On one particular evening — I don’t remember the date — I went out to a show to support a local band, and I also had a radio interview to do at the local radio station WEFT. They were always wonderful supporters of Innocent Words and would have me on from time to time.
The interview went well and after I decided to make the half hour drive home instead of going back to the club to see the final band. Big mistake. As I headed down the road, almost to the highway, there was only one other car out at this hour. It was in front of me and slowed to make a right-hand turn, so I signaled left to drive around it. As soon as I did, I saw another car coming toward me. Then it happened. It was like super slow motion. I thought to myself, “don’t you pull out there,” and as soon as I thought it, the oncoming car ran the stop sign and plowed into me.
The crash was loud and pushed my car across three lanes on the road. I remember my car sliding and hit the opposite curb and came to a rest. I sat there dazed, hurt and panicked. I fumbled for my cell phone and dialed 911. Luckily, the ambulance and hospital were just a couple blocks away. I sat in my broken car, glass all over the place. I felt something under my arm. I was worried it was a bone, but I came to find out it was a Payday candy bar that flew from the passenger’s seat and got trapped in my armpit. Needless to say, I wouldn’t be eating that.
As I waited — it seemed to take forever for anyone to show up — I was right across the street from the bus garage, and a bus pulled past the accident, weaving through the glass, and didn’t even stop to check on anyone. I couldn’t believe that. I guess the driver really wanted to get off their shift and go home.
Eventually a cop rolled up, made me stay in my seat and told me not move as he went over to check the other driver who hit me. The ambulance came and gently got me out of the car on to a stretcher, and we headed to the emergency room. I was awake the whole time, so I knew that was good, but I still was hurting. I was coherent enough to tell them about my transplant and give them a list of my medications, so they knew my extensive medical history
In the ER, I was diagnosed with a mild concussion, since my head hit the side window and cracked it. I also had a lot of bruises. But the major problem was a partially dislocated left shoulder from the seatbelt. Luckily, it went back in place on its own from getting beaten around in the car, which ended up a total loss. Luckily, I wasn’t.
I got to leave the hospital that night, and early the next morning I got a call from a couple friends asking about the accident. I had no idea how they found out, but word spread like wildfire. I was doing okay, but my left shoulder to my sternum had bruised overnight and was black and blue.
As for the accident, itself, it was determined by the cops on the spot that it wasn’t my fault because the driver was drunk, had no license, no insurance and had a 16-year-old drunk girl in the car with him. In addition, this was his second DUI.
The downside was he had no insurance, so he couldn’t/wouldn’t pay for my medical bills. My car was covered under my insurance, but it didn’t cover the ambulance or hospital.
Rallying the troops
A local musician and show promoter David Domal stepped up and organized a Troy Michael Benefit to pay for the medical bills. I was blown away by the generosity. It turned out to be a huge production with five to six bands playing and ended up more of a celebration of life than anything.
One of the bands on the bill was a great local college band called Everybody Uh-Oh. However, they had one stipulation if they were to play…. they wanted me to join them and play on a couple songs. This wouldn’t be a problem… or so I thought. We decided to play one of their originals of my choice and play a cover of Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike.” The only rule was, I would sing lead with Everybody Uh-Oh’s lead singer Jeremy Keller doing backup.
I can play guitar, but I can’t sing… let alone do both at the same time. We had a few weeks to practice, which I knew was a must. But it turns out we only practiced twice in their dorm.
The night of the show was an amazing, mind-blowing experience. Everyone was having so much fun, and I got more hugs than I could ever count. Then it was time to play. I had never played in front of a crowd before, I just played guitar in my room for fun.
I was called up to the stage and given a Fender Telecaster to use. I was so nervous my voice was trembling as I thanked everyone for coming out then told a lame joke or two. And then it began… “I don’t mind stealing bread…” I sang in a hushed tone and stared at no one. When Jeremy sang his parts I felt a lot better and just went with it, did the best I could. It was a lot of fun, and I was very thankful for not only having that opportunity, but for all the friends who came out to help.
Sadly, I don’t see or talk to many of those people anymore. Most have moved on, graduated college, moved away, got married, and had kids. I miss those times, I miss those people, but I am just lucky to have experienced such a wonderful night of music and friends.