Friday, January 30, 2009

Brooke's first writing

Brooke is learning a hands-free computer program called Dragon Naturally Speaking--you just talk into the computer and it types out what you say. Here's his first writing, an account of the bicycle crash--it may be that some of the details are a bit different but these are his words:

No Title

I don't remember the accident itself. I don't even remember where I was in city Creek Canyon, perhaps at the dangerous corner near where the tanks used to be, but the place of the accident I'm still not sure of, although I could find out from several people I know were witnesses. I have no recollection of the crash, perhaps scream as we both turned in the same direction to avoid one another. When I was on the ground or the pavement (I don't know which it was at this point) the only words I recall uttering were, “I can't breathe.” After that I was unconscious until I woke up in the hospital about thirty-six hours later.

I have talked to someone who was present at the scene of the accident (obviously I haven't gotten all the information from him yet). He appeared in my room at Rehab unexpectedly one morning while I was doing exercises with my therapist on my left hand. He was apologetic for having disturbed us, but he looked like a person I wanted to talk to. He introduced himself as someone who was present at the scene of the accident. He had been riding a mountain bike behind the person I hit. When he saw me on the ground he got off his bike and took my pulse. He told my therapist and me that I had no pulse and that my face was gray. A minute later he told us a woman jogger appeared who introduced herself as a life flight nurse and immediately began to pump my chest. Another witness began CPR almost immediately. They kept me alive until the ambulance came about seven minutes later. My therapist, who oddly has the same first name as I do, stood up during this story and stepped away to be polite. After the story was over I looked up and I noticed that tears were running down her cheeks. I am still utterly mystified by the timing of the life flight nurse's appearance on the scene. She saved my life, and I still don't know who she was. Seconds made a difference in the accident, and minutes made the difference in my being alive to write this. Life is strange.

Thirty-six hours later I woke up in the ICU of the University of Utah Hospital. (I say “wake-up”, but it wasn't really waking up but rather a kind of dim, blurried, horrified, painful dawning of consciousness surrounded by the faces of people I dimly recognized and some I didn't.)



T.R. Hummer said...

Brooke: how wonderful to "hear your voice!" Great that the technology is here, both to let you write, and then to let us read! Thanks for this. (And what a story.)

Lorraine Seal said...


My internet goes down for six hours, then it comes up again -- and there you are! How wonderful.

I'm glad you're here to recall what you can piece together. I can't say much more because reading you -- hearing your voice as Terry says -- has me a bit overcome. I'm simply grateful you're still with us.


Tom Huckin said...

Brooke, it's so great to read your words and get your account of the accident -- and to know that this is just the beginning of your 'second' writing career!

Two weeks after the accident, I sent a letter to the Trib that reads as follows:
"At 1:10 pm on Friday, November 14, a vital member of the Salt Lake community, Prof. Brooke Hopkins, collided with another bicycle while riding in City Creek Canyon. Although the collision did not harm the other biker, it left Brooke in critical condition, paralyzed from the neck down. Fortunately, an off-duty critical care nurse happened to be nearby; she kept Brooke alive with CPR and arranged to have him transported to University Hospital. He underwent surgery the next day and is now in stable condition, out of danger. There is hope that he will recover from his grievous injuries.
Brooke has been one of the very best teachers at the University for 35 years, leaving his mark on thousands of students. He has also been active in civic affairs and a generous supporter of local environmental, political, and cultural organizations.
We all owe a great debt of gratitude to the anonymous heroine of this story, the nurse who expertly cradled Brooke’s head and breathed life into him as he lay helpless on the ground that fateful day. By her quick actions, she contributed more to the well-being of our community than she could have known."

(I know there's an error in that letter -- unbeknownst to me at the time, you were not really 'out of danger.' The rest of it, though, is pretty accurate, I think.)

The Trib chose not to print it. When I subsequently asked the editor why, his response was as follows:
"Dear Mr. Huckin: Your Dec 1 letter was indeed concise and well-written. As you might imagine, every day I receive several letters praising some rescue operation or emergency team. When I took over this job I was informed that due to the volume of letters we receive that [sic] we don't run such letters of praise and thanks. I am sorry."

I responded as follows:
"Dear Mr. ___, Thank you for your response & explanation. I find it unfortunate and ill-advised that the heroes in our community cannot be given due recognition in the Public Forum, but if that's the Tribune's editorial policy then I guess there's not much you can do about it."

To say I was disgusted would be putting it mildly.

sustainableElaine said...

fantastic! this is great Brooke, so glad you have a voice! you are the third person I know to have used this method of speaking and it's still magic to me. I think you may have more memories of your accident as time goes by, especially when you are dreaming. Often, our dreams are our teacher. You also might consider being hypnotized as you might find bits of your story hidden away. Thanks for making this blog available as I can keep connected even in Washington DC (for Friends Committee on National Legislation meetings). By the way, if you are confused by my signature, Sustainable Elaine is Elaine Emmi :)

Anonymous said...

dear Brooke,

thanks so much for your account! it seems beautifully crafted, though I suppose you've had a bit of time to think about it . . . can't wait for the next installment, and the one after that, and what that leads to.

Michael White

Susan Fels said...

Dear Brooke and Peggy --
What a stark reminder of our fragile margin between life and death. Most of us don't know how close we've come on any given day -- Brooke knows exactly. Nick and I are so grateful that Brooke survived, and is still able to tell the tale. Thanks, too, Peggy, for your insightful and heartfelt blogging. We are cheering for every tiny (and big) sign of progress, with much love.

Steve Adams said...

Dear Brooke, I just read your account of your accident. How fortunate you were to have been saved by the nurse. I hope she visits you. I thought of the motor scooter crash I had with Ron Rieder in France in 1960 when I broke my leg. I barely recall the accident because I quickly lost consciousness. I vaguely recall being x-rayed and placed on the operating table. Next thing, I found myself in a hospital bed. I'm glad to hear you seem to be doing well again. Best, Steve Adams

George Constable said...

Brooke, can I write dust-jacket copy for the books that are now going to pour out of you?

Brenda Cowley said...

Oh BROOOOOOKE!!! It IS your voice, and I am overwhelmed with the "sound" of it. This comment is too difficult to write, as I cannot see the screen through my tears (of joy!) Peggy has guided us so joyfully, carefully, and clinically through this journey -- I don't know what we would do without her. And now you've "Entered the Chat Room." And my God, it is astounding. Welcome to your own Blog, Brooke -- and Peggy, thank you so much for letting him loose on those of us that check this blog each day. What a miracle -- That nurse will show up, and we will ALL embrace her with gratitude. Tom Huckin's account of the Trib and their take on "Heros" is a bit unsettling -- I am glad he shared his story with us.
My best to you -- keep writing, Brooke --
This particular blog was an "edge of the seat-er." Wow.
Again, I say
Brenda Cowley

Stacey Katz said...

After reading Tom's comment, I'm wondering if we could contact one of the local TV stations to see about their doing a story on this. Maybe they could find the nurse. I have a contact at Channel 4. Please let me know if this is something you would like for me to look into, Brooke and Peggy, OK?
Thinking of you Brooke, and so happy to "read" you. Take good care,

Barbara said...

Dear Brooke and Peggy, So good to read your words and know that you are progressing, and with patience. To learn of the life-flight nurse appearing so timely is to me a beautiful synchronicity. And, Peggy, thank you for your detailed descriptions (with appropriate ommisions which we can only imagine). I heard the song sparrow this morning, a harbinger of fresh beginnings. May its song reach you both. Barbara Andrade

Veranocita said...


Lynette told me that you and Peggy had a blog, I am so glad to have found it. Your story brings tears to my eyes as does your courage. I just wanted to take the time to let you know what an honor it has been to be part of your journey to recovery. I will continue to follow this blog and look forward to more posts.