I met Vernon Freeman on December 2, 2012 when I had my driver’s license renewed two weeks ago. I knew he had experienced a traumatic car accident with catastrophic injuries related to alcohol. However, I didn’t really capture the character of the man until I met with him today, December 14, 2012, at a restaurant in Malvern, PA.
Vernon, 44, is a man who is honest! Refreshingly honest! Transparent! In a world where we hide behind masks, this guy describes his life with authenticity. Vernon shared far more with me about his experiences in life than I will write about on Gramazin or share with the public. Our focus for this article is on the catastrophic car accident he experienced in 1991.
Vernon was working three jobs to make ends meet. One of his male employees, who we will call “Jerry” for the sake of this story, was celebrating the birth of a new child. Vernon invited Jerry out to have a few drinks early one evening. That evening, Vernon decided to let Jerry drive.
After the two had too much alcohol at the bar, Vernon was concerned he was going to be late to his night job and asked Jerry to drive him to his car. Jerry initially refused. The two began a fist fight in the bar which carried over into the car that was traveling nearly 100 mph.
As often happens with drunk drivers, Jerry survived the high-velocity collision with a telephone pole with a broken rib and a concussion. Vernon, on the other hand, had to be cut from the remains of the destroyed automobile by rescue workers. He coded at least four times as he was medevaced to Hahneman Hospital. His left leg had to be amputated. He had a broken pelvis. He suffered severe swelling of his brain and had to have 3 to 4 blood clots surgically removed to relieve pressure in his brain. The scars on Vernon are apparent.
The injuries have left Vernon disabled. He now has significant short-term memory loss and learning disabilities. His injuries have left him unable to work more than a few hours at a time and only a few days a week.
“I never thought this would happen to me”, he said, sipping on coffee. ”But I’ve learned. Don’t think it won’t because it will. If you are playing with fireworks, it will get you. I was playing Russian roulette with a full clip.”
Expressing that he is not a religious man but he is spiritual, Vernon thanked God for two key things.
“I thank God I didn’t hurt anyone else. We didn’t hurt a child or an old person. The only one who was hurt was me. This isn’t about me. I’m so glad I didn’t kill or maim anybody. I also thank God for the whole experience. I wouldn’t change a thing about what happened because it made me who I am today. It saved my life. God left me here for a reason. I’m OK if I’m here just to be an example to others.”
I was so impressed by this perspective. Here is a man who has lost what he calls a “lifetime within a lifetime” and he finds the opportunity to thank God. This is a man who understands the power of adversity to make us better people. That is truly a Gramazin philosophy.
However, the lessons learned from adversity are only worth it if we don’t go back and return to lifestyles that got us into trouble to begin with.