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12 July 2005

Closest Calls? Anyone care to share times in your life when you nearly shuffled off the mortal coil only to be rescued at the last possible instant? I'm curious to hear other stories because this past Saturday was almost my last...[More:]A group of friends and I went to view some local waterfalls here in western NC. Turtleback has an area that is somewhat safe for swimming (so we thought). My friend Kim grabbed a rope to cross the river but became stuck in the unusually fast and cold current. I went to try to pull her to shore, but I got sucked in after slipping on the slick rocks. I went down a cascade and into an eddy, a fierce one that kept me underwater and partly under rock.
After getting bashed around and losing air in the whirl, I was seconds away from giving up as I was very weakened and weighted down by my clothes... In one of the profoundest moments of my life, I began to let go, thinking of my friends and family, when a strong current shot me down and back into the river. I grabbed a riverstone and passed out. Had some shock and hypothermia, and other than a few minor pains, I'm whole and alive. Kim and one other friend got away with sprains and cuts, and we're all damn lucky, except for the traumatic aftershocks that seem to hit out of nowhere.
So, in this soft therapeutic setting, anyone interested in telling their near misses from death's scabbard?
Apparently, I almost died when I was two, of the croup. I was a pparently blue, and had to be put in an oxygen tent. I don't remember it.

I've had a few close calls in car wrecks. And one time I puked in my sleep when I was drunk. That's a bout as exciting as my close calls get.
posted by jonmc 12 July | 20:07
I was about 7. My friends and I were sitting on our bikes at the side of a busy highway waiting to cross. I thought I saw my friend starting to cross, so I shoved off too. A truck doing about 60 mph slammed on its brakes and barely stopped in time to avoid killing me.
posted by agropyron 12 July | 20:14
I must have been about 7 when I was running through the tall weeds in a friend's backyard. I suddenly tripped on something hidden in the grass and sprawled forward, barely catching myself with both of my hands. When I looked down I saw a pipe, about two inches in diameter, was pointing up almost touching my neck.

I got up and walked home shaking. Don't think I ever went to that kid's house again.

Oh, and glad you made it out of there, moonbird.
posted by papercake 12 July | 20:19
Wow, heavy. I was born a preemie and had to live in an incubator for a while, but obviously I don't remember that. Since then my life has been very safe. I'm glad you guys are all here to tell your tales.
posted by matildaben 12 July | 20:31
A couple weeks before I turned 20 I was driving home from a club and a car driving in the opposite direction swerved and hit me head on. The driver was drunk.
I broke both ankles, both femurs, my left arm, and my right wrist. I went into shock almost instantly, and it took the EMTs an hour to get me out of the car. Airlifted to the hospital, emergency surgery where I apparently almost died in the OR, another surgery a month later, and I eventually got to go home about three and a half months later. Six more months of physical therapy and I was, well, not good as new, but as good as I could hope.
posted by kellydamnit 12 July | 20:38
I'm glad you are safe and sound moonbird...

In HS, I was a passenger in a friends car. He skidded off a rural highway going about 60-70...we barrel-rolled through a mans yard, eventually slammed into a tree. Neither of us were wearing seatbelts and got tossed around like ragdolls, but didn't get thrown from the vehicle...we ended up sandwiched behind the front seats upside down...

After escaping from the car, and looking back on our trail of destruction, both axles had broken, tires thrown everywhere, engine had unmounted itself and was embedded in one of our ruts...the roof of the car was smashed all the way down as far as it would go.

I dont remember anything during or directly before the crash, but afterwards feeling very uptight and anxious, like id dodged a bullet.

I have serious car neuroses as a result...
posted by Schyler523 12 July | 20:41
Wow - glad all you folks are alright. Mine's not as dramatic, since it starts with me falling down my own stairs at a party and ends with bacteria.

In February 2003, I fell down my stairs and broke my left leg in three places. I got an 18" rod inserted down my tibia, and a plate screwed onto my lower fibula. In the best case scenario, I would have been on crutches for four weeks and rehabbed for a few more weeks, and I would have had the hardware in my leg for the rest of my life. Somewhere along the line, though, I got a staph infection. That came back twice. The first time, I had emergency surgery to remove the screws on the end of the long rod and got to wear an antibiotic pic line for six weeks, 24/7. Just as I thought I was getting better, the infection came back and I went in for another emergency surgery to remove everything else and got the pic line back for another six weeks. Worst damn year of my life, and I came surprisingly close to losing either my leg or my life. Staph is nasty, nasty, bacteria.
posted by yhbc 12 July | 20:47
sorry, kept getting errors. checked to see if anything posted, nothing there. Then all of a sudden two there!
posted by Schyler523 12 July | 20:48
15 years old, drunk, high, and stupid. Driving along a cliff-top beach road too fast, my boyfriend thinks it would be hilarious to pull on the emergency brake. We go spinning around and end up with our front wheels over the front of the cliff, which is about 30 metres high looking over rocks and water. I am shaking just thinking about it.

Glad you are OK, moonbird. And everyone else... damn.
posted by gaspode 12 July | 21:28
Removed the duplicates, Schyler523

Apart from a few accidents racing boats (none of which were particularly serious), I have remarkably had no close brushes with death (yet).

My eldest daughter nearly died when her heart stopped during a bout of croup when she was 3. Fortunately, she was in hospital at the time being treated for the croup (in a mist tent - this was probably what you were in, jonmc) and was revived almost immediately.

She was also hit on the back of the head by the ramp from a car trailer that fell down when the rope holding it up broke when she was about 6. If she had been standing another 20 mm further back, she probably would have died, or at least have suffered serious injury.

yhbc, staph infections are nasty stuff and, what is worse, often come from hospitals.
posted by dg 12 July | 21:31
Jeez, moonbird ... glad you're still here.

I once got sucked out to sea by strong and unexpected surf and rip. I think it was off the southern Atlantic coast of Portugal. I was pulled under and pounded, and had no idea of where was up. I could see no light, and when I popped back up I was quite a way off shore. I swam like a bastard to get back in, but seemed to get nowhere. I finally rode across the tops of some big waves, and was thrown back towards the beach. I remember that I could still only walk out of the surf with a wave at my back, and had to fight not to be suck backed out again on the backwash.
posted by carter 12 July | 21:39
I'm glad you're ok. Having been a kayak instructor and guide in Western NC, I've had more than one friend who died on those creeks out there, so I know it is no joke. I had a similar experience of a very strong eddy that basically kept me under water on the Gauley River in West Virginia. It was actually my friend Pablo, who died about 5 months later running the North Fork of the French Broad (not to be confused with the big, wide, sedate and dirty river that flows through Asheville), who pulled me out.

My closest call was when I was a bike courier and I was riding up Conn Ave in DC, and I was kind of late for my evening job, so I grabbed the side of a truck on one of the steeper sections of road, and got up some pretty good speed. Then, traffic slowed, or rather me and the truck came to the back of the long line of traffic which was moving about 30 rather than 40 mph, I let go of the truck and shot forward, splitting lanes between the two rows of cars moving in my direction. Suddenly, there was no room to make it between two cars just ahead, and I hit the mirror on one very hard with my handle bar. Luckily it was one that folded forward, and I caromed off the car next to me, but did not go down. It was very chilling, everything was rolling up the street, the traffic was stacked up, and I'm pretty sure that had I gone down between those cars it would have been the end of something. I remember the crash from the overdose of adrenalin later that evening, and I never rocketed myself between lanes of traffic in quite the same way. Now I find myself almost reluctant to ride in traffic, but now I also live in Baltimore, where the drivers are about as unpredictable as any I've ever seen.
posted by omiewise 12 July | 21:52
When I was a tiny infant I used to like to stick metal tweezers into electrical sockets. They fit so nicely, it just seemed to me that was what they were for. I guess it was a spacial-relations thing to me, like on a test. My mom later found a black, charred pair of tweezers sticking out of the socket, but I was just fine.

Once also I fell asleep at the wheel for probably at least a solid twenty seconds driving home from college after finals and the associated all-nighters. I was on the highway doing at least 60 in the right lane. When I woke up I was in the left lane and had evidently passed the car ahead of me perfectly. Something was watching over me.

Oh, and I went through the Lake Erie ice one freezing February (despite a good knowledge of how to stay on the 10" thick sheets--it was a freak accident, I kicked some shallow ice to see how thick it was and lost my footing), 3/4 of a mile out following coyote tracks, but that wasn't even a close call. I only got mildly cold, even though I fell in up to my neck and the hair back there froze solid by the time I made it to the car. I don't get cold easily. The whole thing was a sort of spritual experience.

And once when I was in my early twenties I did some temp work in a plastics factory, standing on a ladder over a huge grinding machine, tossing in left over plastic to be made into "regrind." The whirring blades inside the machine would spit pieces back out at me occasionally at high velocity. I said to myself, "I have to quit this job before it kills me," at exactly which point a chunk flew out and nicked me a deep cut on my wrist about 2 millimeters from the artery commonly used to take a person's pulse. I quit very soon after that, maybe that same day.
posted by shane 12 July | 22:02
BTW, I'm glad you all survived your close calls, moonbird and everyone!
posted by shane 12 July | 22:03
When I was a wee baby I had a tumor removed from one of my inner ears. The inner of one of my ears. I was nearly hit by a car in Bath, but I don't think I would have died in the event of a collision.
posted by kenko 12 July | 22:08
I had a couple of close calls in car accidents as a young man. I went thru a windshield once but luckily recovered completely in short order and don't have any lingering fear of travel by auto.

I have had a couple of incidents I don't really think were close calls in the water but they had a bigger impact on me. Both times involved under tows and being pinned to the bottom for an uncomfortable period of time. The thing about being pinned under water is that you have time to think about what's happening. I was always taught to relax if caught in an under tow. That you have a better chance of surviving if you just let the current pass. Both times I remember thinking "this might be it" but, just like I was taught, in the end I popped up to the surface just in time.
posted by Carbolic 12 July | 23:34
When I was in college I had just broken up with a girlfriend and was driving too fast down some twisty back roads while sobbing, and I flipped my car upside down. I'm not sure what happened exactly; I suddenly found myself dangling upside down, suspended by the seatbelt. I saw the car later, and it looked like a pile driver had hit the roof of the car immediately above my head. The roof was dented down to below the top of the headrest. I'm 5'11", so when I'm sitting in a car my head is a couple of inches taller than the top of the headrest. I'm sure I would have died if I hadn't been wearing my seatbelt, and I'm not sure how I didn't die anyway. My only injury was scratching my arm reaching through the exploded driver side window to turn off my stereo. It seemed important at the time.

In October 2001, I flew for my first time after the September 11 attacks, so I was nervous to begin with. (Which was a pain in the ass, because I'd been flying since I was eight and it never used to bother me.) We were flying from San Francisco to DC, changing planes in Pittsburgh, and flying along the front edge of a massive storm front. There were 60 MPH cross winds as we were landing in Pittsburgh, the wings were waggling back and forth, and I could see the tips of the wings getting closer and closer to the ground. (I'm not an aeronautical engineer so I'm not sure what would have happened, but I'm thinking, bad things.) A woman was wailing behind me, and the worst part was I was sitting near the back of the plane so I'm pretty sure it was a flight attendant. We landed OK, but I was terrified, and I only had half an hour before I had to get on the flight to DC. I really didn't want to, and thought for a while I'd never fly again, but I got on the plane. (It'd be a nice finish to the story if I'd confronted my fear and gotten over it, but the second flight was really bumpy and it was the first in a series of bad flight experiences over the next year or so that I'm only just now getting over.)
posted by kirkaracha 12 July | 23:37
Oh, and once I fell out of a raft into Class 5 rapids while the river was flooding, but that didn't last long.
posted by kirkaracha 12 July | 23:38
Wow, Moonbird. I had to catch my breath just reading that. I'm really glad you're OK. Ditto to everyone else with their near misses.

Here's mine. Kinda.

Picture it, New Orleans, 1998. I'm on a business trip with some colleagues. My cheap-ass company puts us up in a crappy Ramada in a HORRIBLE razor-wire filled neighborhood that is undergoing renovations and has overbooked. We have no rooms. One of my co-workers decides to bribe a shady maintenance man into letting us into some of the rooms that are "unfinished." I volunteer to follow him to the front desk so that he can hook us up.

I follow him down a dark hall to a remote service elevator. Another maintenance guy gets in with us. I'm in the back of the elevator. Both these big guys are standing between me and the doors. The elevator lurches and creaks slowly downward as I start to grow increasingly uncomfortable. I begin to realize that I don't even know if these guys are really employees and that NO ONE knows where I am or who I'm with. Finally the elevator stops, the doors open and we have arrived at..... THE BASEMENT. It is dark, isolated and very, very Kruger. Both men turn around and just STARE at me. I've seen enough Unsolved Mysteries to know where this is going.

Instantly, I start formulating a plan. Hit the "Emergency" button, even if you have to kick it. Kick and scream. Try to get free and RUN. Do whatever I can to buy time until someone can find me. Look for wrenches, pipes or anything I can use as a weapon. Failing that, scratch, bite and scrape to get as much DNA evidence on my body as possible.

All of these thoughts go through my head in the 2 seconds it takes one of the guys to say to me, "Are you OK? You look like you're going to faint. Damn...I think we scared the hell out of her." Then he pushed the button and we went back up to the lobby. Faulty elevator.

False alarm. But it seemed very real at the time and I have never felt such a rush of adrenaline in my life.

I'm glad it happened though. It taught me that I'm not one to melt in a crisis--that my "fight or flight" reflex is strong. Made me more confident.
posted by jrossi4r 12 July | 23:48
and thought for a while I'd never fly again

I don't know if this counts, as I was sitting safe in my living room when the danger happened half a world away, but I'll share anyhow:

I did a year abroad in Oxford after my US Junior year of college, and for some reason I, along with a number of other American students, had relieved incorrect information about when the end of term exams would take place, so we found ourselves hanging around in the residence hall for several days after the UK students had all gone home, and were looking forward to several more days doing much the same, when we, as a group, decided to go to London and see if we could get home for the holidays on standby rather than waiting for our scheduled flights.

Well, this was 1988, so 72 hours in Heathrow was kind of an adventure for 8 bored American students, rather than the security nightmare it would be these days, but one by one we all got flights home well in advance of what our regular flights would have been. I arrived home on the 17th rather than on the 21st as I had been scheduled.

So, I'm home for Christmas, visiting friends, and come the 22nd (the Thursday before Christmas) I'm hanging around at a friend's house when my mother calls, weeping. I'm sure someone has died. It takes me a few moments to get her to tell me what's wrong.

Turns out what was wrong is that she'd been watching the news, and the news of the crash of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie has just been on. For some reason, the flight number rang a bell with her (oh she who had paid for the tickets) so she dug out my original itinerary and my now-unused paper ticket.

Turns out, by coming home early I'd missed that plane.

I'd like to say that I've never flown since, but its not true. The graphic descriptions of the last moments of the dead, and in particular the conclusion that a number of them survived the explosion, changes in air pressure, and fall only to die on impact, kept me out of planes for a number of years. But, two years ago I was forced to fly to Cleveland for business and it was the most terrifying few hours of my life. Fear of flying -- something I never had before this -- may ultimately keep me from visiting Europe again. I hope not.

Anyway, that's my story.

posted by anastasiav 13 July | 00:08
Goodness, there some damned close calls here. I'm glad y'all made it here.

Two from me:

As a small child I had tonsilitis several times. I had extremely high temperatures and would quit breathing. Each time the doc thought I might end up dead or with brain damage but for some reason kept refusing to take them out. My mum finally convinced him to remove them when I was seven.

When I was ten my younger brother (he was eight) and I were visiting my oldest brother who was living in Huntington Beach at the time. Younger bro and I were at the beach and as kids do paddled out into the surf. We finally looked back and realized how far out we were. We also noticed that our feet didn't touch the ground anymore. We tried swimming back but kept getting dragged further and further out to sea. I guess a surfer saw us and realized what was happening. He could only take one of us on his board and I told him to get my brother. He did and stayed with me as I fought to get back. Somehow I got up the strength or found the right current and managed to get far enough back that my feet touched the ground again. My brother and I agreed not to tell anyone what happened as we knew we'd get whupped for it. Since then I've only gone out to my knees or so. The ocean still scares me.
posted by deborah 13 July | 01:44
Apparently my family was involved in a car accident when I was a baby but I don't remember a thing.

I had an allergic reaction to an IV dose of Mexalon and if it weren't for the antidote, my heart would have stopped.

And what's with all the death things today?

My friend sends me a text message out of the blue telling me to cherish the day because I don't know if it's going to be my last.
Then the PostSecret community on LiveJournal has a question about what you would do on your last day alive.
And now this.

I'm spooked.
posted by divabat 13 July | 02:11
Playing racquetball, badly, the ball came off the racquet from a couple of feet away and hit me square in the throat. I'm standing there trying to make air-sucking motions, and it just wasn't happening. At the time, I thought my larynx was smashed, my airway obstructed, and it took about 2 seconds to realize that I was not going to find a knife, a mirror, and the guts to do a trach on myself with the air I had left. I just stood there, waiting to die and thinking it was a damn stupid way to go. (Lots of good reasons for dying, but I've never considered stupidity one of them.) Eventually, the process just started working again, and I found out much later that concussion to the vagus nerve can paralyze the diaphragm. Apparently not even close, but at the time I was pretty sure......

Glad you made it, moonbird.
posted by unrepentanthippie 13 July | 08:42
whoa moonbird honey! I'm so glad you're okay! With all this water the rivers are dangerous right now, even the little creeks.

Funny this comes up today, I nearly got run over just half an hour ago. Totally my fault, I was wandering along into work, mildly hungover, thinking about a million things and I looked the wrong way down a one way street I cross every day and went straight out into traffic where an elderly man narrowly missed me and then proceeded to give me a stern lecture. Nearly dead and embarrassed, all before my second cup of coffee. Dag.
posted by mygothlaundry 13 July | 10:07
I was born in a crossfire hurricane, for real (Agnes). If you call my mom a toothless, bearded hag, though, I'm liable to pounce.

I've had a car run over my feet at 45 mph (or at least in a 45 mph zone), suffered high racking fevers from Lyme disease and dysentery, fallen from roofs, the rear bumper of an 18-wheeler on the way to the superhighway, and an ancient Roman aqueduct; but the scariest moment for me came in Japan.

In 1993 I stayed with a host family in Sapporo as part of an off-campus program with my college, taking classes at a local university and immersing myself in Japanese language and culture. As part of one of my classes, we all had to plan and take a solo summer vacation, somewhere in Hokkaido, making all the arrangements ourselves, and staying somewhere we could verify the proprietors spoke no English.

I chose to travel to Hakodate, a Meiji-era city on the southern tip of the island, and then to Okushiri Island, a tiny speck in the Japan Sea.

While I was planning my trip, a Japanese buddy of mine suggested I leave a week earlier, so as to visit Okushiri during the harvest of a certain fish delicacy I can't even name now.

I had a great vacation. The minshuku where I stayed in Hakodate was charming, and the proprietor was a retired rakugo comedian and a careful host. Okushiri was remote and quiet and there were only a few hundred people on the island, all fishermen and their families. It was beautiful, a side of Japan I would never have seen otherwise.

The weekend after I returned to Sapporo, I was showering before my bath when my host-mother banged on the door, shouting, "Jishin! [Hugh]-san, jishin da!"

I thought to myself, jishin? Jishin... I just learned that in class. Whoa! The room began to sway. The bathwater waiting for me began to slosh back and forth in the tub. Oh yeah, earthquake! I shut the hot water off to lessen the chance of gas fire, and rode the tremors out naked and dripping wet.

I dried off quickly and found my host family in front of the TV. At the epicenter, in the middle of the Japan Sea, the earthquake was 7.6 on the Richter scale. Tsunamis swept over Okushiri Island, killing 198 people.

When I look at a map or especially a satellite photo of the devastation, and think about where I stayed, and what I was doing a week before (relaxing in the common room of a pension that was swept out to sea), I get scared. I think about my friend's advice, and fish harvests, and how it was a close call even though I wasn't that close to it. I feel lucky.

This past Christmas, it all came back to me as I waited three weeks to hear from a friend of mine living in Thailand. She's still living, though she went through a lot more that I did. Harrowing doesn't begin to describe it. I want to cry when I get off the phone with her. She's changed, and it changes me to feel that. Close calls change everything, or so it seems.

They've changed me.
posted by Hugh Janus 13 July | 11:11
Let's all knock wood collectively... dang, some spinetingling stuff from everyone. It's actually helped a lot knowing that so many other people have their own stories about the big D and can identify with each others' close shaves. As for me, I'm still a bit sore, but actually feeling pretty groovy, all things considered. Anyway, here's to life, all! [clink!]
posted by moonbird 13 July | 14:59
Knocks wood.

I have to admit, I typed something up this morning but was too superstitious to post it. I was made anxious, felt relief and otherwise moved by the stories. I just couldn't bring myself to say any more out loud. But I'm glad you all made it.
posted by safetyfork 13 July | 15:24
The ocean still scares me.
And so it should. The ocean is a scary beast that cares not a whit for puny humans. You should always treat it as if it is trying to kill you at any time. Don't be too scared to go in, but keep in mind that there are usually no second chances if things go wrong.
posted by dg 13 July | 22:50
very swimming to cambodia of you
by the way
track 3 is yours
many drive songs were removed for the mix length

on topic: i use to drive without fear. in many a strange and still unexplained circumstance.
there are tales of a mustang suspended on telephone wires (not me)
and two bus
a nursing home and more
but long tales aren't my stile tonight
i no longer drive without fear
but not of crashing
i know i ain't dying in a car
posted by ethylene 13 July | 22:56
thanks dg

Glad everyone is ok...
posted by Schyler523 14 July | 20:43
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