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Sandy and Terry Green talk about the near-fatal crash and the long road back to recovery. Submitted Photo

Frazee man recovering from crash

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51-year-old Terry Green sat comfortably in his rural Frazee livingroom Friday morning wearing a Zorbaz t-shirt and chatting with his wife and brother.

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"I probably shouldn't even be here," he told them, "but there must be a reason I lived -- I don't know what the reason is, but somebody somewhere thought I needed to be here."

Green just returned home Monday from a three month stay at a Fargo hospital after a near death experience that seemed to come out of nowhere.

"I don't remember anything about the accident, but from what people tell me, it was my fault," said Green, "and that's been something that's been really hard for me to come to terms with."

The union pipefitter was on his way to work in the early morning hours of May 24. He was barely past his own driveway at the intersection of Highway 10 and County Road 10, when fog and a blind spot in his mirror possibly kept him from seeing a pickup barreling his way.

Green pulled out and was T-boned by an unsuspecting 36-year-old Terry Birkeland of Frazee, who was traveling roughly 65 miles per hour on the highway.

Birkeland sustained non-life threatening injuries, but Green was unconsciously staring death in the face.

"I don't remember a thing of it," said Green, "thankfully."

His wife, Sandy, remembers it perfectly.

"I didn't hear any of the sirens or anything even though it was just up the road, but then people (state troopers) came knocking at my door and told me Terry had been in an accident and I needed to get my things together and get there."

Sandy says nobody would tell her just how serious the situation was, but given the fact that he was airlifted to Fargo, she knew it was bad.

"At first you're just in shock," she said, adding that by the time she got there he was already heading into surgery to have his spleen taken out.

Sandy, their daughter, Chelsey and Terry's brother, Todd, all had the agonizing task of waiting while the Terry and a team of doctors battled for his life.

"The time was just like, tick .... tick ..." said Todd, who admits he didn't think his big brother would make it.

Green had broken most of his ribs, punctured his lungs, smashed up his legs, shattered his jaw and sustained a traumatic brain injury.

"The surgeon came out and told us he pulled through surgery, but if there had been even one more thing wrong with him, he wouldn't have made it," said Todd, adding that the family still had to sit through a week of not knowing, as brain swelling and small strokes plagued Green's broken body.

"I just told myself every day that no matter what the day brought, just take it," said Sandy, "just get through it and tomorrow would be another day."

And it was.

Day after day, Green slowly improved, eventually coming off the ventilator, off sedatives and into life.

Although he says he doesn't remember anything from his time in the ICU unit, his time in the long-term recovery unit is spotty.

"I guess I was saying some funny things," said Green, whose brain was essentially "firing up" and "reorganizing" again.

"He thought he was at work," laughed his brother Todd, "so he was doing some measurements and yelling out for somebody to get him this or that for work."

Although Green's batty banter might have seemed humorous, there was always that worry that he would never be the same again.

"You just never know with a brain injury," said Sandy, "it's so different with everybody."

But the day Terry gave his brother "the bird" over something, Todd knew he was going to be just fine.

"Then I knew he was in there," laughed Todd.

Rehab and recovery consumed Green's summer, and even now as he is at home, the self-proclaimed "impatient" man is forced to find peace or at least endure the repetitive process that is physical, speech and brain rehabilitation.

On a scale of 0 to 10 in brain function, Green currently sits at an eight, with his long-term memory being perfect and his short-term memory still suffering a bit.

Nerve damage to Green's left eye has left it unresponsive to proper movement, while also affecting the movement of the left side of his mouth (which also now contains a titanium jaw).

As long as that nerve isn't severed, that trauma will also likely heal over time -- time that will not go unappreciated by a determined Green, who understands exactly how lucky he is.

"Sometimes I do think about how close I was to dying, and I do get a little more emotional now," he said, talking about family members and what they went through. "I just want to get back to living life normally again."

For Green, that includes stamping every passport on the Zorbaz World Tour and getting back to work.

"My right hand is still kind of shaky -- I can't really use it too well yet," said the welder. "But someday soon I will be striking an arc again, and then I will be back to work -- this I know -- I will."

A benefit for Green is being held at the Frazee Event Center Saturday, Sept. 8 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

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