What Surviving A Near Fatal Car Wreck Taught Me





by Neil Thomas
man of steel.bringbackfit.com

About seven months ago, I was in a severe car accident. 

I was on my way home, at a stoplight, around the corner from my house in San Jose. Seemingly out of no where, I was rear ended by a driver going 65 miles per hour. Thankfully, I was wearing my seatbelt.

I’ll never forget the crunching noise of steel bashing against steel, the shattering of glass against the back of my head or that feeling of all my muscles from head to toe contracting uncontrollably at impact.

Weird thoughts were zooming through my head during the seconds of chaos. First was my instinctual reaction of, “This is it, I’m going to die.” Then the realization that I hadn’t. “OMG I’m alive!!! Then, “SONUVA – I just crashed my mother’s beautiful truck!”

Understand that my mother sacrificed her whole life to give me and my sister everything. This was the first new car my mother bought for herself. She let me borrow her truck strictly for the purpose of moving and now it was completely ruined. “She’s going to kill me.”

Superhero strength

Next thing I know, this superhero strength came over me. I snapped out of my head and into reality. Perhaps it was my boy scouts training coming back to me or that surge of live-or-die adrenaline, but in the middle of a crazy busy expressway, I jumped out of my mother’s battered truck and raced over to the car behind me. That compassionate part of me had to make sure the people in the car that hit me were okay. 

I saw a scared mother panicking in her seat, speaking to her son in a foreign tongue. After concluding everyone was basically okay, with no limbs lost or viewable major injuries, I suggested we get off the road to assess the damage.

We limped our cars off the busy road and into a well-lit parking lot. I was oddly calm and composed. “It’s all going to be okay,” my mind told me. Even more odd was the fact that no other cars stopped to offer assistance. Countless cars drove by as if nothing had happened.

To the guy that kept honking for us to move faster: CALM DOWN JERK. We were in a car accident.

text and drive.bringbackfit.com

Please don’t text and drive. It’s. Not. Worth. It.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think she intended to rear end me. 

The good news: my mother’s well-built GMC truck only had the bumper at a 90 degree angle, with the back window shattered – you can thank my melon head for ramming into it. The bad news: her small Honda Civic looked as though it ran into a brick wall. Which, thanks to great GMC engineering, it practically did.

As we exchanged insurance information with the linguistic assistance of her son, I couldn’t shake feeling terrible for her. You’ve seen a Honda Civic right? It looked as though the Hulk had jump onto and off its hood.

hulk smash car.bringbackfit.com

Since my head wasn’t gushing with blood and seeing that my mom’s truck looked drivable, I foolishly drove it back home. Once I pulled into my driveway, I called my mother on my shattered phone and told her what happened. How it managed to make a call is a mystery to me – hats off Apple manufacturing!

On the phone, my mother’s words really struck a chord with me. See, a few months before, I was in another accident. (Either I’ve got the worse luck with cars or people need to stop texting and driving.) The morning I was going to trade my that car in to buy a new one, the first thing my mother said was, “I guess you won’t be getting that new car.”

For some reason, those words stung me like a bad report card. Why didn’t she ask me if I was okay first? She later explained that she was being matter-of-fact and trying to lighten up the situation. Maybe she was onto something as I realize now that if I wasn’t okay, I wouldn’t even be on the phone, a medical professional would have been.


Leslie Thompkins comforts Batman.

This time was different. My mother asked me if I was okay. She wanted to know if she needed to make the 200-mile drive from her home in the mountains to come check on me. She told me to go to the hospital immediately. Sure, I probably had a bad concussion (later verified by the doctors), but I’m a guy. Guys are tough. I was accustomed to getting banged up from my football and snowboarding days and all the injuries that come with doing that for years.

This accident didn’t seem like a big deal to me.

I wasn’t thinking clearly. I refused. I didn’t want to go to the hospital. Not because I was afraid of discovering injuries, which I knew I had, but because I didn’t have medical insurance. :-/ With my recent job switching, I no longer had medical insurance and knew I couldn’t afford a trip to the ER, let alone the ambulance ride.

My mother assured me the way only a mother can. She said some magical stuff; things you could pull straight out of a good 1940s movie, but I honestly can’t remember them. I just know I felt at ease and relieved.

You know what I do remember from that moment? George Jung’s father in Blow saying to his son, “Money isn’t real. It doesn’t matter. It only seems like it does” and thinking how ridiculous that was. Money is real. It was the whole reason I was afraid to get the medical attention I needed.


Thank god for modern innovation. On my shattered screen, I managed to find my Uber app and chauffeured it to the hospital. Not to one close to my house, but to the one where my mother used to take me as a child whenever I had a bump on my head. 

Some things are permanent

Fast forward two months. I found myself lying inside an MRI machine because my vision was acting finicky. My doctor diagnosed me with “vestibular ocular disturbance,” but couldn’t determine why I was still experiencing gut-wrenching neck pain and kept getting migraine-like headaches throughout the day.

After a few more tests, it turns out my C4 and C5 vertebrae had moved 11mm and were pressing against my spine. If that’s not scary enough, get this: if the car that rear-ended me had been going a mile an hour faster or I had been sitting in a slightly different position, I could have been permanently disabled.


That knowledge stays with you. I was blessed and lucky at the same time. I’m also fortunate to live in a part of the country where some of the best medical minds and medical care are readily available.

I don’t take pain medication; I don’t like feeling cloudy. The best remedy my team of doctors recommended to get me back up to speed was intensive physical therapy with the ever wonderful and talented Lisa Drew of Silver Creek Physical Therapy. I took on five months of physical therapy sessions three days a week. Although I was late on a number of occasions, I made it through all 60 sessions. I even did all my assigned home exercises! Well, most of them anyway.

I’m a fighter 

I like being active. I love golfing, surfing, running, working out and being outdoors. Not being able to engage in my favorite activities damn near had me going crazy. I wanted to move my body, but understood that my body needed to rest, recover and slowly come back to life on it’s timeline. Not mine. If you’ve ever been hurt, injured or not allowed to do your beloved activities, you know how frustrating, deflating and maddening it can be.

Doctor’s orders: “strict, guided physical therapy three times per week. Nothing else beside normal everyday walking.”

Can you guess what happened to my body?

Yup, I gained some body fat. About 30lbs worth.

But it wasn’t just the lack of exercise that got me. I was riding this up and down emotional roller coaster of being in startup mode, experiencing the worst sleep of my life and couldn’t find suitable outlets for all my stress. I gravitated to food. I was eating poorly, eating too much and eating at the wrong times. Now that I think about it, I’m lucky I didn’t put on 60lbs.

It was torturous to see my closet of beautiful clothes begin to fit tighter and tighter every week. I still blame the stupid washer and dryer for shrinking my clothes!

The truth is, the weight gain was really on me and my questionable food choices during this stressful time. 

into fitness.bringbackfit.com

But you know what? I accept responsibility for my choices. That double latte, mocha frappuccino and double Chipotle felt comforting when I was in pain. Food helped take the pain away. I was lucky to be alive! WHY NOT celebrate with an extra beer or two and have a pizza while I was at it? As you can see, too many thoughts like that on too many days in a row easily pack on the pounds.

But let me tell you a secret. I may not be one of those rock-hard abs kind of guy, but I’m a fighter. I always have been. Back me into a corner and you better be prepared for when I attack, because I’m relentless when it matters most.

Thanks to my friends and family, I was able to channel my focus, harness my energies and develop some killer mental strength during this tumultuous time. My parents stood by my side and helped keep my spirits up.

As did my our fearless leader Juan Antonio. He told me once I was able to get back in the game, “A new you will rise.” He confused me because I was sure he meant, ‘the old me would rise again.’ But as timing keeps passing, I think he’s onto something. A new me is developing and taking shape. Sonuva bitch – he stole my line.

But seriously, I can’t say enough good things about Juan Antonio and how he helped me navigate the twists and turns of life. If you know him, you know what I mean – he’s a real life superhero walking around in our modern day.


“Superman Walks”: Amputees Find Superhero Strength Competing In Obstacle Course Races

I have a second part to this story. It’s good. Really good. I’ll fill you in on my next go around very soon. Look out for it!

“If you dream it you can do it” – Walt Disney

Neil Thomas
COO / “The Connector”

ps Here’s the amazing story of “Superman Walks.”


Friends don’t let friends mindlessly “workout.” Friends help and support each other. Help your friends as they try to make positive changes in their life. If you know of anyone who may benefit from this content, please share it with them.


  1. […] (Here’s the second part to my last piece on my car wreck.) […]

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