Emergencies at Home

| July 05, 2005

A frantic call from a loved one is a driver’s worst nightmare.

It all happened so fast.

Joseph H. Robertson III and his trainer, Emily Knight, were 100 miles south of Minneapolis when Robertson’s cell phone rang.

It was his wife, Angie.

Knight saw the color drain from his face and knew it was bad.

“What’s wrong? she asked.

“It’s my son,” Robertson said. “He was hit by a car. It’s bad. I’ve got to get out of here.”

Joseph H. Robertson IV, 12, had been struck while running home from school in Winston-Salem, N.C. He had been rushed to the hospital with a skull fracture, a broken pelvis and bruised kidneys. His brain was swelling, and he was in a coma in critical condition.

Being hundreds of miles away from loved ones when a personal crisis strikes at home can be an overwhelming, gut-wrenching experience. But truckers often have to deal with the death or sudden illness of an immediate family member, relationship problems and unexpected financial situations while on the road.

Often, a wave of emotions crash down on the driver’s world – fear, panic, shock guilt, anger and depression. These emotions sometimes can even lead to physical reactions including nausea, headaches, stomach aches and back pain.

Company cooperation
Knight called their company, Prime Inc., as Robertson talked on the cell. It was April 7. Robertson, formerly a decorated Greensboro, N.C., police officer, was new to driving. This was his first job behind the wheel of a big rig, and he had been with the company only since Jan. 1.

“We had him on a plane within two hours,” says his fleet manager at Prime, Rick Crawford. “We got him home the same night.”

The impact of the wreck sent the youngster onto the hood, into the windshield and over the top of the car. When he landed, he hit the back of his head. “He was carrying about 50 pounds of books in his backpack, and he may have landed on that and we think that helped a little,” Robertson says.

Robertson, 41, had called his son, who he calls “tall and skinny like his dad,” less than an hour before, forgetting the boy would not yet be home, held up at school with math tutoring. He left a message.

“After the call I was trying to keep myself together and call my relatives while Emily called the company,” says Robertson.

“When I first got the call, I thought, ‘it’s 12 or more back home in this truck.’ I knew that wasn’t going to satisfy me. I knew I couldn’t get there quick enough. Then Emily told me I’d be flying home. She did it and they did it at the company. It was smooth. They tried to get us back to Chicago airport, but there was too much traffic so we went on to Minneapolis/St. Paul.

“The ticket was waiting. But I had to turn my cell off on the plane. I’d got on knowing he was alive and in a coma, but all the way home I didn’t know if he’d be there when I got home.”

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