Saturday, June 21st, 1980; A Day Jon James Remembers Little of and Thankfully So
“Would you still love me if I was ever in a car crash and disabled?”
That’s the question I remember asking my girlfriend, Tammy, as I dropped her off at her job at Robinson’s Nursing Home in Gardiner on Saturday morning, 6/21/80, the first day of summer and a couple weeks after I had graduated high school.
“Of course I would.”
I guess that jinxed the day. I remember having some fried chicken that afternoon from Trinka’s Takeout in Randolph (that wasn’t completely cooked) and then going to work at WABK on Northern Avenue in Farmingdale to relieve Dan Ross at 6pm. Once in the studio and realizing I had 20 minutes to kill before I went on the air, I decided to drive somewhere. “Be back in a bit,” I told Dan as I left the studio and headed out to the car.
That’s the last thing I remember for the next seven or eight days.
When I left the station, I headed toward the Hallowell-Litchfield Road. Why? The only thing anybody could come up with is I had a friend, Colleen Fuller (Fuller’s Market), who I may have been going to say hello to. I’ll never know for sure.
As I came to the end of Bowman Street Extension (which I was unfamiliar with), I either rolled out into the intersection (the stop sign was hidden behind tree limbs) or I pulled out without seeing the pickup truck approaching from my left (there WAS a blind hill there that has since been shaved down). I was broadsided by the truck and pushed down the road sideways.
In 1980, there was no seatbelt law. Although I truly believe we are safer with a seatbelt on, I would have most certainly been killed. The impact from the truck crushed the side of the car completely over the drivers compartment. Mercifully, I was thrown to the passenger side.
Unconscious, I was bleeding from the mouth from, what I am told, was a cut on my tongue from biting it. Someone, who has never been identified, was at the scene and held my head so I wouldn’t choke on my own blood, until rescue crews arrived. They stabilized me at the scene and rushed me to the hospital in Augusta. On the way in the ambulance, I went into respiratory arrest three times. I owe my life to Gardiner Rescue, especially Paramedic Ted Hunt who, nowadays, is better known as “Nikki Hunt’s father.”
AT THE HOSPITAL
After arriving at the ER, I was taken in for scans and exploratory surgery. I had a severe concussion with contusions (bruising of the brain) and my spleen was nearly severed. The prognosis was good and the neurosurgeon told my folks I’d most likely make a full recovery.
After a few days in an unconscious state, I woke up and had no idea where I was or what was going on. All I knew is my parents were at my bedside (post ICU) and I was in the hospital. I was awake very little the first week.
As I began to regain some memory, I was told about the accident, which I still didn’t fully comprehend. I just wanted to get out of the hospital. The nurses probably wanted me gone, too. Although they were all very nice, I was making some pretty indecent comments to them (so I am told) and even tried to reach up one’s dress. Honestly, I don’t remember doing any of this!
I would tell people in my life to leave my room because I didn’t want to see them (including the pastor of the church my family attended) and was constantly asking my mom to rub my feet, which she gladly did. She also fed me lots of pound cake, which I became addicted to. Until the hospital stay, I was skin and bones. I haven’t been anything near that, since.
Finally, after two full weeks, I begged the neurosurgeon to let me go home. He didn’t want me to, but I talked my parents into it so I was discharged against the physician’s advice.
Recovery was slow. I was visited regularly by friends Dan Ross, Ricky Dunn (my long time best friend) and others and, after about a month in total, I was able to go back to work at the station.
My next vehicle was a pickup truck. It just felt safer!
HOW MY PARENTS FOUND OUT
My mom would always tune in to hear me on the radio so she could be sure I got there safely. She always worried so about me. When six came and I wasn’t on, she got a little concerned. She started calling around to the emergency room and state police who eventually confirmed her worst fears. They told her I was in a car accident and she and my dad needed to get there right away.
Frantic, they headed to the hospital where they waited for me to arrive in the intensive care unit. Mom, expecting the worst, was shaken to find out they lost me a few times on the way to the hospital. Losing a child is something she would never recover from and she said on more than one occasion that, had that been the end for me, it would have been the end of her. While I don’t believe that’s entirely true, I know it would have been a dark cloud over the rest of her life. She was an amazing woman.
My parents were with me 24/7 until I went home.
Other than a constant numbness on the left side of my tongue and a paralyzed nerve in my right eye, I have no physical problems from that day, 34 years ago tomorrow, the first day of Summer, then and now. I thank God everyday for putting the right people in the right place at the right time.
Oh, without the accident, I wouldn’t have met Marie-Anne. She was one of the nurses I went back to visit after I recovered and I ended up marrying her. No, she’s not the one who’s dress I reached up!