Thanksgiving Means Something More This Year, To Me At Least

By  |  November 20, 2011 | 

I had other plans for a post today.  Another time.

However, this weekend, I had a moment of clarity.  I call it survival.

On an unlit 3-lane highway in the center lane, I drove at a sensible cruising speed.  No cell phone and no distractions—it was just me behind the wheel.

Like the movies, knowing the inevitability of a scene’s outcome, three seconds stood still when I sighted what lay ahead.  There was a car parked in the middle of the road with no lights on.  Why I do not know.  There was no time, and I braced for the impact at full speed.

That is what happened, and this is what is left of my car:

Soldiers speak of the fog of war.  After stumbling out of my vehicle, I had presence of mind, as I knew I survived, in one piece, and I would see tomorrow.  However, as much as the notion of dialing 911 entered my consciousness, I could not execute.  I now understand what the term shellshock means.  I was in the moment, but I was not, and it took a few minutes for my wits to return.  I just remember blood on my hands and face, and a lot of soreness.

It occurred to me, only during the last few hours, that I am lucky to be here.  If this were twenty years ago, pre airbag, the outcome would be different.  I have a face left because of that device, and I am alive because I wore a seatbelt.

Additionally, I am still thanking god there were no little ones in the car.  I cannot imagine the mental toll this would have on a child.

God bless good samaritans.  For the EMT tech (whose real gig is a Professor of Philosophy at NYU) who stopped to help, thank you.

For the salesperson, whose name I never got, who waved traffic and stood with me until the police arrived, you are a godsend.

For all the cruddy bumpers and flimsy plastic trim that scratch and cause anguish, they are meaningless in the context of safety.  The air bag went off, and the technology did its job.  This is not your dad’s Buick.  That is a very good thing.

Finally, as I write about policy, I have a concluding message on seatbelts.  It resonates just as loudly today in our debate about health care and regulation.  Thirty-two states mandate use; for the other eighteen, what can I say, although the expression, “live free or die” seems apt.  Please buckle up, and that goes for cab use too.  I had the alertness in those few seconds to think about the belt before the collision.  You cannot imagine the force of a crash, and without that device, the windshield is your next stop.  No kidding.

Finally, to add just a bit of levity as the soreness and headache permeate my innards, my cousin Keith, always the optimist, emailed me this to put a smile on my face.

And yes, it worked.

Have a great Thanksgiving.  I know I will.



  1. Laurie bankston November 20, 2011 at 3:12 pm - Reply

    Glad you are here with us still! Scary!

  2. […] was frightening but not tragic. For this we are thankful.   0 comments on this post     Uncategorized […]

  3. maggie mahar November 20, 2011 at 7:02 pm - Reply


    It’s great that you’re using your terrible experience to remind everyone.

    Health care advocates should start campaigns in those “live free or die” states. So many lives could be saved.

    I appreciate the trauma & shock. My son and fiance were in a similar accident not long ago– in the middle of a 20-car pile-up. Like you, all he could do was brake and brace. Because of seat belts and air-bags they, too, walked away.
    Car totaled.
    But he said that when he next got behind the wheel, he couldn’t help but flash-back.
    Like getting back up on a horse.

    So glad you’re okay.


  4. bluntobject November 21, 2011 at 5:44 am - Reply

    Thank goodness you’re okay. I’m glad you buckled into your car’s safety systems; I’m glad your vehicle was well-built by conscientious automotive engineers; but really I’m glad you survived the crash intact and in a position to post to your blog. I have no agenda here, I’m just glad you’re okay.

  5. Bill Rifkin November 21, 2011 at 10:42 am - Reply

    Wow, what an experience and very well described. And as always, you draw a meaningful and useful (for us) lesson from it. Cars are much, much safer today, in many ways. Mortality per mile is way down. And I agree, in a way, this was achieved over and above car industry preference due to regulation (and competition). Most regulations are not a bad thing. Like everything, its the dosage and how applied. Glad you walked away and available to blog away. Have a great Thanksgiving.

  6. Joe Miller November 21, 2011 at 3:49 pm - Reply

    So glad you walked away Brad. I will be telling your story to others on Thanksgiving.


  7. Marcus Friedrich November 24, 2011 at 4:13 am - Reply

    Horrible picture, glad you are alive. Not failed to note a BMW logo…That car saved my life before in 1998 in the mountains of Austria, slipped on ice, but the sturdy frame saved me and my three friends.

    Happy thanksgiving

    God bless.


  8. rachel lovins January 13, 2012 at 6:45 pm - Reply

    wow brad. I’m sorry I missed this. I’m glad you are ok. I haven’t visited the blog for a while. How traumatizing.

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About the Author: Brad Flansbaum

Brad Flansbaum
Bradley Flansbaum, DO, MPH, MHM works for Geisinger Health System in Danville, PA in both the divisions of hospital medicine and population health. He began working as a hospitalist in 1996, at the inception of the hospital medicine movement. He is a founding member of the Society of Hospital Medicine and served as a board member and officer. He speaks nationally in promoting hospital medicine and has presented at many statewide meetings and conferences. He is also actively involved in house staff education. Currently, he serves on the SHM Public Policy Committee and has an interest in payment policy, healthcare market competition, health disparities, cost-effectiveness analysis, and pain and palliative care. He is SHM’s delegate for the AMA House of Delegates. Dr. Flansbaum received his undergraduate degree from Union College in Schenectady, NY and attended medical school at the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine. He completed his residency and chief residency in Internal Medicine at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York. He received his M.P.H. in Health Policy and Management at Columbia University. He is a political junky, and loves to cook, stay fit, read non-fiction, listen to many genres of music, and is a resident of Danville, PA.


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