Ben Belcher is alive

by Jon Whitworth

It is June 18, 2005, the sun has just peaked over the hills and it is already burning up in Clay, Alabama. Where broken glass lies and freshly melted rubber sticks to cement, tracing the path of the last car he may ever see, 16-year-old Ben Belcher sits unconsciously in the passenger seat of his sister’s new Celica GT-S. The hood of another vehicle sits there with him. As Ben’s older sister looks over at him from behind the steering wheel, she frantically hits him on his shoulder. She wants to believe he will awake. His swollen face, covered by blood and shaggy hair, causes her to fear the worst. Feeling disgusted, she jumps out of the car yelling for help. A pastor from a nearby church checks Ben for a pulse but feels no heartbeat.

Paramedics arrive to the wreck where Ben’s sister, Sarah Mayle, is now screaming and rolling around on the hot pavement. As rescuers cut Ben out of his sister’s mangled car, a crowd gathers around to watch. “God help,” screams Sarah as she angrily pulls out her hair and slams her head on the ground. “Please, God help! I killed my baby brother! Please somebody help!” While rescue workers continue to pry Ben from the metal, Sarah asks them repeatedly if he is going to be okay. Nobody tells her anything. All she gets is a sheriff’s deputy asking for insurance information. She isn’t even sure where her purse is. Her only concern is her dying brother—the same brother who slept with her every night because they were scared of their parents’ fighting.  It has only been three days since their parents split. Now, Ben may also be gone.

The night before the wreck, Ben had been up playing Midnight Club: Street Racing on Playstation. After only a couple of hours of sleep, Sarah woke him up so he could ride with her to take their dog Skippy to the vet. Ben was too tired to go. After arguing and cussing for a few minutes, Ben was guilt-tripped into riding with her. Once they got into the car, Sarah told Ben to put his seatbelt on but, because it was stuck in a stack of coat hangers in the backseat, he left it off. The drive was as normal as any other they had taken together. They listened to Mariah Carey’s song Always Be My Baby—a song that still reminds Sarah of her younger brother. A church was being built directly beside the vet they were heading to. Construction workers and tall weeds made it unclear to Sarah as to which road was the animal clinic’s entrance. More focused on her turn rather than her driving, Sarah pulled out in front of an oncoming car. Ben was the only person severely hurt in the wreck. Even Skippy survived unharmed.

Ben ended up surviving the accident. His injuries were extreme. He broke his femur, fractured his pelvis, suffered a brain contusion and had to have emergency heart surgery due to a severed aorta. Doctors later told Ben that it was a miracle he lived because 90% of people die at the scene of the accident when facing similar injuries. Ben was in the hospital for 28 days after the wreck. Half of those days were spent in the intensive-care unit. The waiting room was packed full of family and friends the whole time he was there. His sister Sarah never left the hospital. Every day Ben spent lying in a hospital bed, his sister was right there beside him hoping and praying for the best. Doctors told Ben that he had possibly broken the record for the most visitors at UAB Hospital in Birmingham. Ben’s faith has improved since the wreck. “It makes me realize everything happens for a reason,” Ben said. “I don’t know why I got in that wreck, but I’m just a firm believer in everything happens for a reason.”

Ben is now 22 and the only long-term injury that stays with him today is minor nerve damage in his right leg and foot. It only hurts him on certain occasions. The reason Ben’s wreck is important is because it helps define him in many ways. For example, when Ben first woke up from his wreck he was not able to speak so he had to write everything on a dry-erase board. To prove how high-spirited Ben is, Sarah often recalls something he had written on the board to one of his friends. Ben had said, “You are hung like a moose. I am hung like a mouse.” That is how he is. He is always joking around trying to make people smile. Ben has a large scar across his back where doctors had to immediately cut him open for emergency heart surgery. While out with friends, he will often tell strangers that it is a shark bite he was a victim of while surfing at Half Moon Bay in California. Surprisingly, they usually believe him.

Ben grew up in Pinson, Alabama with two sisters: one older and one younger. His family left his dad when he was 16 because he was addicted to prescription pills. When they did live with his father, he would constantly accuse their mother of cheating on him. He even got in a fight one time with Ben’s mother at the hospital where Ben was recovering from his wreck. Ben feels his wreck is the only thing that made it possible for his parents to still talk. It allowed for his family to reconnect in a time that reconcile seemed impossible.

Ben is currently attending Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, Alabama. He is studying to be a respiratory therapist. Ben has had many jobs ranging from working at a candy factory to hauling wood at a lumber yard. He was just recently let go from a local gas station in Cleveland, Alabama because it temporarily closed. Ben strives to get the best he can out of life.

One of Ben’s best qualities is his appeal to everyone. Ben is very outgoing and hardly ever meets someone he cannot strike a conversation with. Russell Moses, one of Ben’s friends, has hung with Ben for nearly 5 years. “The thing about Ben is that he has the biggest heart you could ask for,” Moses said. “I feel like it is impossible for him to get upset. I mean of course he gets down every now and then. What makes him different is that he doesn’t let it get to him.”

Ben’s sister Sarah is always pushing him. “We are a lot closer since the wreck,” Sarah said. “I appreciate him more and that’s why I am so hard on him now, because God left him here for a reason. He has a heck of a testimony. He could be in church right now talking to a lot of people.”

Since Ben’s wreck, many things have changed. His mother is remarried, Sarah is married with two children and he visits his dad regularly. His baby sister is even driving now. What had started out as a simple car ride ended up being a bookmark on the timeline of Ben’s life. Ben’s attitude may be what has gotten him through such difficult times. “When I first got out of my wreck, I kind of felt invincible, like I couldn’t die,” Ben said. “But, I’ve always felt like that. I feel like, if I fell off a 50 story building, I’d live.” He just may.