Auto Accident of April 22 1982

I was involved in an auto accident in St. Louis Missouri during the spring of 1982. This accident forever changed my life in the way I view alcohol, non-responsible individuals, and pain. I have learned to live with the resulting injuries and the emotional affects as well.

While living in St. Louis, I was working at Citicorp Information Resources office located on Indian Head Industrial Blvd in the spring of 1982. A close friend, Tammy Rawlings came in to work the third shift starting at 11PM. I got off at 11PM, but stayed to talked with Tammy until ten after 11.

I left Citicorp at 11:10, and was in the accident at 11:12. I was traveling eastbound on Olive Boulevard in a tan Chevy Monza with a sunroof. The car was a small compact two-door car with a hatchback, high back bucket seats, console between the seats with a gearshift in the console. As I pulled up to a stoplight, I took off my seat belt to get my lighter out of pocket, as I smoked then.

Olive Boulevard is a five-lane road, two lanes east and west separated by a turning lane. I was in the right most lane, behind one car, and there was a car beside me. When the light turned green, the car that was beside me in the left lane was very slow. The car in the left-hand lane in front was fast and soon pulled away. The car in front of me, in the right hand lane was slower than the other car in front, but faster than the car beside me. Soon, there was a large enough gap in the left-hand lane between the front car and the car in the rear, and the car in front of me. Using my turn signal, I moved in to the left-hand lane and sped up slightly to come along side the car in the right hand lane. This is the last thing I remember about what occurred before the car accident.

When I awoke there were five paramedics working on me. I was in a sitting position with my legs straight out in front of me. There was a parametric behind me holding me up and my head straight, one by each shoulder and one along each leg.

I could not see out of my left eye, and the view from my right eye was limited. It was like looking through a photographer's lens that had been coated with Vaseline for affect. This was due to the blood that had run into my eye. The left eye's vision was restricted due to the eyelid being cut and unable to then open itself.

The paramedics worked on me, around my head and were talking to me. The emergency vehicle lights were a blurry strobe of blue and red. At first I could not hear their words, instead my mind raced in an attempt to make sense of what was occurring. I thought that I had been in a fire at home, and that the emergency personnel had gotten me out of the house through the back window.

The present became clearer and clearer. I was starting to make sense of what I was hearing from the paramedics. They were telling me to be still and that I had been in an accident. A policeman walked up to my left and said he needed my driver's license. He said his name was John Kennedy. I said to help himself, it was in my wallet, in left rear pocket.

The other driver had fallen asleep and crossed the centerline where he hit my car almost head on. The impact of the car propelled me into the steering wheel where I hit my forehead above my left eye with such force that all of the skin died. As I was propelled forward, the other driver's car front left fender broke free from his car and impaled itself in my driver's car seat at neck height. The fender flew in through my front windshield as I was hitting my head upon the steering wheel. From the backward momentum, I flew backwards into the drivers seat. When this occurred I was terribly cut, torn and lacerated by the razor edged fender. Had I not taken off my seat belt, allowing me to move forward away from the car seat, the fender would of hit me in the neck and decapitated me.
1982 accident showing fending through windshield
Upon impact of the cars, my driver's side window glass exploded into a hail of splinters like a shotgun blast. Striking me on my left shoulder, neck and face. The leather jacket I was wearing took the blast to my left shoulder and arm.

The paramedics worked on the lacerations, preparing me for transport to the hospital, getting me 'stable'.

Luckily the accident occurred almost right in front of the firehouse located on Olive Boulevard, so they emergency team which initially responded did not have far to travel. In all likelihood, they probably heard the impact.

I was placed onto a gurney and taken via ambulance to St. Johns Hospital in St. Louis. During the trip the paramedics continues to work on me, and one radioed ahead with vital statistics. I was asked questions, which most would consider strange, but was asked to gauge the possibility of brain damage.

When I arrived at the hospital, I was wheeled into a trauma center and the attending nurses started to cut off my cloths. They covered me with a sheet, gave me shots, probably for pain, and the attendants started to clean my wounds. Someone came in and informed me that they had called my family. By that time, I had enough time to contemplate the seriousness of the situation, and come to grips that no matter how bad the injuries, there was nothing I could do to reverse them.

While the attendants worked cleaning my injuries, I thought about things. Some length of time later, my wives mothers husband, Charlie arrived. He came in; having supportive words and sent in my wife Annette. Immediately when Annette came through the swinging doors and saw me she burst into low wails and crying.

Until that time I thought I was not that bad off with injuries. No one had said either way. Charlie came in when he heard her and guided her back out into the waiting room. The attendant then came by and said they had paged one of the best surgeons and plastic surgeon in the city. OK, now I was concerned.

What seemed like hours later, and was probably an hour later, a man came in and introduced himself as the surgeon. A likeable man right away. He studied my injuries and then after conferencing with the others informed me that after cleaning me up, I would be taken to a room and operated on first thing in the morning the next day.

The next day I was woke up early and given a shot to help me relax. I was placed onto a gurney and wheeled into the 'hall of surgery' where others were lined up along the walls to wait their turn. I was first in line and just after a very short wait, was wheeled into the operating room. There were a number of people in the OR, and they lifted me onto the operating table.

The people milled around preparing for the show. I was watching them and listening to the music playing over the PA system. A toe tapping Willie Nelson song, which in my shot-up condition, made me keep time with my foot. The anesthesiologist, a man sitting behind me on a stool, asked me if I was nervous. No, I informed him, I had always liked this song.

He said he would give me a shot to get ready for the surgery and to relax me. I saw him slip the syringe into the IV and gently depress the plunger. Almost immediately I could feel the drugs affects. The doctor came into the OR soon after, introduced everybody around and the anesthesiologist gave me the rest of the shot, which is the last thing I remember occurring.

The surgery was to suture the deep cuts on my head, and to perform a dermabrasion. This is a procedure where a specific number of layers of skin are removed by an abrasion. The blast of splinted glass had peppered my left side.

The first thing I remember after the surgery was waking up in the recovery room with seriously intense pain. I was lying on my side, my entire head was bandaged and I was still having trouble talking. I started moaning and a nurse came over to me, asking if I wanted something for the pain. With an agreeable moan, she understood I did. It felt as if someone was holding a flame-thrower on my face. The burning pain seared into my brain. Throughout the day I was given additional pain medication.
1982 accident showing fending through windshield
I woke up in my room later; the family was there. My mom and dad had traveled from Indianapolis to St. Louis to see me. My head was still completely bandaged. Only holes for my eyes, nose and mouth were uncovered. I could talk with great difficulty, and only spoke when I had too.

Eating was very hard too. Since I had struck my head extremely hard, every tooth in my head was loose. I could feel them shift when I attempted to chew. Combined with having my head bandaged, it was difficult to eat. I did not eat anything until the second or third day after the accident. Then I subsisted on green beans for a number of days, pushing them in lengthwise through the slit in the bandage and swallowing them whole lest my teeth moving around gross me out.

Three days after the initial surgery the surgeon came into my room to remove the bandages which have been covering my face since. The surgeon and I discussed the expected results he desired. He said that these results would take time. He slowly unwrapped the bandages from my head. As the exposed flesh was exposed to the air the heat of the flame-thrower like pain returned. It was almost as if I had the entire dermabrasion procedure performed again. A liberal amount of a translucent suave was applied to my head by the surgeon.

The doctor then asked me to look at myself so we could discuss the injuries. Up to that point I had not seen the damage caused by the accident, nor had I wanted to see. When I refused the doctor's request, he insisted and handed me a mirror. I looked at myself for the first time in almost two weeks and tears came to my eyes. What I saw in the mirror can only be described as a scene from the early 1980's B movie "The Incredible Melting Man." I saw in the mirror a huge number of stitches all over my face, with the reddish tinge of the removal of skin layers visible through the suave that gave my face a melting appearance.

After I was released from the hospital, I was instructed to remain out of direct sunlight for any extended periods of time. For the first few weeks after the accident, I hardly left the house. I still had on many bandages at first, then after a few days I took them off. The stitches were still in, so I tended to attract the stares of others. I started back to work the next week, which was the only place I went to practically the entire summer.

It was very difficult to drive initially. I was nervous, and jumpy. Once when I was driving up Lemay Ferry Road a car not even close to me slammed on their brakes causing a loud screeching skidding sound. I almost jumped out of my skin, and had to pull over to the curb until the shakes and twitching subsided.

I distinctly remember the stares from others at a gas station when I was fueling up my car. I looked like Frankenstein from all of the stitches in my head, and after a while I grew resentful of the stares and comments of others. This too did not prompt me to get out into public.

I had a number of surgeries in late 1982 and early 1983. My last surgery was in 1983 when I went in to St. Johns to have the large flap scar modified so that it would be less recognizable. Under local anesthetic, the surgeon trimmed the large scar area and altered the cut into a zigzag formation. This procedure allowed the scarring to blend in with the natural creases lines on ones face.

It was strange lying there during this procedure. Listening to the cutting and tugging of the scalpel and sutures. I can not find the words to describe the sounds and feelings. When the procedure was complete, they again wrapped my head and then found that they could not get the surgical shirt off of me that they had me put on to go into surgery wearing. When done with the post operation procedures, the nurse gave me a shot of morphine and we left for home. I remember getting into the car before the drugs took full effect, leaning my head against the back of the rear seat and then falling asleep as the drugs hit me. I woke up when we arrived home, groggily walked with assistance to the bedroom where I promptly fell back to sleep. When I woke the next day, the drugs had worn off and it felt as if someone had hit me with a two by four on my forehead. The rectangle area where the cutting and stitching took place throbbed with a dull ache.

When I did go out, I only went outside wearing a hat during the day. I received very little support from my wife Annette, who failed to understand the emotional and mental problems I was enduring due to the accident and injuries.

After being released from the hospital, I met with attorney Bill Albreck to discuss the injury compensation. Final resolution of the injury cases like this can not be made until the extents of all medical conditions are known. Which in my case could not be determined until after the last re-constructive surgery occurred.

It was agreed to sue for compensation in the amount of $265,000. I was requested by the attorney to take periodic pictures of myself, which would document the progress, or lack thereof. The agreement with the attorney was that his fee would be one third of any settlement or if the settlement were the minimum, his fee would be his regular hourly rate. Suing the other driver turned out to be worthless since we later found that the other diver had the state of Missouri's minimum amount of liability coverage, which was then $25,000. This was due to his have an extensive driving record infraction. Eventually, we settled with the insurance company for the liability amount. In the end, very little of the money came my way. The majority going towards medical and my ex wife Annette.

My insurance agent nor my attorney every mentioned the possibility of collecting for underinsurred motorist from my auto policy.

I kept the clothes I was wearing during the accident until approximately 1986. At that time, the court case was officially closed. There was no reason to keep the clothes or pictures any longer. I gathered all of the photos, and the box of blood and glass covered clothes and burned them in my roommate's fireplace.

In the ensuing years since the accident, I have made countless visits to medical doctors and chiropractors. I get regular adjustments from the chiropractor, which has provided relief from all sorts of aches and pains. There are instances where one minute I feel fine and the next I have a serious headache. I may wake up one morning with a pounding pain so bad I can not get out of bed, I throw up anything I eat, and sounds and lights are painful. As if I had been on a weeklong bender which has suddenly caught up to me. I can have a serious hangover without drinking alcohol. I can feel like death warmed over one minute, my neck pop, and suddenly I feel great. It is very strange feeling and it awes me that I can feel so good so fast after feeling so bad. Slivers of glass would sometimes make their way up through my skin, poping out but with blood; the last large sliver occurring in 1987.

During March 2000, while visiting my medical doctor, he suggested that I get an updated MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). The results were "focal spondylotic changes at C6-7 and central bulging of the annulus. The annulus bulges diffusely transversely. There is mild narrowing of the foramina bilaterally incident to small uncovertebral spurs. The disk at the other levels are within acceptable limits." This is indicative of severe whiplash trauma.

The events of April 22 1983 will always be in my memories. The time may pass, the events become somewhat blurred. But every day, during a small portion, or all day, I live with pain caused by the whiplash. I have developed a tolerance towards it, while developing a reduction in tolerance to individuals who complain greatly about minor pain which they only experience one a month or irregularly. In the years since the accident, I have came into contact with more than one individual who was in a very minor accident, who walked away with more money than most individuals make in a year, yet still complain about the little amount of funds they received. I call them greedy and unappreciative. All I got was pain, no understanding from my (ex) spouse, little monetary compensation, prescription cost for life. The greatest compensation I received was an appreciation of life.

Jeff Anderson works as a computer consultant in Indianapolis Indiana working in the computer field since 1983.

By Jeff Anderson
Friday, September 01, 2000
© 2000 Jeff Anderson