling me to breathe in as I felt the icy-hot blade run down from my chest to my crotch. I felt them opening up and stretching out my belly as I faded into a soft white haze. I felt a total relief and calmness come over me as I followed that soft white light to nowhere. I wasn't in pain anymore, I wasn't cold anymore, I wasn't really anywhere anymore, but I wasn't going to let go. The next thing I remember was hearing Cheryl's voice.

God bless that nurse. Cheryl had gotten the call just as she was leaving work and took the first flight out from Jersey. A few minutes more and she wouldn't have found out until the next day. Hearing Cheryl's voice in the CICU was a real turning point for me. It's amazing what that did for me. First I realized I was still alive. But how did she get here so fast? How long had it been? Cheryl was here now, I wasn't on my own anymore. That gave me strength and I knew from that moment on that somehow I would make it. I couldn't move, I couldn't lift my head, I couldn't see clearly. Was it really her, was she really here? Was I just dreaming?

I saw her dark curly hair coming toward me, then her huge, brown eyes looking down into mine, her beautiful smile. I could barely focus but I could see in her eyes that I must have looked bad. She was trying really hard to ignore the tubes and the bruising on my face, but I also saw in her eyes she was here to see this through with me, no matter how it turned out. I pictured her making my funeral arrangements and looking down at my casket. That made me furious. How could I do this to her? Why did I have them call her! No way was I going to die on her. I've got to make it. Thank God she came. Thank God she's here. I need her so bad. I'm not alone anymore. She's not alone anymore. I cannot let myself die. There have to be tomorrows. Cheryl's here, I can rest for a minute and catch my breath now. I drifted back to sleep.

Cheryl and Jon were married less than a year later. They have a beautiful son David who is now 16 years old.

Jon recovered from the accident but had two feet of his colon removed and lost 1/3 of his right kidney. He found out later that he had died three times on the operating table and kept fighting to come back, but had not been expected to make it.

Cheryl has a successful career with a major printer company and Jon was a pioneer of the early days of the Internet.

They are separated now but are still best friends and confidants and have a special bond. They always will.

Ann suffered severe injuries to both her hands when they struck the dashboard. After hand surgery she recovered completely. Lisa thankfully was not injured. The dog was fine.

The occupants of the truck that hit them were not injured. The driver had a suspended license and no insurance. There had been no stop signs put up on the side roads of the subdivision yet.

The car Jon was driving, a '66 Mustang, was manufactured before seat belt laws took effect and had no seat belts. Jon was one of the few people at the time who always insisted on wearing a seat belt and would have been wearing one that day. The truck hit the car on the driver's side, right in front of the driver. The entire front end of the car from the windshield up was essentially gone.