Posted on May 9, 2012 · Posted in TBI Voices
This entry is part 1 of 36 in the series Michael

Collision Caused Coma: Michael Part One

This is a story of how Michael, a college student ended up with a collision caused coma and the brain injury he suffered from the accident. Before his collision caused coma Micheal was a typical 22 year old going to college.

College is a time of life for education, to explore new freedoms, to probe the beginnings of adulthood, to lay the foundation for a career and future relationships. It is a vital period where the mind is allowed to transition from childhood to adulthood, where the frontal lobes finish forming, where independence and executive abilities are honed by the trial and error of life away from parents.

Michael was an all too typical college student, with much trial and error, struggling to find a niche, spending too much time partying, not enough time learning in the classroom. At 22 he was beginning to make the changes, that with more experience, better opportunities he would likely have flourished in the adult world.  He had made one major shift, leaving the temptations of his home town party school, to transfer to the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh.

But when he went home to Kentucky for spring break, everything changed.  An inattentive or perhaps intoxicated driver, crossed the center line, hitting his car head on. Michael tells what he remembers of what happened to him that and his collision caused coma:

I went to UWO and I went home on spring break, which is Louisville, KY.  That’s where I was born. My sister, a friend of hers and her boyfriend, at the time, we all went out to eat. I drove her friend home and while driving her home a car crossed the double lines and hit me head on.

If the law (for Driving Under the Influence) had been changed to .08 he would have been arrested or gotten a ticket for being a drunk driver.  Now I guess to make also real clear, most of the stuff that I’m telling my parents and my sister and people involved have told me because I don’t have too much or I don’t have recollection.

Michael-At the Time of His Collision Caused Coma

You said University, UWO.  That’s University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.


We are doing this interview in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin and Oshkosh is 20 minutes from here.


When was the accident that?

March 19, 1993.

So it’s almost getting close to 19 years.


How old were you when you got hurt that resulted in a collision caused coma?

I just turned, I was 22.

What year in school?

I don’t know.  I went to three colleges.  When I back to UWO (after the accident), it was either in the fall of 95 or the fall of 94.  I came back and I was registered as a junior at the time I think. I had 202 credits.

Did you graduate from college?

Yes.  I got a degree in human services and I have a problem with working with humanity so I don’t work now.

And we’ll, we’ll come back and talk to you in some detail about your education  education and even who you were before.  In the first part I usually to talk about the accident, what, you know, severity and the collison caused coma.  What you remember before those kind of things.

I don’t know.  It was, it was nighttime I think.  I was driving home after we ate.

Now do you remember anything that happened in March 1993 before the collision caused coma?


So when you say came home from spring break, you really don’t remember?

I don’t.  Actually, I remember one thing, and you have to pardon me because vernacular is not very well, but I was working for my dad on the day of my car accident.  Now we were driving home and in Louisville there’s main strip called Bardstown Road and on Bardstown Road there was this oriental restaurant and right behind it was an animal clinic and I thought was just funny.

Animal clinic?

An animal clinic.  That’s all I remember from the whole week, actually, for that whole year.  My, my parents with – my long-term memory have to fill in the blanks or change things because I don’t remember them correctly.  My short-term memory is terrible.  That could be asked by my fiancée, Becky, and I’m kind of in the middle, it’s completely terrible.

Partly because of the collision caused coma Micheal has amnesia and very distorted and unclear memories of before and after the accident. There are many theories as to how islands of memory can appear in a sea of amnesia.  It is thought the more emotionally coated a memory, the greater likelihood that it will be remembered.  The amygdala, the brains primal emotional core in the lower brain, assists its neighboring structure, the hippocampus (the brain’s save button) in remembering emotional things. For Michael, the only thing the hippocampus managed to save was the irony of an Asian restaurant, next to a vet clinic. It is a unique example, but consistent with what we are learning about retrograde amnesia and his collision caused coma.


Next in Part Two – Severe Brain Injury and Skull Fractures Leave in GCS 3

By Attorney Gordon Johnson


About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447