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'Miracle Man' knows he's lucky to be alive page 3
Spotsylvania man survives accident to enjoy another Father's Day

 The Fehrenses share dinner in their Spotsylvania home last week. They pulled together when Al Fehrens spent weeks in Northern Virginia hospitals recovering from his injuries.
Photos by ROBERT A. MARTIN/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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It happens occasionally. My wife calls in midafternoon to warn me that she's stuck in traffic on Interstate 95, and I may be needed to ferry a child here or there if things don't improve in a hurry.

That was the case a year ago on Tuesday, June 17. Just as she called at about 2:30, the chatter picked up on the police scanner: An accident with injuries southbound at Exit 130 was going to require a helicopter evacuation, and traffic would be halted while that took place.

Like many people's, my initial reaction was more selfish annoyance than concern.

My desk in the newsroom sits about four feet from that of police reporter Ellen Biltz, who that afternoon would try to piece together, from police and eyewitness accounts, what had happened. What we knew: A man had driven off the road, hit a tree, and stumbled, disoriented, out of his car onto I–95, where he was struck by a tractor–trailer. The man's identity was unavailable for the next morning's Page 1 story, but his injuries were said to be severe.

Biltz followed up the next day, trying to put a name to the victim. On the phone, she repeated the name back to police: Albert Francis Fehrens. What? That's Al, I thought. A neighbor. Our son's basketball coach. Husband, father of three. A family man's family man. Oh, my God.

—Richard Amrhine

Date published: 6/21/2009

continued

"What goes on in there is unbelievable. They have the best and brightest people in the medical field there. The whole staff, doctors and nurses, work together so well," she said.

"I got to know the families of the other patients. Some of them were really bad off, and we came to depend on each other for support. That hospital is the last place you want to be, but the best place to be if you're hurt. I still think about the patients and the families who are there now, and I pray for them," she said.

She said she spoke several times with the Rev. John Riley at St. Matthew Catholic Church in Spotsylvania, the family's parish, who reminded her that while there is no answer to why this had to happen, God must have more plans for Al because his prognosis was improving.

On Saturday, July 12, as though with divine intervention, a photo of Fehrens and daughter Catherine, sharing a high-five on a fishing boat, turned up on the cover of Town & County. The editors didn't make the connection to the nearly tragic accident a month earlier. The photo remains on the Fehrens' refrigerator.

After shoulder surgery, Fehrens remained in the trauma center for another three days, until he was transferred upstairs for a week's stay in the intensive-care unit.

Doctors were astounded by the speed of his progress. Just a month after arriving at Inova with life-threatening injuries, Fehrens was released to Inova's rehabilitation center at Mount Vernon Hospital.

REGAINING PERSPECTIVE

He remembers next to nothing about his stay at Fairfax, but he recalls beginning to regain his perspective during the ambulance ride to Mount Vernon.

"I never could remember anything about the day of the accident and still can't," he said during a recent interview at his home. "My life kicked back in at Mount Vernon. I had to work hard all day, and they called me 'the miracle man' in there."

As he came to grips with the time he'd lost, he was "totally confused" at first, especially when a televised replay of the 2008 Super Bowl had him impressed that his New York Giants would be back in the Super Bowl so soon--but the time of year wasn't right.

Then came the questions.


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