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Photo of Seewald accident   
  
Definition of 'Lucky' article, with amazing photos of 'another miracle'

 

The naming of
'Miracle Hill'.

Otherwise entitled:
Our near death (maybe death)
experience- April of 1991.

by Michael Seewald 
Written in Sept. of 2003
 

After celebrating friend and artist Michael Gaszynski's 80'th something birthday party at the San Dieguito Art Guild here in northern San Diego county we started to make our way over to friends Arnold and Lonnie Gibb's house in Village Park.  Valerie had plans to make everyone some of her famous egg plant parmesan.  But on this Sunday,  different plans were being arranged for us and others.

It's been over 10 years, but I remember it as if it were yesterday.  This is our story. 

For years I had thought the bottom of the hill at the end of Encinitas Blvd., at the El Camino Real intersection here in Encinitas, was one of those places that was just waiting for an accident to happen.  It is a very, very long steep downhill grade.  Many cars, being that it's a wide five lane highway counting the large middle turn lane down most of it, (six lanes at the light counting the two left turn lanes) feel comfortable going down it at speeds of about 50 m.p.h..  I think it's marked 35.

We arrived at that intersection at about 3 p.m. on a beautiful sunny day.  I pulled into one of the two left turn lanes, as I had done hundreds of times over the years, but this time in the far right one, next to the traffic that sometimes speeds by.  (I'm cognizant of the fact that is the dangerous side of the two, I usually don't get into that one.)

Valerie was with me and we pulled up behind two or three other cars. We were waiting to turn left onto El Camino Real.  A moment later a Volvo driven by a young man pulled up behind us to wait also (I had not noticed this and  later found out he had to drop off a video around the corner, only a one block drive from his home.  He did not have his seat belts fastened; after all, it's only one block).

That would be the last 'normal' moment for quite a few of us that were waiting that day.  Destiny, unknown to us, was in motion just behind us. 

"That was almost the last thing I ever saw. "

Now here is the interesting part.  It had been a week to the day that Valerie had given her life to the Lord at a North Coast Calvary Chapel's alter call. Now that she was a committed Christian, I was asking a sign from the Lord if I should marry her; if it was OK.  We had been dating for a while now, but as I had become a Christian a couple of  years earlier I had learned to pray for God's will, forgoing my own.  (He says in the bible not to get 'un-equally yoked', usually interpreted to mean not to marry or start a business with someone without your belief system- sounds like good/wise advice doesn't it?) So I had not really been able to contemplate marrying her until she had become a Christian.

While sitting there at that light, contemplating life and future possibilities, I saw two young ladies chatting to each other and crossing the street towards us on our right, just reaching the curb near us. That was almost the last thing I ever saw... for at that same moment I turned and noticed them crossing the street I went into a 'what's happening here' situation.  For at that moment, and a very long moment it was, some sort of 'altered state of mind' was engaged!!  And as it was coming to what I thought was an end then it felt that the 'it' started all over again.  Another, almost eternal 'moment' was born, and once again all I contemplated was 'what's is it, what's happening'? It was kinda like I was forced into a slow-motion dance in the dark!  Can not exactly explain the feeling.

She wasn't moving at all...eyes and mouth wide open... Valerie reminded me of a dead fish.

When all settled down (somewhere between eternity and five seconds later) I started to realize what had happened.  The car, I then realized, had been spinning or moving, but at such a speed that I could see nothing.  My brains had been pin-balled around at a tremendous speed. We had been in some sort of an accident or explosion.  As I did not hear any warning noises, such as a cars breaks squealing, I at first thought that maybe a plane had just hit us!?  I focused. My eyes were found to be looking to my left and outside my drivers side window.   I had last seen young ladies walking, now I saw old ladies dying. Touching my car, and facing the opposite direction, was a station wagon filled with older folks that I was now focusing on.  None of them were moving.  The driver, an old lady of about 80 was close enough to touch if both of our windows were down.  She was not looking well at all; her head was drooped forward in an unconscious state, and blood was dripping out of her face down into her lap.  This cant' be real, could it?

The other occupants in her car looked no better.  I tried to move my arms to maybe start trying to help them when I realized I could not. My legs and arms were paralyzed.  I could move nothing from my neck down. I slowly turned my head to the other direction.  There was Valerie.  Oh yeah, she was with me.  Her head was tilted way back, towards the back of the car, and almost touching my right shoulder, as if she were trying to look up at me.  She had ended up facing the same as me, to the left.  She wasn't moving at all, and her eyes and mouth were wide open... she was not focused on anything at all. I must say, she looked like a dead fish.  She not only looked dead, I felt she probably was.  I felt very, very sick, not so much physically, but emotionally- this was a real nightmare.

I turned back to my left and looked a bit over my shoulder to see what else was up and saw, just in front of the station wagon, an older looking car with a rounded top that was on fire (I found out later it was a Volvo).  I saw someone pulling a man, unconscious, from that burning vehicle and dragging him to safety. I quickly realized that the vehicle, as it was almost touching the station wagon, would soon engulf it too, along with it's older occupants.  I also slowly realized another dismaying fact: as we were touching the station wagon we too would soon be engulfed in flames. 

It really looked as if we might all burn up in a matter of moments.  And, even though I knew I was probably going to die there, I was surprised at how calm I felt. The calmness was un-explainable,  except maybe to other Christians in similar circumstances. And although I was quite surprised to find out that I was not at all afraid to die, I also did not want to be saved from the impending disaster as a paralyzed and somewhat burnt up victim for life either.


"...and they actually ran up and DRAGGED THE ENTIRE CAR, along with the elderly folks in it AWAY FROM THE BURNING VEHICLE. "

So, I prayed this silent, very heartfelt prayer, looking straight ahead through our broken windshield at folks starting to get out of their cars and run to the scene:  "Lord, please heal me or take me home."  In that VERY same moment the prayer was made I immediately felt my body get it's full feelings back. 

Also, at that very instant, Valerie came 'back to life', starting to moan and slowly move.  THANK YOU LORD!  I immediately asked her "Are you alright?"  Later she recalled that as it did not sound like my voice she thought it was God asking her.  (More like my voice was not quite my own after such a terrible jar, as I could barely breath properly as the wind had been knocked out of me too.  This I realized more clearly later, as I had seat belt marks branded completely across my chest in two places. Besides, as I told Valerie that He would not have to ask her, He would know if she was ok or not.)

At the same time I prayed my prayer, a few noble citizens had gone into action.  They ran up and actually DRAGGED THE ENTIRE CAR, along with the elderly folks in it, AWAY FROM THE BURNING VEHICLE!  Thank you Lord for such an act of heroism. 

And, as I was no longer paralyzed, I slowly climbed out over Valerie (my door would not open) and then noticed how blood covered she was on the complete right side of her body.  As I surveyed our car I realized the extent of the damage to it for the first time.  Yeah, I'd noticed our front windshield had been cracked all over, but that had been all.  Now I noticed that the rear bumper of my car, on the passenger side, was pushed all the way up to the rear of Valerie's front seat. The back seat was basically gone. I slowly realized that I would probably never drive this vehicle again- it was totaled if ever a car was.

At that point I also noticed both of our sunglasses were laying back by our rear tire outside on the ground on Valerie's side.  Having been on our faces only moments earlier, now they where twisted up and intertwined together, as if in some kind of final love-embrace, like a pretzel. (Years later I realized the WAS MY SIGN!) I stood and tried to figure out how that happened.   Everything was still happening in slow motion. My mind was not grasping things as fast as usual.   They (the sunglasses) were certainly history.

I then noticed all of my loose coins, kept in a space between the seats, were now on Valerie's floorboard, mixed in with tons of broken window shards.  I started to pick them up, mostly pennies, as I was pretty sure I would never see the car again and did not want to lose my money.
 

She screamed in disbelief, "get that lady to safety and out of that car".

At this point, maybe two or three minutes into the surreal events, I still had not moved Valerie, nor had anyone suggested to do so, especially not knowing the extent of her injuries.  A lady sheriff, maybe the first on the scene, drove up and jumped out of her car not far from in front of us.  She surveyed the scene: wrecked cars were strewn around helter-skelter facing in all directions; people were mulling around, some pulling lifeless bodies from vehicles; a burning car with an injured man laying nearby behind it; and then me, picking up pennies from a destroyed car while talking to a blood covered lady- Valerie.  The sheriff screamed in disbelief as she exited her vehicle, "get that lady out of that car and over to safety".  So I immediately realized the gravity of the situation and helped Valerie up and over to a curb with a couple of other folks. I look back now and realize I had been in total shock and my thoughts were too scattered to think properly.
 

While we waited on a paramedic to arrive and attend to Valerie a stranger appeared out of the growing crowds and offered us his handkerchief for Valerie's cut neck, which was still bleeding profusely.  (To this day her scars give testament to the Lord's mercy towards us.  She also named the place 'miracle hill'.)

The paramedics arrived and started to give Valerie tests to see if she had certain types of injuries, asking if she could feel toes and fingers as they squeezed them one by one.  I was operating on adrenalin and no one, not even I, knew I was hurt. They eventually strapped her onto a stretcher as I watched them load

While on our trip to the hospital the driver was not sure if he could stop at a light in time and slammed on the brakes, throwing the lady paramedic on top of me.

some of the more seriously injured into the Life Flight helicopter that landed nearby moments earlier.  The young man saved from the burning car, and one of the elderly people, were transported out, but to no avail we learned later...unfortunately, they both died en route.

After they strapped Valerie in they found out I was also in the car, and they told me I needed to be put on a stretcher also and get taken for testing, so I did.

While on our trip to the hospital (no siren, we did not seem that hurt) the driver was not sure if he could get through one of the lights in time and slammed on the brakes, throwing the lady paramedic on top of me, dang.

Then she realized, half way there, that she had forgotten her medical bag back at the scene and caleld out to the driver that we had to go back to get it!!? She had been real gung-ho when she arrived and was way too excited, explaining to all, and to no one in particular, that it was her first traffic accident. (It was our first too, and hopefully our last.  We met people later on that said they had witnessed it from the gas station there and could not soundly sleep for days afterwards.)

At the hospital, as the regular emergency entrance was being remodeled, we were unfortunately unloaded, and then ushered, over a rough brick flooring at a temporary entrance designed only for looks.  It was beginning to look like one of those days; if we did not have bad luck we would have had no luck at all.  The rough bouncing, while on the hard stretcher boards, was another insult to injury, no pun intended.

 "the doctors told us we would both need chiropractic care for the rest of our lives!"

They X-rayed Valerie and I to see if we had internal injuries.  I felt fine but they warned me that when I would try to sit up, having had to lie down for transportation, tests, etc., that I would probably have sever dizziness to attend to- from getting hit so hard.  I boldly claimed that I was sure I was just fine, as I was fine before I was put on the stretcher.  I barely started to sit up when the world instantly started to spin out of control and I started to lose my balance and felt sick.  Whoa, what was that??!  I instantly laid back down hoping the event would pass quickly.  After a while I tried to get back up and it started all over again.  This time I went much more slowly, but still the room spun out of control, slowly slowing down and stopping after a few seconds of being vertical.  It was disconcerting, and the worst part was that it WOULD CONTINUE FOR ANOTHER WEEK every time I laid down OR got up!  It was a very amazing, and very unfortunate, symptom.

 


Click photo to enlarge.

The Life Flight (an emergency helicopter) photo of the accident we were involved in was published in the Union Tribune.  It was in April of 1991.
Detailed info can be seen by clicking on the photo.

 

Valerie had many stitches applied to her right elbow and under her chin.  Her outfit was full of dried blood and we called our friends the Gibb's explaining the dinner we were going to make for them would have to wait.  They were nice enough to offer to put us up for a few days to help us recuperate.  (That was needed more than we knew.)  I had to wear a neck brace for two weeks, one of those white cuff looking things, as my muscles were way too sore to actually hold my head up. My chest was more sore than I knew, and the doctors told us, after hearing how hard we were hit, we would both need chiropractic care for the rest of our lives!

We said if the doctors said there was no known medical help that could help us permanently, and that we would need chiropractic care for the rest of our lives, we would go to someone whom we knew could help us now- Jesus.  A couple of days later, after a mid-week Horizon Church service, we went up and got prayed on by pastor Mike McIntosh. And a miracle happened, within the week our pains left us (even though we were told they would get worse, not better, for two or more weeks).

"Last but not least, I figured if I could go through something like this, I could handle a marriage, especially with someone as lovely as Valerie Wong, uh, I mean Valerie Seewald."

We visited an attorney, not to sue for a bunch of money, but just to see if we could get enough to replace the car and pay the medical bills.  He said since so much death and destruction took place in this particular 'accident', someone like us would get nothing out of the $50,000 total coverage she had.  (I had cancelled mine because I was out of the country making art for a month, thus saving a little money, and the company I had reinstate it failed to because they said I had not sent in a deposit after requesting a start-up, OUCH.)  So we were out of luck, but did not fret, as we had our health.

Note on another miracle; we rec'd enough a year later, out of the blue, to cover both our medical expenses and car loss from that insurance agency!  All of this came in unexpectedly as we'd never sent estimates or bills to anyone.  Thank you Lord.

____________________________

Thoughts later on...

A silver platter that we borrowed from the Gibb's, that we were going to return that day, was behind my seat. After this accident, it was impossible to get anything out from behind our seats, as the back seat was completely crushed into the front ones.  The rear bumper on the passengers side was pretty much up to the back of Valerie's seat.  That pretty much flattens the back seats pretty well to accomplish this feat.  Had anyone been in our back seats, they would have been history.

 

Valerie resting with bandages on her arm and chin at the Gibb's home.

 

 

I figured the double bruised, seat belt mark effect was from the Volvo hitting into us at about the reported 60-70 m.p.h. the old lady had hit him at.  The first 'explosion thing' must have been after we were thrust back from the initial impact and the second was when we hit the car in front of us, causing us to then be thrown forward instead of backward and spinning around.   All at the same time we had been spun around from being hit on the back right side.  The car we were forced into also had major rear end damage and was totaled, but not half as bad as us.

I called my parents the next day, you know, to get them up to speed on our lives lately.  Well, I started by telling my mom, who lived 50 miles south on the other side of San Diego city, down close to Tijuana, Mex., that we had had an 'interesting day' the day before.  And before I could say anything else she said "you weren't involved in that nine car pile-up in

"...This is because you have to take in a deep breath to start it, from lungs that are so sore they refuse to do so- the pain being too great as you try. "

 Encinitas were you?"  "Well yeah mom, actually we were" I honestly replied, embarrassed one of here non-ending negative assumptions could finally come true (I mean, figure the odds we would be the ones involved with some 100,000 folks in our area!).

My dad was kind enough to loan us his car until I could get another; thanks Dad.  (Another miracle story, he just had a stroke but our prayers got him back to normal in 'miracle time'- but that's for a book someday, right?)

 


Michael Seewald, Arnold Gibbs and Michael's
new fiancé, Valerie Wong, 1992.

Last but not least; I figured if I could go through something like this, I could get through a marriage, especially with someone as lovely as Valerie Wong, uh, I mean Valerie Seewald.

 

The pain from being throw around at the speeds we had was unbearable. They said we'd of been better off braking our ribs, than 'almost breaking them'! We had to take Vicodin, and the second day Valerie exclaimed she could not cough. She complained of it more than once, but I could not see what the problem was, who want to anyways right? What she failed to explain, as I found out on my own on day three, was that you can't because you bend over in excruciating pain before executing it! Yep. This is because you have to take in a deep breath to start it, from lungs that are so sore they refuse to do so- the pain being too great as you try. I double over in pain the first time I tried, and immediately exclaimed to her, barely audible-in a whisper 'now I know what you meant'.

 

 

December 12th, 2006 update.  At a men's bible study tonight we were sharing how we came to know the Lord, and as I was telling this part of my life's story lo and behold one of the new members, Frank, said he was actually in line for the the turn too, but he and his wife were in the one further over.  He had witnessed the whole ordeal peripherally and could have just as easily been the guy in back of us!!! 

UNBELIEVABLE, what are the odds to meet someone actually involved like that?  We were slowly blown away as we came to realize we were both there and part of this horrendous incident.

Believe in miracles?
See a photo of another accident miracle.
Was this person lucky or blessed?
You decide/ click here.

 

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