A stranger’s help on a lonely highway rescues the victim of a mysterious, late-night accident.
It was almost midnight on August 1, 2012, and I was driving my Toyota Camry on Kansas highway 96 about 12 miles from Hutchinson. The weather was clear and calm, and there was no traffic in either direction. Just about four miles east of Haven, Kansas, a sleepy, little town of 1,200 inhabitants, my car was devastatingly rear-ended, breaking the stillness of the summer night.
From that first moment of impact, I have always felt that this car accident was deliberate. I was an independent candidate for federal election and was gathering 1,500 signatures as part of the election process in a wheat state where independence was in short supply.
After the horrifying impact, I didn’t lose consciousness, and in the first moments after the accident, I took stock of my situation. I was strapped inside the car and, after the impact, trapped. Only my right arm could move. I fingered the gray felt visor above me. Raising my eyes, I peered into the vanity mirror. It provided a frightening sight. Rivulets of blood streamed all over my face.
In an instant, everything had come to a screeching halt. A local Kansas fellow (I found out later in a newspaper story that he was 29 years old) walked to my open driver’s window. He took a casual look at me, ignoring the blood and my many other injuries. I wasn’t angry with him. I didn’t reproach him. I just knew he wasn’t going to help me. I tried to stay calm. As I turned my face to look forward, I clung to the conviction that somehow my life was going to be saved.
The midnight horizon spread before me, and I saw ahead the lights of a truck that had stopped. An unknown figure appeared at a great distance and seemed to move toward me. Like a matchstick mounted at the highway’s edge, the apparition became a single line of light slowly advancing toward me. Was it possible that this vertical line of light separated from the clustered mass of truck lights in the distance was a truck driver coming to help me?
The form of a man took shape through the windshield. With a purposeful stride, he reached my car. He stuck his head inside my open window and saw the streaks of blood, now dried all over my face. “Madame,” he said to me forcefully, “I am going to get you help right away.” And so he did.
Soon the bright lights of an ambulance flooded the darkness. A wooden stretcher wrapped with red ropes was shoved inside along the dashboard of my car. Somehow my body was extricated from the seat, lifted out straight and bound upon the stretcher.
First, I was driven to the regional hospital in Hutchinson where I was brought into a series of well-lighted rooms. There was a huddle of doctors, medics, nurses. My head and neck were checked. Words were spoken that I could not understand.
Then the medics put me back into the ambulance for a journey of 43 miles east to the John Wesley Medical Center in Witchita. Dr. Harrison, chief general surgeon, assumed command. I lost all consciousness to time and place. Hours passed with no recollection of what had happened.
Worst of all, when I finally woke up, I found that I had lost all track of the trucker. Never did I thank him. Never did I tell him how he had saved my life.
I am writing this 16 months after the accident, and I am more determined than ever to find that trucker.
Elizabeth Frothingham, Ph.D., is a writer and fundraising professional currently living in Montpelier.