considered myself unique, but people are constantly telling me,
"I am a miracle." To me, I was just an ordinary "guy" with
realistic goals and big dreams. I was a 19-year-old student at
the University of Texas and well on my way toward fulfilling my
"big dream" of one day becoming an orthopedic surgeon.
On the night of February 17, 1981 I was studying for an
Organic Chemistry test at the library with Sharon, my girlfriend
of three years. Sharon had asked me to drive her back to her
dormitory as it was getting quite late. We got into my car, not
realizing that just getting into a car would never quite be the
same for me again. I quickly noticed that my gas gauge was
registered on empty so I pulled into a nearby convenience store
to buy $2.00 worth of gas. "I'll be back in two minutes," I
yelled at Sharon as I closed the door. But instead, those two
minutes changed my life forever.
Entering the convenience store was like entering the twilight
zone. On the outside I was a healthy, athletic, pre-med student,
but on the inside I was just another statistic of a violent
crime. I thought I was entering an empty store, but suddenly I
realized it was not empty at all. Three robbers were in the
process of committing a robbery and my entrance into the store
caught them by surprise. One of the criminals immediately shoved
a .38 caliber handgun to my head, ordered me to the cooler,
pushed me down on the floor, and pumped a bullet into the back
of my head - execution style. He obviously thought I was dead
because he did not shoot me again. The trio of thieves finished
robbing the store and left calmly.
Meanwhile, Sharon wondered why I had not returned. After
seeing the three men leave the store she really began to worry
as I was the last person she saw entering the store. She quickly
went inside to look for me, but saw no one -- only an almost
empty cash register containing one check and several pennies.
Quickly she ran down each aisle shouting, "Mike, Mike!"
Just then the attendant appeared from the back of the store
shouting, "Lady, get down on the floor. I've just been robbed
and shot at!"
Sharon quickly dropped to the floor screaming, "Have you seen
my boyfriend ... auburn hair?" The man did not reply but went
back to the cooler where he found me choking on my vomit. The
attendant quickly cleaned my mouth and then called for the
police and an ambulance.
Sharon was in shock. She was beginning to understand that I
was hurt, but she could not begin to comprehend or imagine the
severity of my injury.
When the police arrived they immediately called the homicide
division as they did not think I would survive and the paramedic
reported that she had never seen a person so severely wounded
survive. At 1:30 a.m. my parents who lived in Houston, were
awakened by a telephone call from Brackenridge Hospital advising
them to come to Austin as soon as possible for they feared I
would not make it through the night.
But I did make it through the night and early in the morning
the neurosurgeon decided to operate. However, he quickly
informed my family and Sharon that my chances of surviving the
surgery were only 40/60. If this were not bad enough, the
neurosurgeon further shocked my family by telling them what life
would be like for me if I beat the odds and survived. He said I
probably would never walk, talk, or be able to understand even
My family was hoping and praying to hear even the slightest
bit of encouragement from that doctor. Instead, his pessimistic
words gave my family no reason to believe that I would ever
again be a productive member of society. But once again I beat
the odds and survived the three and a half hours of surgery.
Even though my family breathed a huge sigh of relief that I
was still alive the doctor cautioned that it would still be
several days before I would be out of danger. However, with each
passing day I became stronger and stronger and two weeks later I
was well enough to be moved from the ICU to a private room.
Granted, I still could not talk, my entire right side was
paralyzed and many people thought I could not understand, but at
least I was stable. After one week in a private room the doctors
felt I had improved enough to be transferred by jet ambulance to
Del Oro Rehabilitation Hospital in Houston.
My hallucinations, coupled with my physical problems, made my
prognosis still very bleak. However, as time passed my mind
began to clear and approximately six weeks later my right leg
began to move ever so slightly. Within seven weeks my right arm
slowly began to move and at eight weeks I uttered my first few
My speech was extremely difficult and slow in the beginning,
but at least it was a beginning. I was starting to look forward
to each new day to see how far I would progress. But just as I
thought my life was finally looking brighter I was tested by the
hospital europsychologist. She explained to me that judging from
my test results she believed that I should not focus on
returning to college but that it would be better to set more
Upon hearing her evaluation I became furious for I thought,
"Who is she to tell me what I can or cannot do. She does not
even know me. I am a very determined and stubborn person!" I
believe it was at that very moment that I decided I would
somehow, someday return to college.
It took me a long time and a lot of hard work but I finally
returned to the University of Texas in the fall of 1983 - a year
and a half after almost dying. The next few years in Austin were
very difficult for me, but I truly believe that in order to see
beauty in life you have to experience some unpleasantness. Maybe
I have experienced too much unpleasantness, but I believe in
living each day to the fullest, and doing the very best I can.
And each new day was very busy and very full, for besides
attending classes at the University I underwent therapy three to
five days each week at Brackenridge Hospital. If this were not
enough I flew to Houston every other weekend to work with Tom
Williams, a trainer and executive who had worked for many
colleges and professional teams and also had helped many injured
athletes, such as Earl Campbell and Eric Dickerson. Through Tom
I learned: "Nothing is impossible and never, never give up or
He echoed the same words and sentiments of a prominent
neurosurgeon from Houston, Dr. Alexander Gol, who was a close
personal friend of my parents and who drove to Austin with my
family in the middle of the night that traumatic February
morning. Over the many months I received many opinions from
different therapists and doctors but it was Dr. Gol who told my
family to take one day at a time, for no matter how bad the
situation looked, no one knew for certain what the brain could
Early, during my therapy, my father kept repeating to me one
of his favorite sayings. It could have been written by both Tom
and Dr. Gol and I have repeated it almost every day since being
"Mile by mile it's a trial; yard by yard it's hard; but
inch by inch it's a cinch."
I thought of those words, and I thought of Dr. Gol, Tom, my
family and Sharon who believed so strongly in me as I climbed
the steps to receive my diploma from the Dean of Liberal Arts at
the University of Texas on that bright sunny afternoon in June
of 1986. Excitement and pride filled my heart as I heard the
dean announce that I had graduated with "highest honors" (grade
point average of 3.885), been elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and
been chosen as one of 12 Dean's Distinguished Graduates out of
1600 in the College of Liberal Arts.
The overwhelming emotions and feelings that I experienced at
that very moment, when most of the audience gave me a standing
ovation, I felt would never again be matched in my life -- not
even when I graduated with a masters degree in social work and
not even when I became employed full time at the Texas Pain and
Stress Center. But I was wrong!
On May 24, 1987, I realized that nothing could ever match the
joy I felt as Sharon and I were married. Sharon, my high school
sweetheart of nine years, had always stood by me, through good
and bad times. To me, Sharon is my miracle, my diamond in a
world filled with problems, hurt, and pain. It was Sharon who
dropped out of school when I was hurt so that she could
constantly be at my side. She never wavered or gave up on me.
It was her faith and love that pulled me through so many dark
days. While other nineteen year old girls were going to parties
and enjoying life, Sharon devoted her life to my recovery. That,
to me, is the true definition of love.
After our beautiful wedding I continued working part time at
the Pain Center and completed my work for a masters degree while
Sharon worked as a speech pathologist at a local hospital. We
were extremely happy, but even happier when we learned Sharon
On July 11, 1990 at 12:15 a.m. Sharon woke me with the news:
"We need to go to the hospital .... my water just broke." I
couldn't help but think how ironic it was that my life almost
ended in a convenience store and now on the date "7-11" we were
about to bring a new life into this world. This time it was my
turn to help Sharon as she had helped me over those past years.
Sharon was having contractions about every two minutes, and each
time she needed to have her lower back massaged.
Since she was in labor for 15 hours that meant 450 massages!!
It was well worth every bit of pain in my fingers because at
3:10 p.m. Sharon and I experienced the birth of our beautiful
daughter, Shawn Elyse Segal!
Tears of joy and happiness came to my eyes as our healthy,
alert, wonderful daughter entered this world. We anxiously
counted her 10 fingers and her 10 toes and watched her wide eyes
take in the world about her. It was truly a beautiful picture
that was etched in my mind forever as she lie in her mother's
waiting arms, just minutes after her birth. At that moment I
thanked God for blessing us with the greatest miracle of all --
Shawn Elyse Segal.