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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
Jeff Anderson works as a computer consultant in Indianapolis Indiana working
in the computer field since 1983.
Friday, September 01, 2000
© 2000 Jeff Anderson