Cheryl’s Accident, 1989

Cheryl had been up with the girls earlier and Janie Thompson persuaded her to come and be in her show. For two years Janie had done ‘Together Again’ for Education Weeks. Janie had taken a certain period of years from the old Program Bureau and contacted the talent from those years and had them come back and perform in a show together. She persuaded Cheryl to come for it because she had gone to the Orient with Janie and the group on the year that Janie was doing. Cheryl had gone home but decided to come back to perform at the last minute. She brought Elizabeth and Melissa and a beautiful blue dress to wear when she sang her medley from ‘My Fair Lady’ which Marilyn put together years ago and one she did on the Korean tour. It is hard to tell about this time even though many months have gone past. The girls and I went to the dress rehearsal and I had tickets for two night of the show because we wanted to see Cheryl.

Cheryl was in rehearsals constantly after getting here until the show went into production. On Wednesday night the girls and I went with great anticipation to the show. Jana and Quinn were there and Cheryl’s sister, Nancy and her husband, Harry, so there were 7 of us sitting there on the 7th row of the deJong Concert Hall. Sometime after the intermission is was Cheryl’s turn and out she came looking absolutely gorgeous in her blue dress and she began to sing. But, she kept coming closer and closer to the edge of the stage until she was about two inches from it. The entire audience was holding their breath for fear she would go over and I wanted to get up and shout, “Cheryl, step back.” But I was afraid that it might confuse her and she would go over and hoped that she might step back by herself. But she didn’t. She took another step forward and went down 16 feet into the orchestra pit. And the pit was the equivalent of 2 stories down. The audience gasped, Jana and Quinn headed for the stage and the girls began to cry, so I got up to take them out. We didn’t know whether she was dead or alive. I was afraid that she had fallen on one or another of the two drum sets that had been sitting there for the number in the first half of the show when the orchestra pit had been brought up with the drummers on it. She didn’t fall on any of the drum sets and barely missed impaling herself on an empty mike stand. When Nancy and Harry reached her, she was hysterical, not making any sense and barely conscious.

Thinking they would come out our side, the four of us went out into the hall to await the paramedics bringing Cheryl up. Michelle was hysterical and the little girls crying so I tried to comfort them. Finally we found that they had taken Cheryl out the other side so we rushed to the car and to the hospital.

There we found that they had immediately taken a cat-scan of her brain and found the doctor of the neurological area at the hospital and had three bad head injuries that day and he said he was too worn out to take her on and they she should go to the LDS hospital in Salt Lake. The ordered the helicopter from there, but there was terrible wind at the point of the mountain and was too strong for their helicopter. So the one from the U of U. Medical Center was sent. David said that winds were very dangerous for helicopters, and we were glad when we know she had arrived at LDS Hospital safely. They took another cat-scan and found no blood in her brain. She had bruised her brain by her head hitting the metal bottom of the mike stand. Cheryl also had a bad injury to her left arm which she had fallen on. Fortunately, one of the drummers had removed his drums and she missed the other set. Otherwise, she might have been impaled on one of the parts of the drum set and it would have been fatal. It was a terrible shock to her body and she bled from a wound on one side.

By the way, I brought the two little girls (Elizabeth and Melissa) home with me and we all slept together, or tried to that night of the accident. Once in a while Melissa would drop off to sleep, but I don’t think either Elizabeth or I slept a wink. Elizabeth kept saying, “I can see my Mother falling.” and I could too. Finally we crept into the East bedroom because Melissa had fallen asleep and we didn’t want to wake her up. Elizabeth wanted me to read to her so we went to bed there, but in a minute or two, here came Melissa and got in bed with us. Finally, I asked Elizabeth to tell me when she had last seen a beautiful rainbow, and she remembered having seen one just a few days before and we talked about it. The next day when she would start to say again she could see her Mother falling, she would stop and say she was going to think about rainbows. But, it was a terribly stressful time for all of us.

Harry Schultz, Nancy’s husband, called Steve and Marilyn and Chris helped Steve find a flight and took him to the airport. He was in Provo by 3:00 that morning.

She was unconscious for three or four days. One day Doug and Kristine, who were living in Salt Lake at the time, were at the hospital when she first woke up and she recognized them. She later woke up and the nurse asked her who was holding her hand and she said, “My husband, Steve.” And she said, “There are my daughters, Michelle and Jana at the foot.” So we knew her brain was working okay. But, she was a very sick girl. I believe that the little girls went to the hospital to see Cheryl before they took the plane home. By then she could talk to them, but a lot of the time slept. Meantime, Steve flew the two little girls back to California so they could go with their cousins on a reunion of the Startup family at the beach and he knew it would get their attention away from their Mother.

When I went to see her a day or so before the doctor released her, I felt that most of the time she was pretty much out of it, and not at all her usual self. She was very serious and quiet and not the bubbly woman she usually was. After about 10 days, the doctor released her to come to my place. We moved the bed out of the East bedroom and all the bric-a-brac and Steve rented a hospital bed and brought her down along with umpteen flower arrangement. We borrowed small tables from Michelle’s and the entire room was full of flowers and more coming every day. She ate good and I tried to give her all the things (foods) she likes and that would be good for her. For a few days she was still rather serious, but one day Jana went in to see her and I could hear them laughing and talking and I was very happy that Cheryl could be that way, but most of the time she was quiet, serious and in terrible pain. I forgot to mention that she broke three ribs in the fall and this caused her much of her pain, along with the injured arm. She had to take strong pain pills all while she was at my home and even when she got back to California, but gradually was able to use lighter ones.

She had a lot of company and so many phone calls. I told everyone who came that the doctors said only a few minutes with her, but many people stayed until I wanted to go push them out the door. I don’t think so many prayers ever were said for one person. It seemed that many who saw the show were praying for her. Her name had been put in the Provo Temple about a dozen times and her name was also in about five other temples. Even Quinn’s folks had her name put in the Washington, DC Temple the minute they heard about the accident. Cree L. was mission president in the New York City Mission and of course his wife was with him.

It was a difficult time for all of us, but we could see that she was improving each day, even if slowly, and were just glad that she was alive. After about a week at my place, Steve took her to Salt Lake for the doctor at the hospital to take some tests and go over her and he said she could go home to California. She had driven their new van up so there was plenty of room, and I went with them. Steve made a good bed for Cheryl in the back and I took food and drinks that she might like and started out expecting to stop at The Peppermill in Mesquite on the way home. Steve was tired and sleepy and I was driving when we got there and he hadn’t said to stop so I just kept on going, knowing that we could stop in Las Vegas if he wished. When we got there Cheryl said she was doing fine and Steve had had quite a bit o rest so we decided to go on in and we got to Arcadia about 11:00 p.m. I believe. No one was at home at their place because no one knew we were coming, so we put Cheryl to bed and someone brought the little girls home.

Her recovery is probably going to take the year that the doctor said it would at first. But, she is getting better all the time and if anyone asks her how she is, she smiles and says, “Just fine.” But, she is having problems in some ways, but day by day is getting back to her old self.