Three days after starting my freshman year, I was skateboarding, holding onto a vehicle, when the bolts holding the trucks and wheels onto the skateboard snapped off, I hit the pavement head first and fractured my skull, and was in a coma for 3 days. A month later in rehab I started having difficulty breathing because my trachea had scarred while I was hooked to a ventilator while I was comatose. Long story short, after struggling to breathe for a few days I ended up needing an emergency tracheotomy. I finally went home about 3 months after initial accident. I lived with a tracheostomy for 4 years, and I required 30+ reconstructive surgeries on my trachea to be able to breath without a tracheostomy again.

Personality changes after traumatic brain injuries are common. This is what I was told while I was in rehab, after I had regained the mental faculties required to comprehend such statements.

Before the accident I was a sort of racist and provincial white teenager, typical of my time and space in rural South Jersey in the mid 90s. My family and friends were convinced that I survived through divine intervention, as evidenced by the trauma helicopter that happened to be flying in the vicinity at the time of my accident, which got me up in the air and flying to Cooper Hospital Trauma Center in Camden NJ in less than 5 minutes from the time emergency personnel had arrived on the scene and made the call. They surrounded me with Christian iconography and relics and such.

Now, I had always temporarily doubted gods existence since I was 5 years old, but had always come back to belief. However this time, in the face of all my relatives telling me that god saved my life, I had a moment of radical doubt.

I had an epiphany. It was pre-existing human civilization that saved my life! The fact that a world class trauma center was within 15 minutes helicopter ride, that helicopters exist at all, and that one happened to be flying within 5 minutes of my location, the fact that just blocks away there was a baseball field where the helicopter could land. All of these were in place through human effort, and to attribute it to God was to deny how human progress and intelligence and labor had actually created the context in which my life could be saved, besides of course the labor of the medical professionals that actually treated me. So I abandoned belief in the traditional concept of God and divine intervention, and with it also the certainty of the existence of an afterlife. I then jumped to thinking of human beings, in a simplistic teenage formulation, as “an extremely complex chemical reaction.” In fact, human beings were perhaps “the most complex entities in the universe,” or among them, and each person totally and completely unique and existing only once in the entire history of the universe. I then started to think about all the human misery and suffering in this world, and how much of it was caused by fighting over property, territory, or commodities. The fact that these “once-in-a-universe’s-existence” entities would be destroyed over easily replaceable commodities or patches of dirt seemed to me to be a crime against the universe’s power to create extreme complexity. And as such I came to believe that private property had to be abolished as a moral duty, to eliminate or at least reduce the possibility of these murderous conflicts. I had became a socialist — before I even really knew what the word meant, or had read a single word of the Communist Manifesto.