Originally created 03/31/04

Motorist injured in crash spends 36 hours on freeway



FRIENDSWOOD, Texas -- A motorist injured in a crash lay paralyzed in the middle of a freeway with a broken neck for 36 hours before he was rescued.

Ed Theisen's body was blocked from view by Gulf Freeway traffic barricades in this Houston suburb. The 46-year-old survived a night alone on the concrete, unable to move or summon help.

"Someone riding in the back of a pickup truck spotted him and called police," Debora Rodeffer-Theisen, his wife, said Monday after her husband emerged from surgery. "The officer poked him with a nightstick thinking he was a dead body, but he was there and he was very much alive."

Worried that he had been carjacked, Theisen's wife drove past the area twice. He was on his side, staring at a concrete wall, his shouts inaudible to passing traffic.

Doctors later determined that Theisen had broken his neck and suffered a spinal cord injury.

Theisen had been rear-ended March 22 and was exchanging insurance information with the other driver. To avoid walking in heavy oncoming traffic, Theisen had stepped between concrete barriers when he felt weak.

"He thought he was having a heart attack or a stroke," said Rodeffer-Theisen. "He grabbed the concrete barrier and just went down."

Police wrote an accident report after Theisen disappeared, saying he had walked away from the scene, his wife said. She said the tow truck driver who hauled off Theisen's car did not see him.

Rodeffer-Theisen, relatives and friends were plastering their neighborhood with fliers when they got word that he was alive. Rodeffer-Theisen called Memorial Hermann Hospital.

"They said, 'We have him here and he is alive and he saying he loves you,' " she said. "He was covered in Houston pollution - it was coming out of every pore - but he was alive."

Family members were searching for the person who spotted him.

"That person, whoever it was, saved his life," Rodeffer-Theisen said. "And I just want to find them and say 'Thank you. Thank you for giving me my husband back."'