Wisconsin Wallop

January 27, 2008
By Clayton Stiffler, Portland, MI

The ferry lurched forward so quickly that I almost fell over. My family and I were heading into the open waters of Lake Michigan. The bright summer sun glittered over the vast sea of blue. It was the summer of 1999, and my ninth birthday was quickly approaching. Everything seemed perfect, and I was absolutely thrilled to visit Wisconsin. At that time, I had never been anywhere outside of Michigan. It felt as if I was going into a world of great unknown. There wasn’t a bone in my body that sensed danger ahead. I had no idea that a near-death experience was going to occur very soon.

Our vacation that year began in the Upper Peninsula. We swam in the chilly waters of Lake Superior, explored the Porcupine Mountains, and gorged on fudge at Mackinac Island. On our way back home, we abruptly decided to turn west and prolong our perfect vacation. We soon reached the lakeshore at Ludington, and decided to keep going. The ferry to Wisconsin looked nearly empty, and we practically walked aboard. The trip across was amazing! The calm waters offered no bumps as we sailed smoothly toward the setting sun. We laughed and played cards merrily as the warm breezes gently brushed our faces. The ferry came to a halt as we floated gently into the shallow waters of Green Bay. My blood bubbled with excitement as we had finally reached Wisconsin!

After getting off the ferry, we drove to Madison, where we planned to spend the night. The Holiday Inn Express looked extremely welcoming with their low prices. We received our key and went up to the room. I am not a superstitious person, but I was a little freaked out by the room number: 1313. However, the hotel room seemed wonderful! It had a hot tub, two TVs, two king-sized beds, a luxurious bathroom, and a large, menacing heater. The heater immediately caught my attention because it seemed dangerously close to the bed. That night, I was forced to sleep on the bed next to the heater after a long argument.

I had terrible nightmares through the night of vampires chasing me. I kicked and rolled constantly in my sleep. Eventually, I woke up with a cold sweat dripping down my face. I slowly rolled over to find a more comfortable spot, but there was a small miscalculation on how much room I had left on the edge of the bed. I tumbled over the edge, grasping for anything I could get a hold of. All of these efforts were in vain. I smacked my head with a crushing blow against the razor-sharp corner of the heater. I could feel the intense pain of my skull being sliced in half. Suddenly, I saw only black as I slipped in and out of consciousness.

Finally, I began to slowly regain my senses. I was still a little dizzy, but I knew I had to do something to get my parents’ attention. I opened my mouth to scream, but nothing came out. The pain slowly increased, and my life began to flash before my eyes. After what seemed like hours of trying, I was able to let out a short moan. My dad heard the noise, and came to see what had happened. He gasped when he saw me lying there helplessly. He picked me up and took me into the bathroom. By this time, my mom and sister had come to see what had occurred. A towel was placed over my broken skull, but it didn’t help much and I continued to bleed profusely.

My dad quickly carried me to the car and we drove to the nearest hospital. We were slowed several times by traffic jams, and dawn was breaking before the hospital was finally in sight. I was taken to emergency, where ten doctors nervously stood over me. My heart jumped when I saw the stapler gun that they were going to use. The mad doctor reached the edge of the bed with a crazy smile on his face. I fought and fought, but the other doctors managed to hold me down rather easily. I screamed in agony as I felt and heard the clicking of staples on my skin. When the operation was finished, my skull was held in place by 25 staples!

Our trip was cut drastically short by this incident. We drove home the next day, and were greeted by a hundred concerned family members and friends. The staples were painfully removed a week later, but the damage was permanent. I have been asked thousands of times about the bald spot on the back of my head. I can now laugh it off and tell them about my near-death experience. I have never slept by a heater or any other sharp object since the incident. I always sleep in the middle of the bed. I am also more cautious when I roll over in the middle of the night. I will probably be reminded every day for the rest of my life of the tragic Wisconsin wallop.

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