I come from an amazing family, a strong father and a loving and caring mother. I was born in Denver, Colo. To Robert and Donna Frick. My father worked for GE and was working his way up the corporate ladder, so we moved a lot early in my life. After Denver we moved to North Carolina, where my brother Matt was born. From there we went to New Hampshire and then ended up in Michigan, where I got involved in hockey. My father loved hockey, but never pushed for me to be in it, but the day I brought the flyer home from school about hockey was a dad that made my father proud. From that point on my father had to make a choice, his family and kids or his career? He choose family! He gave up being a very powerful player in the corporate world, to be there for my brother and I. Jack Welsh, the eventual CEO of GE, wanted my father to come along with him on the road of riches and power. My father said no. He wanted to be there for us, rather than provide millions of dollars, he made sure we had a father figure present and accounted for. The sacrifices both he and my mother made for my brother and I still amazes me.
Hockey became my family’s life, both my brother and I played hockey at the highest level growing up. We traveled all over North America and sometimes beyond. Many weekends, I would be in one Canadian City and my brother would be in another, which meant mom and dad were always traveling with us, mom with one and dad with the other. The cost of playing hockey at this level was high, but the cost of time was greater and both of our parents never flinched, they made sure we were there.
As I grew older hockey became more and more important and school, well became less important, at least in my mind. I was a great hockey player, not so great in school. So my efforts, my energies went into sports, not school. This meant that my grades began to suffer. I did not believe I was smart and my grades proved to me that was the case. I avoided school, I avoided the embarrassment that I thought I was in the classroom. When I looked in the mirror, I saw a dumb jock! I had it in my head that I was going pro in hockey, not thinking about the need for college. I was growing into my body and as I neared 18 I closed in on 200 lbs. and at 6’4” I caught the interest of a lot of people. Unfortunately my grades were so poor that I could not pass the NCAA requirements to play Division 1 hockey. So, I had a choice to make…go to Preparatory School in New Hampshire with my brother (Kimball Union Academy) or play Junior Hockey and go to Community College.
Well as an 18 year old, I knew everything and went against my father’s wishes to go to Kimball Union, and went to Oakland Community College. I did not want to leave my girlfriend at the time. I told my dad I could do it, I would achieve good grades and get into a University. How that decision would change life as I knew it….
December 18, 1991, I walked out of my last class of my first semester knowing I had earned a 3.75 GPA. Brent and I came out of class on a high and Brent suggested we head to breakfast to celebrate. At first I was reluctant, no money and having a girlfriend I as supposed to meet up with soon, but I agreed. We headed toward the Country Kitchen, a restaurant I was not familiar with, so I followed Brent closely. There are a few events that remain in my memory from that day…I remember pulling up to an intersection looking up and seeing the Pontiac Silverdome, then turning onto Opdyke Road, turning on my wipers and switching lanes…then…everything goes into darkness….
The story I have been told by Brent, and witnesses was that I traveled down the hill on Opdyke Rd and got into the left turn lane behind Brent and another car. The first car turned left onto Auburn Rd., Brent followed, and I was right behind him….
For many years now I have tried to remember what exactly happened at 11:02 am that morning, why did I turn? How did I not see that Yellow Fully Loaded Car Transport barreling down on me? What was going through my minds as the event unfolded? I will never know.
This is what did happen, as I turned left, a Car Transport Carrying a full load of GMC Pick-ups was barreling down on the intersection trying to beat the light, he was traveling well above the posted speed limit of 45 mph. My white Toyota Corolla GTS was hit on the right front and driven backwards at a high rate of speed, I am not sure if it was the sheer mass of the truck or the speed, but my car and I were thrown 10 feet up into the air landing on a conversion van’s roof and sliding off onto the road.
As the truck hit me, I was thrown though the right front windshield, then was pulled back into the car as the engine came bursting in crushing my right leg, but keeping me from being fully ejected from the car. My face now resting on the passenger side dash in a pool of blood, with the cold air rushing in and snow beginning to hit my face, my fight for life began.
Once the police and fire rescue got on the scene, they began working feverishly to get me out of the car and to the hospital. They had little time because of the severity of my injuries, I was bleeding to death. My stomach was hard and filled with blood, my face was peeled off like from the slash of a bears paw, my arm snapped, my leg crushed and God only knew what else….
At the scene police and rescue reported they did not expect me to make it to the hospital, let alone through the hour upon hours of surgery that would be required to piece me back together. Yet, they never quit, they never slowed down. It took these amazing people 20 minutes from the time of my accident to the time I arrived at Pontiac Osteopathic Hospital (POH). In my mind they were the true heroes, they were the ones that save this unknown person’s life. As I arrived at POH, the EMT’s reported that I had coded one time in the ambulance, but they were able to jump my heart back into rhythm. I had extensive unknown internal injuries, my right leg was crushed and my left arm was compounded above the elbow. More importantly, my vitals were weak at best….
Before entering surgery I coded again….Beeeeppp…….Flatline……this time the doctors struggled to bring me back….
As I am waiting for surgery, in a cold and very bright hallway I realize that I am no longer in my body. I can hear voices, beeping sounds and light all around. Then I’m looking down from above….I can see myself, my face is almost recognizable, there are tubes all over, bandages covering what appears to be my face. My skin appearing paper white, with blood covering most of what I can see…am I alive…is this it? I am no longer in pain, I am free from pain, and free from the binds of life….then darkness comes again….
The next thing I remember is something that is very hard to describe, it’s like flashes in time, a flow of thoughts and feelings that don’t seem familiar, yet are very comforting. It’s almost like I am floating on a cloud surrounded by pure energy, nothing like I have ever seen. There are things happening all around me, like little movie clips.
It’s during this time where I begin to question everything….
Growing up my mom and dad raised my brother and me as Christians. We were baptized and taught that Jesus was the son of God…Yet here I am in a plan of existence that does not fit with what I have learned.
That is in no way saying Christianity is wrong or that it is right. It is only saying that what filling my heart at that moment was beyond what we are taught. What I saw, what I felt was energy, not male or female, not human or creature, but just energy. The vision that has filled my thoughts since that day is of a giant ball of energy with bands of light emanating in every direction – I am not exactly sure what I was seeing, but I felt the presence of something much greater than myself.
I began to see that religions, all religions have truths, but they also have the human element of story-telling, to help us make sense of the unsensable.
If you look at religion whether it is Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, or Muslim they all teach similar lessons; lessons of love, respect, and honor and they all tell a story. This story is something I will touch on in later chapters, but for now just remember the idea of stories being told.
A little over 2 minutes pasted before they got sign of life again….
12 hours of surgery later, I was alive…in a coma…but alive. My spleen had been removed as it was in 8 pieces, my heart severely bruised, lungs collapsed, Kidney’s and Liver were lacerated, digestive track shut down, my spine was broken, 900 stitches in my face, 300 in my ear. Doctors were not certain I would make it through the night.
The next three days were touch and go, fighting infections, high fevers and a body decimated from the impact, I fought.
8 days after entering POH, I awoke, in more pain than I can even begin to explain, uncertain as to where I was or what happened. I was being told a little bit at a time how bad my injuries were and that the expectations of recovery were not good. Would I be able to walk again, talk, work, be a kid again…would I ever play hockey again? There were so many questions filling my head, and there were no answers. I learned that my right arm was partially paralyzed, my back was in bad shape (I would later learn many years after the accident that my L2 and L3 vertebrae had been fractured) but the doctors could not tell me how bad it was or if I would walk again because of the damage to my right leg and my back. Question after question came up and again each question was answered with an, “I do not know” or even worse, a “no”. I started to slip into a depression
Then there was a story on the news that caught my attention, Detroit Lions Football player Paralyzed on November 18th 1991, was on the news. Mike Utley played right guard for the Detroit Lions and while playing a home game against the then L.A. Rams, went head first into the turf and broke his neck, fracturing his 6th and 7th Cervical Vertebrae.
The News was not good at first, they were reporting that Mike was told he would never walk again. They were showing these 300lbs. men in tears walking into his room. Then….those same giants came out of his room laughing and smiling.
I struggled to make sense of this, was the news different, did those players learn something that wasn’t being reported? Was Mike going to be okay….The answer was simple…no news had changed. What did change was how Mike was handling the situation, as he did when they carted him off the field giving the crowd the thumbs up! Telling the Silverdome Crowd he was going to be okay, when in his heart of hearts he knew differently. Here again Mike was being the optimist, the hero I have grown to know.
When the doctor’s first walked into Mikes room to tell him the new of his injuries, Mikes answer was refreshing, at least to me.
As the Doctor walks in he gets Mike’s attention. Mike I have some news for you that may be hard to hear, but it is what it is….Mike you broke your C6 and C7 vertebrae, paralyzing you from the chest down. Mike you will never walk again, I am sorry.”
Mike’s answer will forever resound in my memory….“Don’t ever tell someone that they can’t do something!” was Mike’s response. That one newscast changed my life forever! For whatever reasons, Mike’s words hit me, and never left. I soaked in his energy, his inspiration and never looked back.