Caitlin Egan – Life Changing Accident

Michael woke in the night of August 26, 2005 and got ready for his night shift with the Bristol Township Police Department. Mike was quiet as to not wake up his sleeping family in the house. His wife at the time, Jill, and me, his daughter, who was two at the time, were fast asleep in the rooms of the house when he left for work. Mike is the kind of guy who is caring and goes out of his way for people around him. This personality trait is why he became a lifeguard right out of high school. He later went to college for chemistry but dropped out and found his real calling to become a police officer. After getting ready, he left for work, not knowing that this shift would change his life forever.

Mike was working as a training officer that night, training his now close friend, Mark. They did their night patrol around the quiet town of Bristol, Pennsylvania. It was a warm night. Dark, just like any other late summer night in Pennsylvania. They talked to each other to keep awake into the very early morning of August 27th. Just as they got a call over the to go to an accident. The accident was on Route 13, one of the busier roads in Bristol. They arrived, cleared the people and cars out of the street and then pulled their patrol car up onto a median to get it out of the street.

Mike and Mark went to the back if their patrol car to use the trunk as a desk to write up the report. Just as they were chatting and writing, at 3:05 a.m., a minivan came out of nowhere. A drunk driver fell asleep, drove up onto the median, and pinned both Mike and Mark between the two cars. He quickly tried to go and help his partner but realized that he was unable to stand or walk. This led him to look down and see that his left leg was very badly injured. He was scared, but knew he had to keep control of himself to get them the help that they needed. Mike got on to the radio and told them what had happened and that he and Mark needed help fast.

When the first officers arrived, he felt such a rush a relief because he knew he didn’t have to be in control anymore. This led to a lack of adrenaline, the pain started to kick in ,and he was so thirsty and didn’t know why. He later found out that it was from all the blood he was losing. The medics arrived after 27 minutes and began to work. Once to pain went away, he started to feel tired but had to stay awake because he knew if he fell asleep this time, it was permanent and there was no waking up. Mike was driven to a field where a helicopter was landed. As soon as he arrived, he was taken to the trauma room and then into the operating room for the first, out of now, 25 surgeries Mike was going to have. He thought everything was fine, he was finally able to see his family, but had to stay in the hospital to be checked on.

A week later, still in the hospital, Mike was told he wasn’t doing very well. His leg was infected, and the infection was spreading. He had to have his left leg amputated, he didn’t even know how to feel, but he knew it had to be done. He woke up with it gone and in shock. Mike went through a lot of healing time. 47 days in the hospital and some in the comfort of his own home. He later went though so much physical therapy. He got fitted for a prosthetic leg and had to learn to walk all over again. His life was changed forever. I asked him how he felt being in the hospital for so long?

He thought about it for a minute, then went on to say, “So many people came to visit me and when I first saw my family, I told them to go on vacation. We were all supposed to go on vacation the next day and I knew I would be here for a while so they could come get me when they came back. But of course, they didn’t go.” That sentence right there gave me a sense of who he really is. He continued, “People came in and out to visit me and I was so happy to see them, but I felt unworthy of all the attention I was getting. Through all this though I was nervous that my daughter was going to forget who I was, she was only able to come visit me once the entire time I was there which made me want to go home so bad.”

I continued on and asked him what he thought when he heard about having to get taken onto helicopter? He looked at me and laughed a little, which shocked me. He then went on to say, “Well when I first heard that there was a helicopter on the way I knew either me or Mark was badly hurt. I later found out it was me, which gave me relief that he was better off than I was.” He then looked up and smiled again then said, “Once I got onto the helicopter, I was so excited. At the time I was feeling no pain and the thought of riding in a helicopter seemed so fun to me. I kept trying to look out the window, but I kept getting told to calm down and relax since I was so badly injured. When we finally got there, I imagined all the shows and movies I have ever seen with this exact moment in it and got a sense of excitement again because it was going to be so cool.” His emotions changed from silly to serious when I asked, “Did you ever think you would never be able to walk again and how was the whole rehab process?”

He looked at me and said, “It was hard. From the moment I lost my leg I knew my life was going to be different. I didn’t even know if I was going to be able to walk ever again. I had so much support from my family and friends through all of this. It still didn’t make it easy though. I went through a lot of trials and tribulations learning how to walk all over again.” You could see the happiness in his face when he said, “But having you and all the family around for support, made me put myself into the mindset that I could do this.” I could tell he meant it when he said that with a smile on his face which is what hurt me more to ask the next question. “Did you ever think you were going to die there on the street?” I asked.

He looked at me in shock. No one ever asked him that question before. He answered saying, “I honestly didn’t know what to think. I didn’t even realize how bad my leg was until I saw it. The adrenaline kept me from feeling how bad it was. I had to call it in on the radio, so we didn’t die there. I was more worried about making sure Mark was okay and I couldn’t just leave you and you mom.” I could tell he had trouble answering that one. So, I told him we could stop there. He asked me if he could add something though. “The hardest part wasn’t even the whole accident itself. It was seeing everyone so sad. It hurt me that they were hurt. Everyone was so worried for long about me and it killed me. So, when I started to get better and I saw the smiles on everyone’s faces, it helped me push forward.”

Mike is the definition of a role model and hard worker. He went through two months in the hospital, two years in rehab, a surgery once a year forever, and even recently had more of his leg amputated. He later went on to competing in races and doing all kinds of things despite what happened. He is the kind of guy who likes to joke around about it and will answer anyone’s questions about it. He goes and talks to people about the importance of not drinking and driving. I always wondered if drinking that much and driving home that night was worth all that he costed two people and their families. He asked me if I could end his story by saying this, “Everything happens for a reason, sometimes that reason is because of someone’s irresponsibility. Don’t be that person that irresponsibly changes someone’s life forever.”

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