Lawrence O’Donnell’s Harrowing Recovery From Near-Fatal Car Accident

Though his physical and emotional recovery was fatiguing, O'Donnell expressed gratitude at simply being alive.

Key Takeaways

  • A car accident left O’Donnell with a shattered hip fractured in several places and severe flesh wounds on his legs.
  • He managed to text MSNBC colleagues for help using a waterlogged phone.
  • He underwent significant orthopedics surgery to repair his shattered hip with surgical nails.

New York: In April 2014, MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell was vacationing in the British Virgin Islands with his brother Michael when a devastating head-on collision forever changed their lives.

While riding in a taxi van on the island of Tortola, an oncoming car crossed into their lane at high speed and slammed into them head-on.

The violent impact left O’Donnell, then 62, with a shattered hip fractured in several places and severe flesh wounds on his legs.

His brother Michael suffered even worse injuries, including a broken femur.

Both men had to be medically evacuated back to the States for urgent treatment.

In the immediate aftermath, trapped inside the crumpled van, O’Donnell made up his mind for the possibility of death, thinking, “what a stupid way to die,” as the dashboard crushed inwards.

Fortunately, he managed to text MSNBC colleagues for help using a waterlogged phone.

The network quickly arranged private jets to fly the brothers to hospitals in New York and Boston.

O’Donnell underwent major orthopedics surgery to repair his shattered hip with surgical nails.

For weeks after, he was bedridden in the hospital, an entirely new experience for him.

He then spent over a month rehabilitating in New York before returning to LA to continue grueling physical therapy.

The near-fatal accident left O’Donnell with immense psychological changes.

For months, he avoided negative news entirely, unable to process any more trauma.

He became terrified of driving at speeds over 50 mph, instinctively aware that life can be altered in an instant.

Simple pleasures like walking unaided became hard-earned milestones.

When O’Donnell finally returned to MSNBC after a 2.5-month absence, he had a new appreciation for life’s fragility and optimism.

He proposed having a nightly “good news” segment to counterbalance the cycle of grim stories television focuses on.

Though his physical and emotional recovery was fatiguing, O’Donnell expressed gratitude at simply being alive, saying,

Our day should begin with ‘Lucky to be alive.’ You should feel that feeling in the middle of the day, even after you have that argument with your boss. Guess what? You’re still lucky to be alive.

Lawrence O’Donnell

In Case You Didn’t Know

  • Lawrence O’Donnell is an award-winning writer who has won an Emmy Award for “The West Wing.”
  • He has had a diverse television career and is best known for his show “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” on MSNBC.
  • O’Donnell also has a background in politics as a strategist.

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