Ben Dotson was headed to Cool Springs Mall with his birthday girl, C.J., on June 19.
After merging onto Interstate 65 off I-840, his life would change forever.
“She was in the backseat; it was my daughter’s fifth birthday,” Dotson said. “I was just getting onto I-65 and an 18-wheeler came over on me from what they tell me.”
In a flash, Dotson’s truck was mangled. It had to be cut open to safely get him out, and he was transported to Ascension Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital in Murfreesboro.
Soon afterward, he was taken by LifeFlight to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.
“(My daughter) didn’t have a scratch,” Dotson said. “She was in the backseat in her car seat and everything happened on the driver’s side. Just so blessed. I was basically in a coma five and a half weeks and on my back eight weeks total.
“The only thing broke was my head. They cut from ear to ear, pulled my face down and worked on me a little. They said a couple of millimeters left or right I’d been a vegetable, or a couple of millimeters either way I would have been dead.”
Dotson defied a lot of odds along the way and was later taken to TrustPoint Hospital to begin therapy.
The road to recovery
The former Siegel boys’ basketball coach, who took the Stars to four state tournaments in eight years and two Final Four appearances between 2008-2016, admits he wasn’t the best of patients.
“I went to TrustPoint (Hospital) and those people are awesome,” Dotson said. “They were great with the speech therapy, physical therapy and OT therapy. I had a tracheotomy down my throat to help me breath.
“They busted my butt pretty good. I would recommend them to anybody. Being a coach myself, I would have cut myself from my team but they pushed me and pushed me like I did my kids. My family and my daughter were my motivation.”
Like a basketball season, it has been a grind for Dotson as he tries to return to normalcy.
“Physically, I’m doing much better. Mentally, all of the brain trauma still slows me down,” Dotson said. “I’m good for about 20 or 25 minutes before I just stop and rest. It’s just the pressure (on the brain). It doesn’t really hurt. I don’t need my walker as much. I call it an adult stroller. I’ve just been blessed.”
During Dotson’s recovery, he missed some emotional moments, including his daughter’s first day of school.
“She started kindergarten, and her first day of school I’m lying flat on my back and can’t move,” he recalled. “I’ve got pictures and videos, but still ...
“Every time I talk to her I get teary-eyed. The very first time we talked, the first 10 minutes were me and her crying. When you have a 5-year-old telling you it’s going to be OK ... I just don’t know what to say about that. I’m totally blessed and thank the Lord. I can get up now and use the restroom and get dressed on my own — just the little things you take for granted. I didn’t do anything on my own until the middle of September. We pray together every day and every night. I thank Jesus every day. My voice is still raspy and I have a hole in neck that will eventually close up.
“I can’t scream anymore. I know my players wished that would have been the case back in the day. The emails, the texts, I don’t know if I could have gotten through it without them. I got an email the other day from a player thanking me for teaching him how to become a man. Stuff like that is better than any championship. It just gives you a reason, you know?
“My family has been there every day,” he continued. “I’m way ahead of where I should be and that’s because of my family, friends, email and texts. When I got to TrustPoint in July, I had over 200 texts. It took me a week to read them all. I still can’t say enough about TrustPoint. Those people really busted my tail.”
Dotson’s difficulties were compounded before he got to TrustPoint, even though he didn’t know it.
His older brother, Guy Jr., died of cancer July 3 while Ben was still in a coma.
“Guy got really sick at the first part of June,” said Ben, whose father, Guy Sr., passed away in 2018. “When I had my wreck, he was in and out of the hospital. They buried him when I was in a coma. When I came out of the coma, I would ask every day how is Guy Jr. doing. (My family) would say that he didn’t have a good day today, or they would say he had a good day today.
“When I went to TrustPoint where he had been, my sister (Bethe) pulled me aside to tell me Guy Jr. had passed. He had been there and my family didn’t want anyone there to tell me. I learned about 30 seconds before I went there.
“They streamed his funeral because of the COVID stuff. I’m not going to watch it by myself. I don’t want to reopen wounds. I’ll eventually see it but I don’t want to ask Von (his brother) to watch it either. I’m so thankful that I survived.”
The spiritual side
This year has been a difficult year for many, but some like Dotson have endured so much more.
“It hasn’t been good, but what Guy Jr. and his wife (Nicole) did do is reintroduce me to Jesus on January 6,” Ben reflected. “They introduced my daughter to Him and I’ve always got that.
“He took me Bible shopping and we got in the car after and prayed. I’m a better person because of big Guy and little Guy. Guy Jr. had a knack of knowing what was needed to help and fix people.
“I asked my minister and have talked at Bible study about things. I don’t know how my family would have done losing two. I didn’t know why I survived.”
Every day is still a challenge for Dotson, but every day presents another reason to be thankful.
At first, Dotson wondered at times why he survived the horrific accident back on June 19, but he eventually came up with the reason.
“God wasn’t done with me,” Dotson said. “I know he has a plan for me.”