Every February, like clockwork, Dave Fry stops by Eden Medical Center to thank the staff for saving his life after a horrific car accident 32 years ago. Even though he moved to Phoenix several years back, he never misses his annual pilgrimage to the place responsible for his miraculous recovery.
“It makes me feel good to come back and thank the staff — even people who didn’t work at Eden then — and remind them how important their work is,” Dave says. “I share my story as living proof that I’ve been given 32 more years than I should have.”
While February 2, 1988, is seared in Dave’s memory, the last thing he recalls from that day is merging onto Interstate 880 near the current Tesla Motors plant. What happened next could’ve been catastrophic: He was rear-ended by a diesel truck and pushed into a stalled van, shattering bones on the left side of his body from foot to pelvis.
Extricated from the wreckage by the Jaws of Life, Dave was rushed to Eden, the designated regional trauma center for southern Alameda County, which had opened just one year prior. Since then, Eden has served more than 24,000 trauma victims and their families and has helped reduce trauma-related injuries and deaths in the community through educational outreach programs.
Upon arrival at the emergency department, Dave had no pulse or measurable blood pressure. The next thing he remembers is waking up briefly in the intensive care unit about a week later. “Since I have no memory from the accident through the first few weeks at Eden, I never knew how close I was to dying,” he says. “I remember seeing my wife, Joann, at one point and being confused why I couldn’t talk. I had a trach tube, and my jaw was wired shut.”
Dave stayed at Eden for four weeks total. He spent the first two in the ICU undergoing several surgeries, then moved to rehab for two more weeks. “I was determined to recover,” Dave says. “I walked the halls until I was released after 27 days.”
Reborn to Run
A couple months after being discharged from Eden, a newly cast-free Dave walked into the hospital, aided only by crutches, to show the staff how much he’d improved. During that visit, employees showed him flyers for a local 5K and 10K race in July and encouraged him to take part.
“They meant ‘show up,’ but to their astonishment, I actually entered the race and ran with my crutches,” Dave says. “I took it as a challenge — that’s just how I am. I also went skiing the same year as my accident because I wanted to continue that important family activity. I didn’t want to slow down.”
Dave went on to participate in the race nearly every summer, usually with Joann and sometimes with his sons. Even after the family moved to Arizona to enjoy a lower cost of living and access to beautiful scenery, he’d always travel back to the Bay Area in July, in addition to his annual February trip.
In Phoenix, Dave continued working for the uniform rental company he’d given 27 years to, taking on a different role than he’d had in California, until his retirement in 2012. “I am loving retirement and should have done it earlier,” he says.
Three hip replacements and multiple knee and shoulder surgeries later, Dave’s zest for life still can’t be dimmed. He remains as active as he can be, despite walking with a cane. In fact, he says he’s even more active now than before the accident. “I’ve fallen in love with the desert since we moved here,” Dave says. “I hike six miles a day in the desert — rain or shine — starting sometime between 4:30 am and 6:30 am, depending on the time of year.”
Every time Dave visits Eden, memories of the time he spent there flood back. While checking out the newly opened hospital in 2016, he was overcome with emotion about the old facility being demolished.
“The new hospital is beautiful for the community, but the old one was a good place for me and it’s why I am here to continue telling my story,” Dave says. “Shortly after that trip, I got a tattoo of the original Eden Hospital logo on my shoulder to honor the lasting memory of the place that saved my life.”
With each passing year, fewer of his original healthcare heroes remain on the job. However, in 2018 — the 30th anniversary of his car accident—two nurses who cared for Dave back then were on shift when he arrived. “It must have been fate,” he recalls, holding back tears. “There were two Debbies who helped nurse me back to life, and both were working on the 30th anniversary of my accident.”
Along with thanking the hospital staff every year, Dave routinely donates money to Eden in honor of his care team. This year, along with his annual gift, he wrote a touching note:
“Everyone is saying now what I’ve been saying for 32 years: Eden is a treasure to the community.”