I was fortunate enough to live when I got hit by a presumably-drunk-driver, but L.A. Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart wasn't as lucky (as my since-college friend Jeff Pearlman pointed out in an April cnnsi.com column.) I mention this today because in this week's Sports Illstrated, there's a great, great story about Jon Wilhite, who was the lone survivor in the Adenhart car, and his fight for recovery from what was deemed "internal decapitation."
I'd recommend setting aside a half-hour to read it, but I'll excerpt it here anyway. It really struck a nerve.
Wilhite could not remember anything about the evening of April 9. He could not remember going to the Angels' game and watching Adenhart pitch six scoreless innings, or hopping into Stewart's silver Mitsubishi Eclipse afterward and heading to a country bar in Fullerton, or being blindsided less than 50 yards from the bar by an allegedly drunk driver named Andrew Gallo, who ran a red light in his minivan and was later arrested after fleeing the scene. (Gallo is awaiting trial on Nov. 9 for three counts of second-degree murder.)
And he certainly could not remember being extricated through the car's blown-out back window by firefighters who were meticulous about stabilizing his neck and careful not to jostle him as they placed him gently onto a backboard.
A week after the surgery Wilhite was fidgeting in his bed and speaking in complete sentences. Mostly he made jokes at his own expense—about his "gross beard" or his "head falling off"—to ease the tension with his many visitors. But he also asked his parents what exactly had happened to him on April 9 and what had happened to the others in the car.
His parents told him the truth, that everyone else in the car had been killed, but Wilhite's pain medication was so strong that the reality did not completely register. In fact, Wilhite was so disoriented that he kept insisting to friends and family that he was in Texas, even though Wilhite had a clear view of Angel Stadium through his window.
It was not until Wilhite watched an Angels game in late April on television in his hospital room and saw the players wearing black patches on their chests embroidered with number 34 that he realized what had occurred. "That's Nick's number," Wilhite told himself. "Nick died in the crash."