A Single Phone Call

By Mike Copeland
Arizona, USA

A Single Phone Call

In 1997 I was in an accident that changed my life forever.

I’ve been committed to fitness for years, and used to run or bike daily. One day I was returning from a hard 10-mile bike ride on one of the local canal banks. The flat, soft surfaces of the canal banks are excellent for running and biking. They have cross streets every few miles, but very few underpasses for bike or foot traffic.

As I walked across the marked crosswalk at one of those cross streets, a car struck me. The driver may have been blinded by driving into the late afternoon sun… and I didn’t see the car. I was hit and thrown 40 feet out of the crosswalk.

I was knocked unconscious and nearly killed. Traffic stopped in both directions. This was in the days before cell phones, but fortunately, one of the drivers stuck in the stalled traffic turned around, found a pay phone and called 911. When the paramedics arrived and took me away, she went on her way.

I was unaware of all this, of course. I sustained a serious head injury, many broken ribs, two leg fractures, and a crushed shoulder.

My wife was called at work where she was an interior designer. She rushed to the hospital ICU to be with me. I spent eight days in the intensive care unit, then a month in the hospital undergoing brain surgery and neurological rehabilitation. Next was spent five months at Barrow Neurological Institute.

A week after the accident, my wife went back to work, and discussed the details of my accident with her co-workers. One of her fellow designers, Nancy, mentioned that she had witnessed such an accident. Soon it became clear that Nancy was the person who had turned her car around and made that vital call to 911!

My wife didn’t tell me about this for several months, because of my inability to understand what was going on in my life, and the strong emotions the story would generate.

A month passed after I learned of Nancy’s phone call. My wife took me out for the first time — to a social gathering for her business, where she felt I would be “safe”. I recognized some people, but had never met many of them before. At one point, she introduced me to a woman who seemed to have a detailed understanding of my condition, and a great interest in how the accident happened and what I remembered from it.

Yes, this was the “Nancy” who had been so instrumental in my survival. I probably embarrassed myself by breaking down, as I realized that I was meeting the person who saved my life that day.

Although Nancy and I meet by chance now, our meetings are still meaningful. We both know how much a simple act like hers can mean to another human being.

Originally published as HeroicStories #544 on Aug 31 2004

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