On October 19, 1966, I was riding on a motorcycle on Pacific Ave. in Atlantic City, NJ. School had ended; it had begun to rain; crew practice had been cancelled; and I was on my way to help a friend and classmate who had to repair a commercial Maytag washing machine in their laundromat in the “Inlet” section of Atlantic City. This business was at the NE corner of New Hampshire and Atlantic Aves., the Sunrise Laundromat.

As the light changed from “red” to ‘green” at the intersection of Michigan and Pacific Aves., a thought crossed my mind and I had a visual experience, a foreshadowing of our accident at the next intersection, Ohio and Pacific Aves. I was on the back; I was 15 years of age. My friend, Ronnie P., a classmate of my older brother and another member of the varsity crew team, was 17, it was his bike and he was in the driver’s seat of the Yamaha motorcycle. As we moved forward, I tapped Ronnie’s right shoulder and yelled, “That lady is going to make a left-hand turn across our lane.” He began to swerve to avoid the upcoming accident, happening exactly as I foresaw, and my right knee clipped her left quarter panel and I went airborne.

I also was a varsity swimmer and lifeguard. The impact threw me into a reverse flip and I landed in the next lane facing oncoming traffic heading toward the West along pacific Ave. during “rush hour” and at the intersection where the AC Medical Center ER was located. That was a mixed blessing. because of insurance restrictions, the ER staff could not bring a stretcher to the street to retrieve me and a construction worker at a nearby motel gathered others and carried me on 2″ x 4″s into the ER where they set my dislocated hip and taped a 5 lb. weight from a gym to my right leg to immobilize it to allow my fractured hip interior to rebuild and seal the cracks.

The extent of the injury and the scope of resultant impact continues as I type. My hip dislocated and fractured the interior hip socket area and when dislocated, pinched and paralyzed my sciatic nerve from my hip to the tip of my right toe. My diagnosis was the same as polio – perineal palsy. imagine being a varsity athlete at 15 years of age, ego-driven “BMOC”  and being told you now are a cripple, a palsy person and you never will walk, run or jump again? This was 1966. people only knew of Marlon Brando and the Hell’s Angels when it came to motorcycles. This was not a great court award for damages, pain and suffering. Not at all…

Politics and family matters together can be a funny thing at times… ACCEPTANCE IS KEY; WILLINGNESS AND EGO-DIMINISHED LIVING ARE REQUIRED.

It took me many years for this to happen; I still am a work in progress. Paralysis is frustrating, painful and inconvenient. IT IS NOT A DISGRACE.

By 1976, I was playing semi-professional tennis in Miami, Florida and had removed my leg brace, Forest Gump-style in 1968 while a Freshman at Rutgers University. bell-bottoms and the 1960s-1970s fashions for young men helped me to keep my lower leg brace and spring-loaded ankle device hidden under my pants instead of over them, when wearing peg-leg, cuffed-bottom khakis, the style of the time for the conservative youth. Muscular atrophy occurs when the nerves are damaged, paralyzed or compressed. To complicate my situation, I now endure compression against my nerves in the C3-C5 neck region, of unknown origin, that has resulted in further atrophy to my left side deltoid, bicep and arm to my left “pinkie” fingertip.

If my words can help others better understand this magical condition of being human, a constant state of change and a never-ending story with new beginnings at every point one decides, then I have done well in my lifetime. Thank you for reading my mind today.

Jeff Pergament

bruce painting

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