Thirtieth Anniversary of My Second Life After Car Accident in France

Thirty years ago, at the peak of my pro basketball career, I fell asleep in the back of a car dreaming of driving the baseline on a fast-break. One second I was on top of the world with all-powerful high of a victorious athlete, and the next, my body careened weightlessly through air. Folded into the fetal position, I slammed into hard metal and when I regained consciousness, icy water sucked my breath away.

No normal human beings should have survived the impact or the relentless current when our car flipped off the French autoroute, sailed over a 100-foot high embankment, and crashed into the La Meuse River. But then we were not normal. As pro basketball players, our 25-year-old bodies had been honed to perfection, trained to withstand trauma.

my last game, Marburg, Germany

my last game, Marburg, Germany

Yet within seconds, years of training meant nothing; I was reduced to an invalid. If I wriggled my upper body, I could peek out over the hospital window ledge at the red rooftops of Verdun. Graveyards covered the hillside of the famous WWI look out point? Why wasn’t I buried beside yesterday’s heroes. I had lost my job, my identity, and my purpose. What was left?

Life.

I spent the past three decades trying to get my head around it. I survived…but why?

In addition to the endless support of my husband, family, and friends scattered round the globe, the one thing that has kept me going through years of pain was the drive to write.

I spent an inordinate amount of time in the reclining position due to an ultra bad back. I taught myself to type lying down with my eyes blindfolded to stop words from spinning off the page in my dizziness.

Old manuscript drafts are stacked from floor to ceiling. I could wallpaper my entire house with rejection letters. Yet, through endless transitions from athlete to coach, student to teacher, daughter to mom and through dozens of moves across two continents between four countries, I penned my existence.

coaching next generation of doctors, lawyers and businesswomen

coaching next generation of doctors, lawyers and businesswomen

Even when common sense told me to give up, I kept going. I was compelled to record the story of a lost generation, the pioneers of women’s sports that grew up as the first generation Title IXers coming of age in 1972 along with the groundbreaking law mandating equal opportunities for women in education and sport. The result is a personal testimony that echoes the voices of the past, who helped paved the way for our high-flying daughters of today.

Coming soon… our story seen through the twinkle of my blue eyes.

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Posted in education, inspiration, social view, sport.

26 Comments

  1. Pat, you are truly amazing! You re-define what the human spirit is capable of surmounting and achieving. What an inspiration you are to us all!

  2. Wow, I knew you were in a car wreck but never the details. You really know how to make the page come alive, girl. Good writing. Glad you’re alive and safe, and can’t wait to buy the book.

  3. Pat:

    I had no idea! What an inspiration you are. Your words paint a detaled picture. On days when I think life is tough, it helps to read your blog and see how positive you have been throughout some really rough times. Thank you.

  4. Oh, dearie….that dreadful accident. I remember speaking with you on the phone when you were in the hospital, but I had forgotten until reading this article. You, of course, survived so that our friendship could continue! (Does that sound selfish?!!!)

  5. I did not know this either. What an awful thing to have to overcome and haunt you. But we do what we can with what we are given and you exemplify that! Here’s to many many more years of living your life, my writing friend!

    • Judy, though the pain still haunts me, the memory does not. It reminds me each day is a blessing and I am glad to be here sags, bags, wrinkles and all.

  6. Pat – it’s hard to believe your accident was 30 years ago. I will never forget when I heard you had been in the car accident, and were fortunate
    to be alive. Obviously, the Good Lord had a plan for you. Needless to say, you have touched so many lives from your children/husband, to students,
    to friends and family. Your gift for writing will extend your legacy to so many more. He knew what He was doing when he gave you your “second life.”
    Jill Hutchinson

  7. Pat , I had no idea how close you came to not being here. You have an important and fascinating story to tell and a marvelous storytelling ability. I can’t wait to read your memoir. You truly are an inspiration to all of is!

  8. Pat, you truly are an inspiration. I know I read that an accident cut short your career, but I had no idea how bad that accident was.

  9. It is an anniversary to celebrate because you are still with us inspiring us with your courage, inner strength, perseverance and positive outlook. Sis, I continue to look to you as an example of how to live life with grace and kindness and humor inspite of so many obstacles. I know you will continue to inspire and touch lives through your teaching, your coaching and now your book. Thank you for shining your light on all of us, Pat.

  10. And what a read it’s going to be! Pat, I’m looking forward to your book debuting your journey from there to now. You are definitely one visionary woman warrior who walks the talk…

    Peace, joy & abundance!

    Clara.

  11. Pat, I haven’t known you long enough to know the details behind your car accident, but I can say with certainty that I’m glad you’re one of the fortunate ones who survived! You have a very powerful story to tell, and I’m looking forward to reading it. They say that when God closes a door, He opens a window. Good for you, for going through that window bravely (and showing the rest of us how it’s done!)

  12. I never knew you were in such an awful accident. My heart went out to you as I was reading your story. Miraculous is the only word for it.I believe God sent an angel to watch over you that day. You continue to touch many lives, and have been blessed with a wonderful family and friends. Keep writing…you are good at it!!

    • Thanks Vicki. I think the MTXE (mental toughness extra effort) drilled into us by Coach Hutchinson helped me endure during my toughest days of recovery. And of course family and friend, even those long distance ones, have made all the difference.

  13. Another great article Pat. Thanks for sharing. I know what is coming out in your book and it IS a very inspirational and moving read. But oh my! How short were your uniform shorts back then!!!!

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