Public Comment

Recounting My Narrow Escapes

By Charles Smith
Friday December 29, 2006

During my lifetime I have had several narrow escapes from almost certain death. 

1. The first happened in 1939 when I was riding my bicycle and was hit by a drunk driver. I was thrown about sixty feet and had a skull fracture. I was in the hospital for three weeks and in a delirious coma, i.e. I was partly awake, recognized people, but did not remember anything that happened until I came to my senses at home a few days later. My mother asked me if I knew what had happened. I could not answer, so she brought me a copy of the Ft. Morgan Times with an article about the accident and my injuries. 

2. The second happened on April 24th, 1945 in Germany during WWII. I was riding in a truck on a back road. Other soldiers were clearing the road of snipers. Whenever any was discovered they dove for cover and called up the tanks to wipe out the snipers. 

The truck I was in stopped by the side of the road. Some tanks started to pass us. I was sitting with my back to the road. I noticed that a tank just barely missed the truck behind us. A fraction of a second later, the tank sheared off the side of our truck, running over everyone else sitting beside me on the truck. 

Luckily I had worn my pack, since there wasn’t room for it in the center of the truck. Persons on both sides of me were killed. I have a 16 inch gash in the right buttocks with goes within 1/4 inch of the bone; and a 6 inch scar on my hip. 

3. This time was on the first of October, 1957, when the Russian Sputnik had been sent up. I was working for the California Division of Highways. Two of us had been on a traffic study in Gilroy. We were coming home through San Jose. It was a pitch black night, with low overhanging clouds. There was no oncoming traffic. 

A railroad switch engine was blocking the highway. We skidded into it. The car was totaled. All I had was a lap belt. I rotated on the belt and hit the windshield with my forehead, cracking the windshield badly. Luckily my head didn’t go through the windshield. I could have had my head cut off, and would have lost a lot of blood. 

4. This time in January 1999, I was at home, lying in bed. I had taken the prescription drug Hytrin. It is an alpha blocker, usually given for high blood pressure, which I didn’t have. It sometimes causes fainting. I had fainted, sitting on the toilet seat in the bathroom. I came to and went into the bedroom where I told my wife what happened. While she was in the bathroom I called the ambulance and fainted again. They hooked up a gadget which showed the message “Hook up to a live body.” When they got me to Alta Bates hospital, I had a pulse of 12 to 15 per minute. They gave me a pacemaker.