April 9, 2016, was a beautiful spring day. Clifford Pugh, a well-known Houston journalist, rode his vintage Honda motorcycle to the gym. He doesn’t remember the ride home.
Later, he learned that he must have run a red light at Dowling and Alabama. He was taken to Ben Taub Hospital as an unidentified patient. When he woke the next day, he discovered the tibia and fibula in his left leg were broken, his left shoulder was dislocated and, though he was wearing a helmet, he had facial fractures.
Orthopedic surgeons repaired his left leg with a titanium rod and screws near his knee and in his ankle. He had facial surgery a few days later. His mouth was wired closed for three weeks, long enough to tire of smoothies.
At 65, Clifford is an active and healthy man. “I believe my excellent health and positive attitude helped my recovery,” he says. “The first time I walked was tougher than I expected, but I knew I would come back strong.”
In his two weeks in Ben Taub, Clifford learned there is much about the hospital to appreciate. “If you’re in a traumatic incident, it’s the best place to go. You get the best minds, the best medicine. The people there provide great care. It’s hard – they deal with people who aren’t feeling well, but do a tremendous job under trying circumstances. They make the patient experience as pleasant as possible.
“All of this has made me appreciate so much about life. I have a more accepting perspective. And ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ is no longer just a cliché. I’m more Zen about things that don’t go well… that’s transformative.
“Maybe my body was telling me to slow down. I know now that if you have your health, you have everything.”
And he does have everything—except his motorcycle. Knowing that his friends would be very unhappy if he rode again, he gave it away.