November 4, 2013 started like any other day for Nicholas Nguyen -- he went to work, went home, and went out for his evening run. "I was not always a runner. I only started running when I moved to D.C. for work and didn't know many people. Running allowed me to meet new people while exploring the city," said Nguyen. It was on his daily evening run when a car struck Nguyen on the corner of H and 9th Street, NW and left him to die.
"I do not remember anything a few days before and for about two weeks after the accident," added Nguyen. "I only know what happened through discussions with the witnesses that helped me at the scene." From what witnesses and friends told Nguyen, he knows that he left work roughly around 6 p.m. and walked to his apartment in Chinatown. After changing attire, he left his apartment and ran approximately 0.6 miles before the hit-and-run. Nguyen was waiting at the streetlight for the pedestrian light, once the pedestrian light signalled Nguyen to cross, he walked into the crosswalk and it was at that moment that he was struck by a stolen vehicle.
"I was thrown on top of the roof and while falling down to the street, it looked like the vehicle ran over my legs while escaping the scene," said Nguyen. "Thanks to the many witnesses, including an off-duty police officer, army medic and roughly 20 others, I was cared for while unconscious and the traffic was blocked until the ambulance arrived to take me to MedStar Washington Hospital Center."
After a few tests at the hospital it was determined that Nguyen needed emergency brain surgery. Doctors told him if he did not receive the surgery he would only have a 10 percent chance of surviving. Nguyen received the surgery and miraculously survived. Four days later, he regained his consciousness and 13 days later he regained most of his memory.
After being released as an inpatient, Nguyen started running approximately 45 days after the accident. Once some local gyms learned of his accident, they allowed him to use their treadmills at no cost. "It took five months of outpatient services and six months total after the accident for me to receive medical approval to start working, albeit part-time," Nguyen said. "It took an additional two months before I received medical approval to be able to work full-time."
After nearly dying in a running accident, some may never want to run again, but that wasn't the case for Nguyen. "In my mind, if I can keep running after the accident, it allows me to have my own celebration-of-life party. With each run post the accident, I am able to thank MedStar, the witnesses, my family and friends and be able to celebrate life together," added Nguyen. "Before the accident, my longest run was the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Race. After the accident and as my own celebration party, I ran my first marathon, the TCS New York City Marathon, on November 3, 2014 – 364 days after the accident."
Nguyen says the accident has resulted in him having a greater appreciation for life. "As an only-child, I love my parents – especially my mom – and want to make my parents happy after all they have been through. That is why I am now working close to home to be able to spend more time with my mom." Since the accident, Nguyen has moved back to California to be closer to his family.
"The accident also made me more conscious of my surroundings. I will always push to walk against traffic to be able to see all coming vehicles and will aim to exchange eye contact with the drivers before crossing the streets once the pedestrian light is activated. I will try not to be the first to cross the street as well. Since moving home, I rarely run or walk at night, but when I do, I will also make sure to have a headlamp, reflective bands and bright colored clothing for added visibility," said Nguyen.
It is now a little over three years since Nguyen's accident and he is preparing to run the Rock n' Roll Marathon in D.C. But he isn't just running the marathon for himself -- he is running to raise money for the hospital he gives credit to for saving his life. "If it wasn’t for the services MedStar provided, I would not be here today," explained Nguyen. "MedStar is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, and they provide assistance to all those in need. On the night of the accident, I ran with my password-protected phone, driver’s license and credit card. It took approximately 21 hours before my parents learned of my accident thanks to the home phone number connected to my driver’s license. If it wasn’t for the care MedStar provided to me, I would not be here today. That is why I want to thank MedStar Washington Hospital Center and support all the services they provide."
The Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series will also be hosting a marathon on November 4, 2017 in Savannah, Georgia – the beginning of Nguyen's fourth year celebrating life with running. Nguyen will be running in three full Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathons to thank MedStar Washington Hospital Center.
Nguyen says while he is so incredibly thankful for the staff at MedStar Washington Hospital, he would not be here if it wasn't for the witnesses who took care of him on the scene. "I wish I could thank everyone in-person, but I was only able to speak to three of the witnesses listed in the police report. I hope everyone knows I will forever appreciate every one of them who helped me be where I am today. Thanks to the help of strangers, I personally learned how much it might mean to treat others better. I do not know how some people may feel, but if I can somehow relieve or assist them, I will always keep that in the back of my mind. If it wasn’t for the help I received from everyone the day of and the days after the accident, I wouldn’t be here today. Without everyone’s support, I may only be here today physically and not emotionally and mentally."
If you would like to help Nguyen on his journey to raise money for MedStar Washington Hospital Center, you can click here to donate. Nguyen will personally match 25 percent of all donations (matching up to $1,000 if the $4,000 total) and will donate $1 for every donation about $10.