Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Lessons Learned From An Accident

By George M. Graham Jr.

As I was standing  at the doorway getting ready to leave, the dentist said to me, “George, evidently God’s not done with you yet.” I thought to myself what a positive perspective regarding a potentially dangerous situation I had recently endured. My next thought was he may very well have a good point.

Just a few days before, I had been working on the back deck at our home. I dropped something over the edge and it landed on the 2nd tier of a three level retaining wall behind our house. I walked down the steps from the back deck and headed over to the top of the upper retaining wall.

1st Lesson – Slow Down and Focus on the Present Moment

I tend to get in such a hurry sometimes that I forget to slow down and take my time. In this situation, I had been working outside for a while and it was starting to get dark. I was tired and wanted to finish up so I could go inside and have a cup of coffee. What happened next reminded me how important it is to slow down, take my time, and focus on the present moment.

My intention was to step over the first wall and onto a piling on the 2nd level to retrieve the item I had dropped. As I did, I somehow slipped and started falling. As I fell forward I must have hit the right side of my head on the retaining wall on the 2nd level because later I had blood all over my face.

Evidently, my body flipped completely over so my feet were going in the opposite direction as I fell to the bottom of the first level retaining wall. I was wedged between the house and the retaining wall where there are about two feet of space.

Somehow, I had managed to go across three retaining walls and fall about 12 feet from where I was taking my first step. Initially, I was stunned and didn’t realize what had just happened. I tried to gather my thoughts and assess what was going on.

2nd Lesson – Pay Attention to Details

What I did not know at the time were the shoes I had on, which I wore when working outside, had no tread left on them at all. They were completely smooth on the bottom. Had I been paying attention to my shoes, I would never have worn them. They may very well have contributed to my fall. Needless to say, they were placed in the trash bin.

I started my descent at letter A and landed at the bottom, wedged between the house and the retaining wall, at letter B.

I was laying on my left side, on top of my left arm, with the left side my face in the dirt. My right arm was above my head and bent so that my right hand was in my face covering my right eye. I could not move my head, my right arm, or my right leg. I immediately began talking to God.

As I was doing this, I realized I couldn’t breathe very well because part of my face was in the sand and part of my face was covered by my hand. As I kept talking to God and to myself, I was finally able to move my arm just a little so that I could see and breathe easier.

I could feel blood running down my face. I coughed and when I did, I spit up blood. I knew I had to move. I could not stay in this position. I needed help.

At that point, I was able to cry out for help. Unfortunately, my wife was inside the house, three levels up, and could not hear me. I kept telling myself I had to move. Finally, I was able to move my arm a little more, and I discovered I had absolutely no feeling in my right hand or fingers.

After what seemed like hours, I moved my arm all the way down from above my head and managed to stretch out my leg enough to move. I dragged myself, at first, because my right side was not cooperating properly. This was when I realized that my neck and shoulders were in immense pain.

3rd Lesson – Be Empathetic and Understanding

Although I have been in Special Education for over 38 years and worked with students with all types of significant disabilities, I realized I never fully understood what it must be like to be unable to move, walk, or communicate independently. As I was lying there, telling my body parts to move, I thought how frustrating it must be for those individuals who are unable to get their body to respond the way they want it to. At that moment, I experienced empathy and understanding in a way I had never been able to before. It made me even more sensitive and aware of the needs of those with significant disabilities.

Somehow I managed to get from the back side of the house around to the front steps where I had to pause for a few minutes. I was trying to determine whether I could get up a flight of stairs to the front door. I remember calling out for help again but to no avail.

I made it up the first flight of steps to the front door just as my wife was coming out to check on me. I realized then how thankful I was that my wife is a nurse because she immediately took charge of the situation.

She was able to quickly evaluate my situation. She grabbed a garden hose that was close by and washed the sand and blood off my head and face. She could see there were no significant lacerations. She was able to help me to the car and we drove immediately to the emergency room.

4th Lesson – Be Thankful

On the way to the emergency room, I remember thinking how thankful I was that I was finally able to move and somehow get myself up the steps. Also, I was thankful that my wife was at home and knew exactly what to do to help me. Although I was in a lot of pain and I was not sure of what might be the outcome of this situation, I was counting my blessings. Things could have been so much worse.

When we arrived at the emergency room, they were not very busy and I was immediately taken back to see the doctor. After the initial assessment, I was taken to get a CT-Scan. The doctor had some concerns after seeing the results of the CT-Scan and sent me back to have an MRI of my neck and some x-rays of my arms.

The findings indicated two fractured vertebrae in the upper back and neck area and damaged ligaments along the spinal column. It was determined I would need to be seen by a neurosurgeon, but unfortunately, he was located two and a half hours away. Because it was late at night, arrangements were made for me to be able to see him the next day.

Not a pretty sight, but provides some idea of how I looked after the accident.

The next day, the neurosurgeon said that I was very fortunate that I had not been killed or been paralyzed by such a fall. After giving me some very specific instructions on my next steps, I was released to come back home.

5th Lesson – Be Compassionate and Kind

In the days that followed, as my family, friends, and peers learned of my accident, I received numerous cards, e-mail messages, Facebook messages, and phone calls offering prayers, well wishes for a speedy recovery, and offers to help in any way. The compassion and kindness from everyone touched my heart. I was inspired, encouraged, and my eyes were filled with tears by how much others cared for me. I truly felt loved.

At the time of the writing of this article, I am improving steadily and making progress. I found out I would not have to have surgery. I am back at work on a part time basis, but moving slowly, taking my time, and paying attention to details. I am thankful to be alive and to not have any significant damage.

Maybe God's not done with me yet!


  1. Thank God He isn't done with you yet. You've made it through your "spill", and I think this page is just Step #1.

  2. Wow George, what an event you endured!! I am so sorry you had to go through that and so greatful you are feeling better! I was in a skiing accident and had the experience of feeling what it is like to be unable to take care of yourself or be independent. I had 2 surgeries, was stuck in a hospital bed for months and then a wheelchair. It really does give you a unique perspective of what it is like to live that way and what people go through. I know it will make you stronger & more empathetic and I pray that you heal quickly! You are not done yet at all!!

    1. Thank you Lisa! It sounds like you know exactly what I have gone through. I am doing much better - on the road to a full recovery. Thankful and blessed!