The doctor told me "Someone up there must like you, cause you probably should have died."  Four hours earlier I was headed out for my first weekend as a newly free teenager, ready to start the next chapter in his life.

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I grew up in a small town in South Dakota, and like most kids- I had big dreams.  I wanted out of my small town and wanted to experience all that the world could offer me.
College was my first step, albeit a small one.  I was in enrolled at The University of South Dakota, and while it was only a few hours away from my hometown, I felt free.

The Party

Group of dancing friends enjoying night party

Friends Partying

Growing up in small towns, you know other kids from the neighboring small towns.  The dorm I was living in had a girl from a neighboring town that I had known since Kindergarten.  She invited me to a party that her cousin was having at his fraternity.  I had never wanted to be part of the frat scene, but I also wanted to go out and meet people.  We arrived and headed up to his room on the 3rd floor.  We visited for a bit and someone suggest a game called "century club," in which you take 1 oz shot of beer every minute for one hundred minutes.  Kids come up with the dumbest reasons to drink, I swear.  Well, we got about 5 minutes into that, so not even a half a beer had been drunk by this time.  I say that, because I need you to know I was sober.  It was at that time someone suggested we go outside for a smoke break.

The Accident


Hurt Knee


As we walked out on to the 3rd floor balcony fire escape, I was the 2nd one out.  There was probably a half-dozen or more people behind me.  I thought to myself, "I'll go stand in the corner out of the way of everyone coming out behind me." No sooner had I thought it, I felt the floor give out from underneath me.

People talk about how life goes in slow motion during accidents, and it's true.  My fall felt like an eternity.  I swore I screamed, yet those there said I didn't make a sound.  I reached my arms up to grab the ledge, which actually saved my life.  The fire escape had no chain around the ladder.  There was also no light outside on the balcony to see that the chain was missing.  Since I put my arms up, I fell straight down through all 3 openings on the fire escape.  At the bottom, a stack of chairs broke my fall.  My knees buckled and my head just missed the bottom of the fire escape and I fell face-forward.  I smashed my knees on the concrete below and rolled into the grass.

Someone yelled "Who fell?" to which I replied "Me," then passed out.  When I woke up everyone was gathered around me trying to wake me up.

They were all shouting questions at me asking if I was alright and if my knees were OK.  I didn't understand why they kept asking about my knees, because to me, it just felt like I had the wind knocked out of me.  I was in the fetal position and I responded, "I'm fine, I got a fat lip and got the wind knocked out of me."  I rolled over on to my back with my legs out, and went to stand up.  However, when I pulled my feet toward me to stand, I realized something was wrong.  Now I understood the question about my knees.  I screamed in agony and had them help me to my feet.

We then WALKED back up the 3 flights of stairs to the room we where in prior to the fall.  I was given some ice packs to put on my knees and we thought that was that.  An hour later after the literal shock wore off, I was in the emergency room.

The Aftermath

closeup disabled man hand on wheel of wheelchair


The x-rays showed I had two broken knee caps.  My left knee cap broke in two places with one half all the way in the back of my knee.  My right knee cap shattered into a dozen pieces, somehow still intact as well as it could be.  I ended up having a 12-hour long surgery to repair both.  The left knee still has a screw in it to this day.  In the right knee they basically used superglue all over it and then shoved two metal pins through it to put it back together.

I spent the next 4 months practically bed-ridden.  If I did get out of bed, I was in a wheel chair with braces that had metal rods running from my hip to ankles.  For a kid who wanted nothing more than to have freedom, it was a tough pill to swallow having to move back in with my parents.  They were understandably upset with me for what happened, yet they never hesitated to care for me in every possible way during my recovery. Over those 4 months, they would carry me to the bathroom, help bathe me, and I love them and am thankful for them still to this day for all they did.

After the 4 months in a wheelchair, I started another 4 months of physical therapy and using crutches to get around.  It was tough work and painful work as well.  I was bound and determined to do it though, and I'm glad I did.


Nick Northern
Nick Northern

In the studio

It's been 26 years since I had my accident and you would never know I once broke both of my knees. Not to mention a year later, I tore my ACL, MCL, PCL in my right knee, but that's another story.  I have no limp when I walk and other than the scars no physical signs of an accident.  I do know when the weather is about to change so that is a fun little side effect.

And that's the story of how on the third day of college I almost died.

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Going in chronological order from 1956 to 2020, we present the best-selling album from the year you graduated high school.

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