Sunday, February 09, 2014

Stephen King: June 19, 1999 (The Accident)

On the afternoon of June 19, 1999, ten weeks after the publication of The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Stephen King was seriously injured (almost fatally) when he was hit by a minivan while walking along the side of a road in North Lovell, Maine. King, 51, was struck from behind when the van's driver was distracted and lost control of his vehicle.

Stephen King, On Writing:
The extent of the impact injuries is such that the doctors at Northern Cumberland Hospital decide they cannot treat me there; someone summons a LifeFlight helicopter to take me to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. At this point my wife, older son, and daughter arrive. The kids are allowed a brief visit; my wife is allowed to stay longer. The doctors have assured her that I'm banged up, but I'll make it.

The lower half of my body has been covered. She isn't allowed to look at the interesting way my lap has shifted around to the right, but she is allowed to wash the blood off my face and pick some of the glass out of my hair. There's a long gash in my scalp, the result of my collision with Bryan Smith's windshield. This impact came at a point less than two inches from the steel, driver's-side support post. Had I struck that, I likely would have been killed or rendered permanently comatose, a vegetable with legs. Had I struck the rocks jutting out of the ground beyond the shoulder of Route 5, I likely also would have been killed or permanently paralysed. I didn't hit them; I was thrown over the van and 14ft in the air, but landed just shy of the rocks.

"You must have pivoted to the left just a little at the last second," Dr David Brown tells me later. "If you hadn't, we wouldn't be having this conversation." ...

My lower leg was broken in at least nine places - the orthopaedic surgeon who put me together again, the formidable David Brown, said that the region below my right knee had been reduced to "so many marbles in a sock."

The extent of those lower-leg injuries necessitated two deep incisions - they're called medial and lateral fasciatomies - to release the pressure caused by the exploded tibia and also to allow blood to flow back into the lower leg. Without the fasciatomies (or if the fasciatomies had been delayed), it probably would have been necessary to amputate the leg. My right knee itself was split almost directly down the middle; the technical term for the injury is "comminuted intra-articular tibial fracture". I also suffered an acetabular cup fracture of the right hip - a serious derailment, in other words - and an open femoral intertrochanteric fracture in the same area. My spine was chipped in eight places. Four ribs were broken. My right collarbone held, but the flesh above it was stripped raw. The laceration in my scalp took 20 or 30 stitches. ...

I came home to Bangor on 9 July, after a hospital stay of three weeks. I began a daily rehab program which includes stretching, bending, and crutch-walking. I tried to keep my courage and my spirits up. On 4 August, I went back to CMMC for another operation. When I woke up this time, the Schanz pins in my upper thigh were gone. I could bend my knee again. Dr Brown pronounced my recovery "on course" and sent me home for more rehab and physical therapy. And in the midst of all this, something else happened. On 24 July, five weeks after Bryan Smith hit me with his Dodge van, I began to write again.
Hearts in Atlantis was already in the publishing pipeline and was released in September 1999. At the time of the accident, King had completed From A Buick 8 and was in the middle of On Writing. Dreamcatcher would be the first novel he wrote post-accident.

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