03/03/04 — Teen recovering from crash

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Teen recovering from crash

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 3, 2004 2:00 PM

Spring Creek High School senior Michael Barrow played on his football team's defensive line. He was named this year's homecoming king.

One week ago, he was riding with friend and classmate Ben Barwick to Mount Olive to get an estimate to repair a dent in Barwick's pickup truck. On N.C. 55, Barwick made a left turn onto Breazeale Avenue and into the path of an 18-wheeler, according to police reports.

The split-second decision nearly cost the two boys their lives.

Michael Barrow

News-Argus/Phyllis Moore

Michael Barrow recuperates at home after a car accident last week that had him hospitalized for five days.

The boys' truck was struck on the passenger side, and both youths were knocked unconscious. Bar-wick's father had been in the vehicle behind them and tried to free them from the wreckage, but the doors were stuck.

Marion Carter, a technology teacher at Mount Olive Middle School, said he drove up about a minute after the accident happened. He saw people frantically running back and forth, and he offered to help.

Barwick had been removed from the vehicle, but Barrow was in and out of consciousness and his door could not be opened. Carter said he noticed the hood was smoldering with smoke. He feared the car would catch on fire.

"The ignition system was still energized; the horn was blowing," he said. "I tried to get the key out and finally did. But I had to get the power off to stop it from turning into a fire."

Unable to open the hood, which was slightly bent, Carter found an opening through which he could grab the battery cable, but was at first unsuccessful.

"I could barely get my arm in far enough," he said. "So I went at it.

"I don't know where the strength came from. I believe the Lord gave me the strength."

Carter said he finally loosened the battery cable, and the horn stopped.

"It was like a sigh of relief from all of us there," he said.

With the fire averted, Carter said, the priority was to keep Barrow comfortable until rescue personnel arrived. Carter's only injury was a cut finger, minimal compared with what the two teens faced.

It took two "jaws of life" tools to extricate Barrow from the truck. Both youths were taken to Wayne Memorial Hospital, where Barwick, 17, was treated for a concussion and released later that day. He was cited with failure to reduce speed.

Barrow's injuries were more extensive. He fractured his hip bone and the sacrum in his back, broke bones in his right forearm, and had other injuries to his legs. The day after the accident, surgery was done to insert plates into his arm.

During the five days he was in the hospital, there was a snowstorm. Paying homage to his nickname "Frosty," received in the ninth grade because of his blondish hair, several friends built a snowman outside to cheer him up.

His aunt, Connie Waddell of Dudley, with whom he lives, said there has been a steady stream of support for her nephew and the family since the accident.

"There must have been 200 people who came through the hospital," she said. "They have sent balloons, cards, flowers."

She said Barwick has been a regular visitor and the other driver involved in the accident stayed at the hospital until nearly midnight the first night to make sure Barrow was all right. A large sign greeted him as he arrived home from the hospital on Saturday, and a ramp to accommodate his wheelchair was installed and decorated by classmates.

He walked for the first time on Tuesday. The length of his recuperation has not been determined, but he is undergoing physical therapy three times a week until he is able to walk steadily.

The 17-year-old is doing "real good," his aunt says.

"He tells everybody he talks to he knows why he's here; it's because of the good Lord," she said.

"I will be all right," Barrow said. "I just thank the Lord for being here."

He says if he could send out a message to those who have expressed concern for him, it would be one of appreciation and caution.

"Tell everybody to be careful," he said. "Don't take life for granted."