On July 21, 2016, Mike Herbison, owner of Aspen Electrical, was returning to Regina along Highway 6. He’d been performing a routine estimate on a barn or a quonset south of the city. Mike can’t remember the details of the job, although he wishes he could forget what happened next.
About 25 km south of Regina, a fully-loaded gravel truck going the opposite direction strayed across the divider line and struck Mike head on. Immediately, the front end of his F-150 SuperCrew was compacted by at least 16 inches. Astonishingly, despite the force of the impact, Mike remained conscious. In his words, as he examined the wreckage, Mike was checking if he had “grown some angel wings.”
Instead of wings, he found that his left hand was broken and partially severed, and that he was trapped in his truck’s cabin. Struggling to force air into his lungs, Mike waited for five minutes before the first paramedics arrived.
When they did come, firefighters used the jaws of life to extricate Mike from the cabin while paramedics assessed and stabilized his injuries. By that time, STARS Air Ambulance had arrived. Mike was lifted into the helicopter as soon as he could be safely pulled from the truck. From there, he was flown toward Regina’s General Hospital. While most of us would have succumbed to panic, Mike remembers jokingly criticizing the nurses and pilots. He was mad because “they cut off my brand new shirt that I put on an hour and a half ago.”
His wife and three children had been out at the lake when the accident occurred. They hurried back to the city while Mike received treatment. Throughout the ordeal, Mike doesn’t remember feeling any pain. But, considering the list of injuries his doctors had begun to work on, that was probably a result of shock. In addition to his severed hand, Mike had suffered a broken femur, four broken ribs, a punctured lung, a concussion, and various abrasions. A steel plate was installed in his hand, and a titanium rod was used to stabilize his femur.
Remarkably, a day after the accident, Mike was standing on his reinforced leg. Two days later, he took his first steps. In the end, he would only spend three weeks in the hospital before they granted his discharge request.
After his harrowing accident, Mike would have been forgiven for waiting a few weeks (or months) to resume driving. However, in keeping with his determined personality, Mike decided to get back behind the wheel just two days after returning home. He drove a few blocks to a nearby parking lot before turning around and going home. Every day after that he would drive a couple blocks further in an effort to to “feel it out, and test it out.” Today, Mike is driving as almost as confidently as he did before the crash. But, the lingering effects of his injuries have prevented him from returning to his business.
In the meantime, he has new full-time employment: rehabilitation. From Monday to Friday, for four hours at a time, Mike’s receiving treatment at the Wascana Rehabilitation Centre. He’s hoping to return to work in the summer, but for now he’s just focused on increasing the strength and mobility of his hand. Of course, he’s also had plenty of time to reflect on the accident.
The F-150 “kinda saved my life,” says Mike who continues to drive a twin of the truck destroyed in the accident. Personally, I would emphasize the “kinda.” While it’s true a smaller or more fragile vehicle wouldn’t have protected its driver so well, Mike owes his life to the prompt emergency response teams, his own determination, and plain luck. Of course, no one is lining up to take credit for his survival. His family might not care about the “why,” anyway. They’re just happy he’s still in one piece (even with some new pins and screws).
To other drivers, Mike repeats the same message he’s always encouraged: “pay attention.” Long before his accident, he’d made a pact with his wife and kids not to touch his cellphone while driving. At the time of the crash, it was safely out of reach. Mike believes that if everyone adopted similar restraint, accidents like this one might rarely happen. The fact that he’s still here to share that message should make it all the more poignant. His survival, after all, is the exception to a deadly rule.