Tag: Car Crash

First Crash—Part Two

Link to Part One


“The Doctor is on his way,” Mom said.

“Another one?” I whined.

“The Doctor who did your operation,” Mom said. “The Plastic Surgeon!” She pulled out a compact mirror from her Sunday purse and applied a fresh layer of fuchsia lipstick.

“Can he fix my ears?” I asked.

“Stop being silly!” she said, combing my hair with her fingers.

The Doctor entered the room. His long white overcoat fluttered behind him like the cape of a superhero. I recognized his eyes from the operating room.  Now I could see the rest of his face. The dense shadow of his beard emphasized his strong jaw, and the little dent in his chin. His dark wavy hair was combed back behind his ears and fell over his collar.

“Hi there,” he said. “I’m Dr. Mancini, you can call me Dr. Mike.” None of the other Doctors ever said a word to me. He positioned my head in his hands and came in close to examine my eye.

“Now, open your eye, as much as you can,” he said.

Blurry at first, his face gradually came into focus. That moment, I almost forgot that I was in a hospital bed, and that I had injuries. Maybe that’s how Jesus healed people, I thought. Maybe He was so beautiful, people forgot they were sick, and got better.

“Now,” the Doctor said. “Follow the tip of my pen with both eyes. It might hurt a little, just do the best you can.” He raised his ballpoint in front of my face. His knuckles were hairy, like my Dad’s. He drew up and down.

“Look at the pen, not me” he said. Then his pen went side to side, and around.

“Good,” he said, placing the pen back in his pocket. “Here’s the good news; I’m going to let you go home today with your Mom and Dad.”

Mom closed her eyes, saying a silent thank you.

“Bad news is,” he said. “I don’t want you to play any sports, for the next couple of months.”

I blushed.

“He doesn’t like sports,” Bobby said.

“No?” The Doctor smiled, revealing pretty white teeth and said, “I didn’t like sports either when I was your age. I just want you to be careful, okay—so everything can heal.”

“Sure,” I said. I felt a thousand smiles burst inside me.

After writing something on my chart, he gave my Mom a business card and said, “I’d like to see him in two weeks.” He shook my Dad’s hand on his way out the door.

I changed into my own clothes as Mom gathered the Get Well cards. She insisted on making my hospital bed even though the nurse told her to let it be.

“See ya, Bobby,” I said, but he ignored me.

A nurse pushed me in a wheelchair to the front of the hospital where Dad was waiting with the car.

When we got home my baby sister screamed and cried when she saw me, like I was a monster or something. Cheri still had cuts and scratches on her face. Her big brown eyes were tearing up.

“I’m so, so, sorry Billy,” she said, handing the baby over to my Mom.

“It was an accident,” I said.

“But I want you to know that I’m really, really, sorry,”

“I know,” I said, and we hugged.

“You should have seen Billy’s Doctor,” Mom said, changing the subject. “He was a cross between Rock Hudson and Tony Curtis!”

“He looked like a hippy, if you ask me,” said Dad.


I spent a lot of my time listening to records and hanging out in the backyard since watching TV gave me a headache.

I wasn’t ready to be around people, but Mom insisted on church.  In Sunday school, I was made to stand on the podium next to Sister Calhoun. I stared at the carpet as she addressed the congregation of children.

“Boys and girls, we are blessed this day,” She stretched her hand towards me like I was a set of luggage on a TV game show. “Standing before us is a modern day miracle!”

I glanced up and saw my friend Marcy snickering. I had to grit my teeth to not laugh.

“If not for the priesthood blessing that Billy received in the hospital, he might have turned out blind, crippled, disfigured for life, or even dead!” My pursed lips made a farting noise, which evoked giggles from the congregation.

Unfazed, Sister Calhoun dramatically continued, “When he’s on his mission, he can share his miraculous story!”

I felt dizzy and I wanted to sit down but Sister Calhoun insisted I stand beside her while she led the children in another song. Ten, nine, eight, seven, I counted backwards like Dr. Mike, six, five, until it was all blurred out.


Mom drove me to Salt Lake for my appointment with Dr. Mike. His office was in a big building and we took an elevator to the third floor. The arch of letters on the frosted glass door read, Dr. Michael T. Mancini M.D.  I almost didn’t recognize him. His whiskers had thickened, like he hadn’t shaved for a few days, and his long, messed up hair flipped out under his surgeon’s cap. He looked like a pirate with really nice teeth.

He examined the incision he had made in the crease under my eye and asked me again to follow his pen as he moved it around.

“I’m happy with the progress. The red is diminishing and his mobility is almost normal,” he said, turning to my Mom. “I don’t think you need to bring him back. I’ll remove the stitches on his leg and you’re good to go.”

He pulled out some scissors and tweezers, and then positioned me on the table cupping my calf muscle in his giant hand. “This might pinch a little.”

“Um, Dr. Mike?” I said.

“Yeah,” He said, as he started to snip and tug on the suture.

After a pause, I said, “Could you fix my ears?”

“Billy!” Mom said, shaking her head in disapproval “I told you not to bring that up!”

“Your ears?” Dr. Mike said, furrowing his thick, dark eyebrows. “What’s wrong with your ears?”

“This one,” pointing to my left ear, “ is lower than the other one, and they both stick out”.

“He was born with his left ear folded over.” Mom said. “They told us it would straighten out, and it did.”

“Ears are supposed to stick out,” the beautiful surgeon said. He looked closer. “Hmmm,” he said, with his turquoise eyes darting back and forth. “I don’t really see a problem here.”

“See Billy, what did I tell you,” Mom said.

“Kids at school making fun of you?” He said, carefully removing another stitch.


“Kids can be ignorant,” said the Doctor. He removed the last stitch and gave me a big smile “You look fine! Nobody’s ears line up exactly,” he said. “The important thing is that you can hear. Right?”

“Yeah,” I said, looking down. I didn’t want my time with him to be over.

He patted me on the back and shook my Mother’s hand.

“Nice to see you, Mrs. Lunt,” he said. “Enjoy your afternoon.”

My heart sank as he left the room, because I knew I’d never see him again.


I continued to heal and feel better as the summer progressed. I even went to an amusement park called Lagoon with my friend Sam.  We went on all the rides and rode the roller coaster twice. We went through the Haunted House where there was a mirror maze. It was like the three-way mirrors at Penny’s—times a hundred. A thousand identical versions of myself, bounced back and forth in all angles and directions as I moved about.  Which one is me? They all had my eyes, and my ears. They were all laughing, and having a great time being a normal kid.

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Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

First Crash — Part One

IMG_2150This is Part One of a two part story about the time I was in a car accident.


By the age of nine, I knew I was different. When I got into a car crash, I started realizing why.

Mom asked my sister Cheri to go to Penny’s to get some shirts for my Dad’s Birthday. Mom had to stay home, take care of my baby sister, bake a cake, and prepare a fancy dinner. Dad would say, “Beverly, now don’t make a fuss over my Birthday,” but she would always make a fuss.

“Stop at the Arctic Circle on your way home, and get me a Coke,” she told my sister.

“Mom,” I said, “Sister Calhoun says that Mormons aren’t supposed to drink Coke.

Mom handed Cheri a ten-dollar bill and the keys to our white Mercury Comet.

“Get me a Large,” She said.

“Can I go?” I begged.

“I don’t care,” my sister said.

I jumped in the car and bounced up and down on the seat, excited at the chance to tag along.

While Cheri was purchasing the shirts, I browsed through records. Rock stars all had long hair in 1969. I wanted long hair too. I stepped in front of a three-way mirror in the men’s department, and cringed when I saw my reflection. My ears stuck out, fanning wide from my head.  I pushed them back, as if somehow they would magically stay put. My father was a barber; hiding them under long hair would never be an option for me. I’d been self-conscious about my ears ever since Doreen Duncan and Edna Bird, from church, were visiting my Mom one day, after school.  Sister Duncan stopped me and examined me like I was an unruly houseplant that needed pruning. “You know Beverly,” she said to Mom. “You should get him some glasses, they would distract from the unevenness of his ears and, you know, give him some symmetry.”

“Oh, he’d look sophisticated too, just like his Father,” Sister Bird added sweetly, in a high pitched voice.

I ran and locked myself in the bathroom.  I held a comb in front of my reflection to measure, and sure enough, my ears didn’t quite line up, and they stuck out. “I’m a freak,” I told my myself. All my insecurities and feelings of being different were now concentrated on the two flaps of skin and cartilage protruding from either side of my head. For weeks, I slept with one of my Mothers nylon stockings over my head in hopes that my ears would flatten. Now, forlorned at the three-way mirror at Penny’s, I realized that plastic surgery might me my only hope.

My sister brushed by me with the shirts.

“Let’s go,” she said.

At the Arctic Circle, Cheri ordered two large Cokes and a small orange soda for me. She put the drinks next to the shirts on the front seat. With the windows rolled down, the dry summer air blew in our faces and tousled our hair as we drove off with the radio blasting.

I don’t remember the drinks spilling. I don’t remember the car crashing into the telephone pole or my head hitting the dashboard.  I don’t remember the neighbourhood kids gathered around the car, gawking, peering in, and pointing while my sister screamed for help. I was covered in blood, Coke, and ice. My eyes were open and glazed over. Cheri thought I was dead. I remember sounds. My sister crying. She never cried in front of me; always hid in her room. A man’s voice: “Wake up, wake up!” And my own voice, disconnected, crying, “Please God! Please,” and then the howl of the siren devoured everything.

After being unconscious for two days, I emerged into a world of beeping noises and a throbbing pain. In a spinning room, nurses darted back and forth in streaks of white. I noticed a girl with short brown hair in a bed across me. Was it Cheri?  Everything was blurry.


A nurse with a soft voice said, “Hi sweetie, you’re at Primary Children’s Hospital. You’ve been in an accident, understand?” I nodded and realized that the brown-haired girl across the room wasn’t my sister. My right eye and head were bandaged up and there were tubes sticking my arm.

“Where’s my Mom?”

“She just left.” Said the nurse. “She’s been sitting here by your side all day. Your Dad will be here soon.”

I wanted my Mom and cried out for her. The nurse gave me a shot.

I woke up in a different room, away from the beeps, with light coming only from the hallway. Drifting in and out, I was relieved that Mom was sitting beside me. She held an open magazine on her lap, but wasn’t reading it.

“Stay with me,” I said.

She put the magazine down and held my hand. “Daddy, Grandpa and Uncle Mel gave you a blessing last night. The doctors are going to operate on your eye. It’s going to be okay. We’ll be right here.”

Silhouetted figures hovered over me. I was lifted onto a gurney and pushed down a corridor. I heard footsteps on either side as oblong lights passed over me.  We burst into a very bright room. I had to squint. That’s when I saw him, the surgeon, standing over me. His eyes were aquamarine blue, like the shallow end of a swimming pool. He had long dark eyelashes and dense eyebrows. A mask covered his mouth and nose. The bright lights behind him radiated out from his back like an angel in a painting. His ears didn’t stick out like mine; they elegantly hugged his head as if they had been sculpted out of marble.

“We’re going to make you sleep.” He said in a deep gentle voice.  He put something over my mouth and nose. “Now, count backwards from ten, like this, ten, nine, eight, seven, six”. I didn’t say anything. I just dissolved.

I awoke in a room with a big window and what looked like an oversized baby crib. A skinny boy with a plaster cast on his head, like a motorcycle helmet, peered through the bars and waved. “Hi, “he said.

I responded with a, raspy, “Hi.”

“I’m Bobby,” he said.

“Um,” I was drowsy.

“You’re Billy. They told me.”

“Oh,” I said. “What happened to your head?”

He was quiet, then after a few minutes he said, “You like to shoot?”

“No,” I said.

“You like to Fish?”

“Don’t know, I’ve never tried,” I said.

“Oh,” he said walking his legs up and down the bars at the foot of his bed. “ You like football?”

“No,” I said.


“Not really,” I said.


I shook my head.

“Hmm,” he said. “What do you like?”

“Setting off firecrackers in tomatoes and watching them explode,” I lied. Mom never let me have firecrackers.

“I blew up a peach once,” he said.

“Did it look like brains?” I asked. He started laughing and then we both laughed.

“I sleepwalk,” Bobby said, thumping his fingers across the bars. “That’s why I’m in this stupid bed.”

I kicked my leg out from under the covers to expose the jagged gash on my leg, all stitched up, looking like a clutter of spiders.

“Wow!” Bobby said. How did that happen?”

Car accident,”

“Ouch!” Bobby said.

“I don’t remember anything.

I became acquainted with bedpans, awkward sponge baths, ugly hospital pajamas, nasty hospital food, and the nurses waking me up in the middle of the night to take my temperature. Some nurses were nice. Some were cranky, but they were all just nameless faces that would come and go.

One day chubby orderly with curly red hair showed up and pushed Bobby and his bed out of the room. He looked like a clown with a circus animal.  Bobby fired his finger-laser at me through the bars. I faked getting hit and fell back on my pillow. When I closed my good eye and opened my bloody eye, Bobby said I made a pretty convincing corpse.

“Where’re you going?” I said.

“It’s movie day,” said the orderly. “I’ll be back.”

I lowered myself off the bed for the first time and walked over to the window. The entire Salt Lake Valley stretched out in front of me. The rocky granite peaks extended far into the distance. Dotted with buildings, the valley was bursting with shades of mossy green, and the sky was that kind of vibrant blue that you only see in summer. Summer wait for me, I need to catch up.
The orderly showed up with a wheelchair and pushed me to the hospital cafeteria, which was set up like a theatre. He positioned my chair on the front row, just as the lights went out. A nurse was passing out ice cream sandwiches. I looked behind me and saw the room full of sick kids, some in wheelchairs, some in beds, some all hooked up to machines, looking up to the screen.  Next to me, a little girl without any hair, held a stuffed elephant in her lap. A cartoon lit up the screen and a chorus of cheers erupted.  After a few minutes I had to close my eyes because my head hurt, but I didn’t care, I just listened to the kids laughing, reacting and eating their ice cream. With my eyes closed, it sounded like we were all normal, healthy kids. It sounded like hope.

Read Part Two



Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

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