This is the true story of Stephen Eugene Mitchell, who at eleven years of age was seriously hurt in a bicycle/car accident. Young Steve suffered a concussion and was diagnosed as having a fifty-fifty chance to survive. Since his nervous system was severely damaged, it was thought that if he survived at all he would be in a vegetable state for the rest of his life. He lay in a coma for five and a half weeks.
With the grace of a Higher Power and a strong will to live, Steve overcame the odds and grew up to become a champion high school boxer, to excel in the art of karate, and to race stock cars. He later married and fathered two daughters.
Steve truly believes that his life story will inspire many people to never give up on life, and to try to overcome whatever obstacles that tend block their way. His belief in going to the limit, despite the physical challenge, has won him the admiration of many.
He believes in God and the help He bestows, but feels you must always believe in yourself to succeed. His accomplishments have earned him a reputation as a tried and true “American Miracle Hero.”
“No Tears For A Hero”
The Stephen Mitchell Story
In the mid 1950’s, Waxahachie was just another little Indian-named country town about thirty miles south of Dallas. The name alone was difficult enough for “outsiders” to pronounce, let alone any of them recalling they had ever been there and would never live there. The people of “Hachie” felt much the same about anywhere else, because, to many of them, Waxahachie would always be home.
This was the case for Doris and Champ Mitchell. Although it took time to adjust, the Mitchell’s came to love their home on the outskirts of the little town called Waxahachie as well as anyone else would who was seeking a quiet, comfortable place to settle and raise a family. But it was more than the tranquil country setting that captured the heart of young Doris Holley Mitchell—much more.
On January 26, 1956, in Waxahachie, Texas, Doris and Champton “Champ” Mitchell were blessed with the birth of their first child, Stephen Eugene. Stephen, later called just “Steve,” was born healthy in every sense of the word, and was the pride and joy of his parents.
Doris was the typical housewife and mother of her time, staying home to care for her child while her husband worked as a mechanic in town. In their modest old wood-framed two-story home on an acre or so of land, Doris and Champ raised Steve to the best of family values. In a matter of years four other children were born, all girls.
Brenda, Susie, Laurie, and Sandy Mitchell all overshadowed their older brother when it came to the attention of their mother, but Steve was more than happy to have his father all to himself. Champ spent a lot of free time with his son, taking him on fishing and hunting trips, and to various sporting events, and finally, coaching him in his first year in Little League Baseball.
Steve took to the sport like most other boys his age, with that untamed desire to play to win. Where Champ praised young Steve for his athletic ability, Doris shuddered at the injuries he endured. Steve was sad to see the end of the season, but was more than pleased to bring home his first trophy at the age often.
The following summer, Doris prepared herself for another three months of bumps and bruises from whatever Steve decided to put himself through during the school break. She knew of his plans to play little league again, that was without doubt, but there were other things he could get into as well. More than once she had to scold him about riding his bike across the patch of highway that ran in front of their house.
Steve knew very well how dangerous that highway was, and was always sure to check twice before crossing it. But no matter how careful he was, he had still seen more than one close call.
It was one such close encounter with the highway that came a little more than close, and for the Mitchell family, what happened to Steve would change their way of life for a long time to come.
It was just the beginning of the summer of 1967, a time for baseball games, swimming parties at the lake, and the annual carnival on the town square. It was a time for new loves for some, and out-of-town vacations for others. It was the summer for creating exciting life-long memories, but for eleven-year-old Steve Mitchell, it was the summer he spent in a hospital fighting for his life…
It was hot that summer morning in June, and at the Mitchell home everyone was trying to stay cool while attempting to keep up with their daily duties.
In the kitchen, Doris was preparing lunch for her family. She kept a keen ear out for her children and their activities. She knew the girls were upstairs somewhere, playing dolls or something, so they were out of her way most of the time. She was sure Brenda, then ten, would watch her little sisters, especially four-year-old Sandy.
From the back porch door, Doris could see Steve keeping himself busy out in the backyard. “He’s not far out of reach,” she thought. Five kids were more than enough to handle for a woman of twenty-eight, but she hardly had to worry because her children always took care of each other whether she said to or not. That was just the way they were raised.
She was putting the final touches on the meal when she was suddenly interrupted by the sound of Brenda, Susie, Laurie, and Sandy storming down the stairs into the kitchen. Each girl had a doll and competed wildly with the others for Doris to notice their doll first.
If there was anything Doris hated more than interruptions… At that very moment she couldn’t think of one thing as she turned to scold her daughters.
“Girls. I am busy trying to cook here,” she said.
The looks of disappointment in their faces calmed her heightened tone, and after a moment she faced her daughters with a smile. With a quick inspection of each neatly dressed doll she stood back with her hands on her hips.
“All of your babies look fine, girls. Now y’all go on back upstairs and play... SCOOT!”
Brenda, whom Doris considered “little mama” to her sisters, was the first to spin on her heels and head out of the kitchen. She didn’t have to look back to know the other three were in tow.
Doris went back to her cooking, but listened tentatively to the girls as they ran through the house back towards the stairs.
“Brenda—don’t y’all run on the stairs,” she warned.
“We’re not, Mama. We know,” answered Brenda.
Though she knew they knew better, Doris still listened as the girls walked quietly up the wooden staircase and then started to run again at the top.
Back at work, Doris checked inside the oven and then turned her attention to the breadbox on the kitchen counter. She was not pleased to find it empty. Without haste, she went to the back door to call Steve.
Eleven-year-old Steve was out in the backyard exercising with a jump rope. His t-shirt was soaked from his workout, and nearby he had his barbells with a towel draped over them. He had his back to the house, so he didn’t see or hear his mother calling from the background.
“Steve ... Steve... STEPHEN EUGENE MITCHELL!”
Steve was startled by the sound of his mother’s voice, which he was normally used to, because she had the kind of voice that you would remember if you heard her when she was mad. He was not slow when it came to his mother.
“I need you to run up to the store and get a loaf of bread. Dinner is almost ready so you need to go right now.
Once Doris was gone from the doorway, Steve took his towel and soaked it under the backyard faucet. After squeezing out the excess water, he wiped his face. Soon after, Doris was back in the doorway digging in her purse.
“Steve, honey, you be careful going across that highway.”
“I will, Mama.”
Steve disappeared around the house before his mother could say another word. Near the front corner of the house, Steve kept his treasured, rusting, old red bicycle.
Hopping on his bike, Steve pedaled across the yard to the edge of the drive and almost sideswiped the mailbox on its post. He took a moment to watch over the hill for any cars and then rolled “old trusty” backwards for a good running start. He was riding full speed when he met face-to-face with the car that hit him.
Inside the house, in the room near an open window facing the highway, Brenda and her sisters were playing “tea party” with their doll. It was then that they heard the loud crash.
Doris was busy setting the table when she heard her girls again running down the stairs and screaming on their way to her. She was more than annoyed with her daughters when they reached the kitchen.
“I thought I told you girls not to run on those damn.
“Mama! Somebody had a wreck!”
Doris looked at her daughter in wonder of the expression of sheer fright on Brenda’s face. Fearing what she heard was true, Doris made a run for the front door with her girls right behind.
Outside, Doris ran across the porch but stopped short to make sure her girls stayed on the porch. She didn’t want them to witness whatever it was that had happened out in front of her house.
With the girls in check, Doris turned her attention to the scene out on the highway in front of her house. Without hesitation she ran out to see if she could help as her children watched from the doorway.
. . . . .
At the edge of her driveway and Highway 287, Doris ran around the car to the driver’s side where the window was down. Behind the wheel was an older woman, about sixty, who was unconscious. On the passenger side was a younger man, about thirty. He was hurt, slightly, but trying to focus. At the sight of Doris he held up his head and attempted to talk.
“Check the boy ... check the boy,” he said as best as he could, holding his head.
Doris looked around and into the backseat for the hurt boy. Finding nothing, she turned back to the young man.
“What boy?” she asked, thinking he was delirious from the lump on his head.
Before her words were out, the young man pointed out of the window in the direction of the nearby ditch. Following his direction, Doris was struck horrified and began to scream hysterically as she ran to the roadside.
There were no words to explain what she was feeling when she found young Stephen, lying face up, unconscious in the ditch. His bike was nearby, broken beyond repair. Doris ran over to her son and contemplated moving him, and then decided against it. When she came to her senses, she was running and screaming. Then tripping over her beach walkers, or thongs, she kicked them off as she ran towards her house.
Inside the house, she reached for the telephone on its stand and almost knocked it over as she attempted to dial the hospital.
Her girls all began to cry in wonder of what had their mother so out of character.
On the phone, Doris got the emergency receptionist.
“Tenery Hospital. May I help you?”
“Yes. My name is Doris Mitchell. I need an ambulance, fast! There has been an accident in front of my house.”
“I’m sorry, ma’am. I can’t make out what you said. You’re going to have to slow down and tell me again.”
Doris was more than angry with the woman on the phone and she started to scream into the receiver.
“My name is Doris Mitchell and I need an ambulance, fast, dammit! My son has been hit by a car!”
The receptionist finally began to understand the frantic mother on the line and was sure of the urgency of the situation as she probed Doris for more information.
“Okay, Mrs. Mitchell,” she said calmly. “Could you tell me where the accident occurred?”
“Out on Route 3, Highway 287, toward Sardis. It’s the first house up the hill to the right. Please, hurry.”
“We have two services on call, Mrs. Mitchell. Which would you prefer?”
By then Doris had lost all patience with the receptionist. Under the stress of the situation, she automatically spat out her words with vulgar interjection.
“I don’t give a damn which one you send,” she screamed. “Just send one now!”
Before the receptionist could say another word Doris laid down the phone and ran back out of the house.
She was surprised to find a crowd of spectators and cars gathered at the scene. From somewhere in the mass of people, a man ran out to her side. It was Bill, an acquaintance, but not someone she had known for a long time. He was just passing through at the time and saw the accident.
Doris was mad with worry, but was grateful that Bill had offered to help. The only thing she could think of for him to do was call her husband because she had forgotten to.
Without another word, Bill ran in the direction of the house as Doris made her way through the crowd to where her son lay. On her hands and knees Doris attempted to move Steve again, but knew it was best not to. She put her hands to her chest and gasped when she noticed the large white rock, covered with blood. She tried to stand when Bill made his way back through the crowd to her side.
Bill informed her that Champ was not there, but he had left word for him to come to the hospital when he returned.
Doris could only give a tiny smile in reply as the sound of police cars and ambulances rang in the air. After a moment her neighbor, Joann, came close to Doris and grabbed her by the hand.
“Doris, I’ll stay with the other kids for you,” she said sympathetically. “Don’t you worry about a thing.”
All the sudden attention from people she had only just begun to know took Doris by the heart, but she didn’t have time to thank them the way she normally would. Her thoughts were all on Steve and what was going to be done to save him.
As the paramedics took her son to the rear of the open ambulance, Doris stumbled blindly behind them.
Joann understandingly patted her on the shoulder to reassure her with hope and to let her know everything was going to be all right.
At the ambulance, Doris looked down through tears at her bare feet. In all that was going on she had forgotten to put on any shoes.
Almost immediately, from somewhere in the crowd, a voice called out her name and was followed by a pair of shoes that were thrown and landed near her. Doris slipped her feet in and found that they were a perfect fit, but not her own. She looked back into the crowd to thank whoever it was that threw the shoes, but found no one. She tried to smile again before climbing into the waiting ambulance. With no one else to turn to, she spoke to Joann.
“Thanks again,” she said, fighting back tears.
Before the woman could reply the ambulance doors closed, leaving the Mitchell girls with only Joann to cling to. Doris hated leaving her babies but she knew she had no choice. She could only hope they would understand the circumstances later.
* * * * *
At W.C. Tenery, Waxahachie’s one and only hospital, the ambulance carrying Steve and his mother arrived.
The paramedics unloaded and rushed Steve in through the emergency entrance, with Doris fast on their heels.
As they rushed through the lobby to the emergency ward doors, Doris was handed a stack of forms. Although she knew the importance of the papers, she was too unnerved to sign them as the receptionist pushed for more information. Somewhere behind the emergency ward doors, they heard the page for the doctor on call go out—code blue.
Inside the emergency ward, the Tenery staff was hard at work on Steve until the doctor came in. Dr. Leonard, the resident physician, took one look into Steve’s dilated pupils and made his split-second diagnosis.
“There’s nothing we can do for this kid here,” he said. “Better get him to Dallas, and fast.”
“Yes, sir,” said the nurse. “We will radio in on the way.”
There was no question as to why Steve couldn’t be helped there at Tenery. It was well known that any critical patient was always sent on to Dallas for the latest in medical treatments.
While the medical staff prepared Steve for his journey to Dallas, Champ Mitchell, then thirty-three, burst into the hospital lobby in search of his wife. Upon finding her, he rushed over to see what was going on.
At the sight of him, Doris hung on to her husband for a moment then, through tears, anger and frustration she lashed out at him.
“Where in the hell were you, Champ? I had to go through all this by myself!”
“I was gone to pick up some parts for the shop. When I got back, there was a message for me to come to the hospital.”
He could tell the situation was serious and he was about to really blow his stack for not getting any answers. Through clenched teeth, he exclaimed, “DAMMIT, woman, tell me what’s happened!”
Before Doris could answer her expectant, and very easily irritated, husband, the staff nurse came up to them and interrupted.
“Mrs. Mitchell, they are sending the patient to Dallas. If you are going, I suggest you had better get out there to the ambulance now.
Without a word, Doris and Champ rushed out the emergency doors to the awaiting ambulance, where the paramedics had just rolled and loaded Steve in to leave.
Inside the ambulance, Doris and Champ sat close next to each other in the cab. Champ, still unaware of what had happened, and who had been hurt, turned to his wife with the unanswered question. Doris was too broken to speak, so he peered through the little window to the inside back of the ambulance and was struck almost silent himself.
“My GOD ... Steve,” was all he could say.
As the ambulance pulled out of Tenery Emergency and onto the main street out of town, all was silent other than the paramedic on the radio in search of a Dallas hospital with a neurologist on staff.
Somewhere on Highway 35, the call came back to the ambulance that Tenery had found the right hospital and they were clear to go to Dallas General.
“We read you loud and clear, Tenery,” called the paramedic with a sigh of relief. “We are on our way. Over.”
As they raced down the highway with sirens blaring, Doris turned her eyes to the heavens in silent prayer.