15 Years Ago Today I Should Have Died

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Paige Nesbitt3
Paige Nesbitt





By Paige Nesbitt

From what I hear, 15 years ago today I should have died.  I was not doing anything capricious or stupid.  I had not been drinking or taking anything that could have altered my judgment.  It was an accident.

Far more powerful than the fact that the accident could have killed me is the fact that it gave everyone involved the opportunity to see how powerful love, faith and selflessness can be.

On the freeway on my way home from the airport, my front-right tire blew out.  That was the specific moment everything in life changed.

A witness later told police I was in the right lane and the pull from running on one tire shot me quickly to the median divider.  He had noticed me leaving the airport the same time as he and recognized my car as my tire blew out and my driving became erratic.  He called 911 and reported I was slumped over, likely unconscious from my head hitting the window as my car jolted when the tire popped.

My car then b-lined to the right lane and scraped against the guard rail until my car and the rail built enough friction that my car flipped over the guard rail.  My car flipped a couple of times and slid down the embankment off the freeway into a tree.

That witness/caller pulled over on the freeway and remained on the shoulder until the firemen and police arrived.  He did not want to give his name and become embroiled in any legal proceedings that may have ensued, so I don’t know who he is.

Starting 15 years ago today, that witness/caller saved my life.

Timing has never been my forte, but I was certainly in the right place.  LAFD Fire Station #37 was less than half a mile away.  B Company was on duty that morning and from what I have heard, their fire engine was the first vehicle to arrive.  That engine did not have the Jaws of Life on it.

They decided not to wait for the Jaws of Life on the fire truck.  Instead they used a hacksaw to cut windshield pillars and peeled the roof back to free me from the car.

They decided to bag me to ensure I continued breathing.  The minute they bagged me and started manually providing forced ventilation was the minute I stopped breathing on my own.  Their speed prevented any brain death due to oxygen deprivation.

Starting 15 years ago today, B Company at LAFD Fire Station #37 saved my life.


The ambulance rushed me to UCLA Hospital about 1.75 miles away.  When my mother received the call from the hospital, I was in the CT scan.  From what they could see, I had glass embedded in my left hand and serious head trauma, but did not have any other injuries.

My mother knew about UCLA Neurosurgery’s unprecedented study in treating traumatic brain injury (TBI).  Dr. Eleanore Meyer is and was our family’s doctor.  Dr. Meyer came to the hospital immediately to be onsite as my mother worked to contact the doctor who could enlist me as a test patient in that study.

Being in the study meant I had at least six doctors on the UCLA study caring for me 24/7 instead of a more limited care regimen.

Over the next several weeks, the doctors at UCLA Neurosurgery tried new ways to treat my TBI.  For the first two weeks, I was in a coma.

By the third day after the accident, I had contracted pneumonia.  This compounded everything the doctors had to do to keep me alive and likely to recover.

On September 2, I awakened.  Over the next three weeks, I had to relearn everything; walking, talking, brushing my teeth, etc.

Everyone continued working on me.  On September 25, the hospital discharged me for rehabilitation at home.

Starting 15 years ago today, Dr. Meyer, my mother and UCLA Neurosurgery saved my life.

I needed several naps each day those first weeks home.  Every time I lay down, I convinced myself that when I awoke, I would shake my head and thank God this was just a dream.

Each time I awoke with a broken heart.  I was still in bed with healing scars on my hand, trachea and abdomen.  Numerous therapists had to work with me consistently to rebuild my mental and physical faculties including my motor skills, speech and memory.   I felt broken and burdensome.

Once home, I was never alone for longer than 20 minutes before one of my friends came over to take me to coffee or for frozen yogurt.  To make me laugh and make me feel whole and normal.

Everyone working in concert, doing much more than they had to do, saved my life.  All of them provided something no one else could have given and they went out of their way to do so.  Each of them strengthened me to do what I needed to complete my recovery.  For every day in the last 15 years, I thank them – and I recognize just how much each one of us can do when we care enough to act with love, faith and selflessness.


Paige Nesbitt is a Los Angeles native, an author and a blogger.  Her blog is based on her manuscript, Martini Rescue Squad, A Peer Expert's Guide to Being a Single Woman in Her Twenties or Thirties and Loving It.  Nesbitt has a Bachelor’s in Theater and French from Vanderbilt University and an MBA in Finance from Pepperdine University.

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  • Hello, Everyone, and thank you for your comments. Please do take a look at my blog: for the whole story and if you still have any questions, I would be happy to answer them.

    I was the only person in the car and did not hit or hurt anyone else - believe me, if I had done so, I would not have written this in a happy tone.

    Infinite cheers for my mother and for everyone else who helped or advocated for me! Thanks for providing that great link, Bibiana62.

    Yes, I will be at the Night at the Village and I believe for the conference's closing. It would be fun if we all run into each other there.

    Posted by Paige, 19 October 2010.

  • Ladies, Three cheers for Ms. Nesbitt's Mother!!! We all need a medical advocate and each woman/person should have one in her family...This can save lives. Go to the following site to learn about how this can save your life or that of a loved one.
    Be Well, from an RN

    Posted by Bibiana62, 7 October 2010.

  • Ms. Readbourn,
    you seem to be asking rather invasive questions. She was obviously wearing a seat belt (look at the car photo) or she would not be with us today. She answered your other questions on her martini rescue squad site...She was alone in her car, no one else was injured and the accident occured in the morning because she was leaving a Los Angesles airport at the time

    Posted by OliviamcQueen, 7 October 2010.

  • I am happy you are OK! Questions? Were you wearing a seatbelt? Did you have an airbag?
    Was the accident late at night? How many people were involved/hurt in your accident? Are they OK? I hope so for you and for them ...Happy to hear that you are safe! I will be at the conference as the guest of my boss _ will you be there? Thanks for answering my questions, if you do, Bye

    Posted by LReadbourn, 6 October 2010.

  • Miss Paige,
    Your story touched my soul. After many years of volunteering in a children’s hospital and later on a neuro-trauma unit I have some understanding of the tremendous struggle that you mounted to prevail by reclaiming yourself and continuing to grow. God bless you and God bless those you who made your recovery possible. After reading this, wanting to know more about the story of your accident and recovery lead me to your site and I found myself both captivated and tearful as I read your complete story. I urge your readers to take the time to read more about your experience. It is an example of what faith, love, and determination can accomplish. You are blessed!

    Posted by Illahee, 6 October 2010.