The Time My Strange Behavior Got Me Tossed Out Of A Hospital
Given my age, it's a minor miracle that I have never spent the night in a hospital bed. (Knock on wood.)
I might have been hospitalized overnight at the age of 23 if it had not been for the fact that the I was kicked out of Medina General Hospital in Medina, Ohio, for being "disruptive" and more trouble than I was worth.
In adulthood, I have been in and out of hospitals for various outpatient tests and once, in 2018, for outpatient arthroscopic knee surgery.
As a kid, I was the King of Stitchesfor a wide variety of stupid stunts that forced my parents to drag me off to the Miami Valley Hospital ER in Dayton, where they would stitch me up and send me back out to create more mayhem in the Ohmer Park neighborhood.
To this day, I still have some faint scars to prove it.
But on a Sunday night in January 1976, when a blizzard was howling through northeast Ohio, I came very close to spending the night in the hospital.
I was in the middle of a brief stint as a reporter for the Sandusky Register, working about 15 miles south of town in Norwalk, the county seat of Huron County, where the Register had a two-person bureau. We wrote our stories on an old-fashioned teletype machine.
I lived in an apartment in the sleepy village of Milan, on U.S. Route 250, about halfway between Norwood and Sandusky. Milan's claim to fame was that it was the birthplace of Thomas Edison.
At the time, I was driving a bright yellow 1972 Ford Maverick that I had bought a few months before at Ed Mullinax Ford in Amherst, in Lorain County. That weekend, I drove it about 70 miles east to the Cuyahoga Falls suburb of Silver Lake, where I would spend the weekend with Becky, my Ohio University friend.
It was only the second car I ever owned. The first was a 1964 Chevy Impala I bought from my pal John Kiesewetter when we were both at Ohio University, working on The Post, the student newspaper.
Ultimately, the "Gray Ghost," as the Chevy was known, was on its last legs and I sold it to a guy who ran it in the Huron County Fair's demolition derby.
The salesman at Ed Mullinax Ford took pity on me and gave me a good deal on the Ford Maverick, which looked good, even though it was essentially a junk heap.
The weekend with Becky and her family was very nice; her parents were always terrific to me. Her dad, Bill, who ran the savings and loan in Cuyahoga Falls, always greeted me in his man cave with a beer and a carton of Viceroy cigarettes (this was not long after I had picked up the nasty habit, which I have since dropped).
But I had to go back Sunday night so I could show up at work in Norwood Monday morning.
After dinner, I packed up the Maverick and started heading west.
None of us, though, had paid the least bit of attention to weather reports, and I was totally ignorant of the fact that I was about to drive into a full-blown, lake-effect blizzard that spread over all northeast Ohio.
The snow started coming down hard when I was on Interstate 71, heading south to the State Route 303 exit.
By the time I got to the exit, there were white-out conditions. The roads were already snow-covered.
Being a young idiot, I plowed forward, thinking I could get out in front of it.
Right off State Route 303 sat the Richfield Coliseum, the original home of the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers. There was a game that night and it was just letting out as I passed by, slipping and sliding on the highway.
Just past the Coliseum, there was a very steep hill that had a vertical drop like an amusement park roller coaster.
There was a great deal of traffic, all moving very slowly, from the Cavs game. As I went over the rise and started down the hill, I could feel that I was losing control of the car, which was barreling toward the right side of the road.
The Maverick slammed into a massive pile of plowed snow from the previous week's snowstorm. The entire front end was buried in snow, up to the windshield.
I remember having a few seconds where I could think about what to do – Guess I'll have to get a tow truck to pull me out of this pile of snow.
But, within seconds, a huge Oldsmobile 88, a 3,500-pound land yacht, spun out at the exact same spot that I did, slamming into the back end of my little Maverick.
It was no contest.
The Olds was barely damaged. My car's back end, quite literally, folded up like an accordion and was pressed up against my back. The impact slammed my head into the windshield and then bounced off the dashboard. My eyeglasses went flying off into the wreckage and never were found.
The crash shoved my car deeper into the snow pile, and I could not get out of the car. I was woozy and in some pain from being buffeted around. Ironically, though, being in the snow pile probably saved me from far worse injuries.
The memories get a bit hazy from here on out.
I remember the two people from the Olds – who did not have any injuries – rushing to the passenger door of my car, digging in the snow and trying to force the door open.
They succeeded, and I went tumbling onto the ground.
Instantly, there were what seemed like a whole fleet of Ohio Highway Patrol cruisers and other cop cars on the scene; I suppose they had already been there for traffic control after the basketball game.
Things were rather confused. The traffic on the hill was at a near standstill. For some reason, in my confused state, I ran out into the middle of State Route 303 and began directing traffic around the crash.
A couple of nearly Highway Patrol troopers noticed me.
Who the hell is that out in the middle of the road?
Oh man, that's the guy who was in the Maverick.
Get an ambulance!
The next thing I knew I was on a gurney, being lifted into the ambulance, which took off for the nearest hospital – Medina General Hospital, maybe 15 miles away.
The EMTs had my neck and head stabilized and were peppering me with questions to see just how scrambled my brain was.
I remember arriving at the emergency room and being wheeled into the back, and a nurse slamming the curtain shut behind me. Soon, I was being poked and prodded by a doctor and nurses before I was sent down briefly for X-rays.
They came to the conclusion that, while I had some nasty bruises, I had no broken bones, but I did have a severe concussion.
You'll be spending the night for observation,the doc said.
They asked me if I had family in the area; I said no. But I had enough sense to be able to give them the names and number of Becky's parents in Silver Lake. A nurse said she would call them and let them know what happened.
As I lay there in the emergency room bed, my head pounding and my nerves on edge, I started plotting ways to get out of the emergency room.
Then, way down the hall, I could hear the distant sounds of the theme of the TV cop drama, Kojak, which was extremely popular in those days. Telly Savalas. Who loves ya, baby?
I could not resist that siren song. I started crawling out of my bed, dismantling the restraining bars, and in my cute little pair of hospital socks, I started padding my way (quietly, so as not to draw attention of the nurses) toward the waiting room where Kojakwas on the TV.
I was having a big old time, discussing the plot twists with the people in the waiting room, who seemed somewhat taken aback that a patient – a goofy patient – was in their midst.
After a half an hour or so, they were bringing a cart down to haul me to my overnight room when they discovered I had disappeared. The aides with the cart reported to the nurse station, who, I am told later, put an all-point bulletin out for me throughout the hospital. They also called the police, in case I had wandered beyond the hospital grounds.
For all they knew, I was sitting in the local Waffle House in my hospital jammies having a big breakfast.
After a while, though, a nurse spotted me sprawled on a couch in the waiting room, as that episode of Kojakcame to its climax.
Over my protests, I was practically dragged back to the emergency room bed.
I could faintly hear a conversation going on from the other side of the curtains. The doc, the nurses, the aides, even the guy who emptied the bed pans all agreed – We should get this guy out of here.
So the decision was made to call Becky's father and ask that he come to Medina and take me to their home to recuperate. They had strict instructions to wake me several times during the night to ask me questions: Do you know where you are? Who am I? What's your name? Why are you here?
Becky's mom ended up getting that duty.
Her dad, fearless in the snow, made the trek to Medina and picked me up.
Everyone is pretty worried about you,he said. Becky's out of her mind.
Then he laughed.
First time I have ever seen anybody with hospital discharge papers saying, "tossed out for being a pain in the butt."
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