A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH A terrible, late-night call, and family's ordeal begins Victim of drunken driver outlived chance for justice Chance to give final gift denied


Dinner was particularly good that night. David and I had eaten while we watched "Jeopardy" and talked over the day's activities. I remember so well how happy he was. He and Linda had just become engaged two weeks ago and they were both so excited. He planned to meet her at her house around 8:30 that night, but he hesitated in the hallway while we watched something very funny on TV. Then, because he thought he might be late, he phoned Lin and left a really silly message on her machine, said goodbye and left. That was the last time I saw my son as I had known him.

-- Nicci Bojanowski

David's mother

David was never conscious after the injury he suffered that night. But almost every day of the next 55 weeks, his mother and fiancee sat with him, in a hope for recovery that came to seem increasingly frustrated, meaningless, expensive and futile.

After a time, out of love, they both came to wish him dead -- as David himself would wish, they said, if he could speak. A rabbi and a priest agreed. But in Pennsylvania and Maryland, medicine, the law, bureaucracy, good intentions, bad information, institutional concerns, a kind of sabotage, perhaps, and the public guarantee of almost a half-million dollars in medical bills all combined to keep David alive for more than a year after he had ceased to show any signs of intelligent life. He had signed no papers saying that he would wish it otherwise, and no one had the authority to speak for him.

When finally he did succumb, he had outlived the ancient common law of Maryland, which holds that death must occur within a year of the assault for murder or manslaughter to be charged. As a result of this case, the legislature is now considering a bill to overturn that custom, which has existed here since Colonial times.

It was a Monday evening, the first day of October 1990, and juscool enough for a sweater, as David Bojanowski left home in Mount Washington and drove his old white Ford east onto Northern Parkway toward his fiance's home in Govans. He was 26 years old.

At the same time, Thomas Mitchell "T. J." Jones, 29, of 4018 Garrison Blvd. was approaching from the opposite direction in a 1979 Chevy van. He and another workman had been drinking through the day on a home repair job. Now he was taking the company van back to his boss. And he was late.

Nicci Bojanowski was standing in her back yard not long after, watching the darkness, when the staccato roar of a Shock Trauma helicopter overhead ruptured the silence of the night. She noticed that it was trying to land nearby. Lin Bauer, David's fiancee, outside with her dog, Rip, heard it, too.

The accident 15 minutes earlier on Northern Parkway, less than a mile from the Bojanowski home, had been a bad one. Baltimore police said that Mr. Jones, traveling "at an apparent high rate of speed," hit a dip in the road and lost control of his van near the intersection with West Rogers Avenue, close to the Jones Falls Expressway.

The work truck became a clumsy missile, jumping the center curb, crossing the grassy median, ramming the boxy Ford Granada on the driver's side. The car was so crumpled by the cab of the van that Baltimore police listed it as a compact on the accident report.

T. J. Jones, taken to nearby Sinai Hospital with only minor injuries, registered a blood-alcohol level of 0.19, nearly twice the reading necessary to be charged with driving while intoxicated.

David Bojanowski, smashed in his car, was flown to the Shock Trauma Center at University of Maryland Medical Center.

Nicci Bojanowski's phone rang at 11:30 p.m. It was her eldest son, Michael. The state police had found his name in the phone book. When the trooper said David had been pretty banged up, a sharp pain cut down Mike's back. He felt paralyzed. It was at a wedding, just two days before, that David and his girlfriend Lin Bauer had told Mike and his wife, Kathy, that they were going to marry. Now Kathy called Lin. They met at Mrs. Bojanowski's, and Mike drove them all to the Shock Trauma Center.

The Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems world famous for pioneering the best in trauma care. Marylanders know it as the Shock Trauma Center. They expect miracles to happen there. Sometimes they do. And sometimes they don't.

The bad news was delivered by two doctors wearing surgical gowns: " 'Your son is in a deep coma," one of them told Mrs. Bojanowski. "He probably won't live. If he does, he will probably not regain consciousness.' "

Mrs. Bojanowski can't remember what was said after that. The room seemed to spin. Her heart was pounding.

Denial crowded out reality in her mind. "This can't be true," she thought. "I just saw him and he was fine."

The doctors took the family to the admitting area. To Mrs. Bojanowski, it looked like a huge airplane hanger with her son lying alone and still in the light:

David was propped up on a stretcher in a sitting position with tubes coming out of him from all directions and machines everywhere. His head was bandaged, his face was covered with blood and dressings. His arm and leg were in splints and he was unconscious. As we moved closer to the stretcher, I felt my knees going out from under me. Good God! It was unbelievable! What on earth had happened? . . . A feeling of helplessness overwhelmed me and I couldn't do anything but cry.

Lin, a critical-care nurse at St. Joseph's Hospital, had expected cuts, bruises and broken bones -- but not this. Her David was young, handsome, athletic. This man, bandaged, with glass in his nose, a big long gash down his face, and a tube from the respirator taped into his throat, was unrecognizable. "That's not David," she cried.

The attending nurse was blunt. Brutal, Mike thought. "It doesn't look good," she said. "I don't think he's going to make it through the night."

Mike wept openly. He was four years older, but the brothers had always shared a room. They were best friends. When the family had moved from Harford County to Roland Park 15 years before, they grew all the closer because they didn't know anyone. Friends called them Big Bo and Little Bo.

When the family moved to Mount Washington in 1978, David became the last of the four children to live with his mother. She would become regional director of Elderhostel, a non-profit network of educational programs on college campuses for older adults. He was good with his hands, and he dropped out of college as a junior and became a carpenter. He liked it, but he loved to play the drums. He played in bands when he was younger and he played at home relentlessly, banging a set of blue drums to the beat of music only he could hear on his headset, as Nicci, also a teacher of piano on the faculty of Peabody Preparatory, grimaced and endured.

David's parents were divorced when he was a boy. His father's ancestry was Polish; his mother's was Italian, and it was her sense of family which kept them all close. When his sister Nina got divorced, David had gone over every day to help care for her baby daughters, twins who were now 2 years old.

David was strong-minded. At family dinners, he argued earnestly about politics and people. In sports, at play or in the stands, he loved the challenge and confrontation, and he kept in shape by jogging and riding his bike. He felt for the underdog. A year before his accident he spent a weekend living and sleeping with some of Baltimore's homeless in alleys and parks, eating at Our Daily Bread, a soup kitchen, to find out what being homeless was like. He felt that the homeless were people who had lost their ability to solve a problem, and he wanted to understand why.

Now David had a problem he couldn't solve. The force of the accident had caused severe bruising to his brain. It was hemorrhaging, and the bruising and hemorrhaging in turn caused the brain to swell.

At the same time, it was starved for nourishment. David's other injuries -- a right forearm fracture and a fracture that laid his right knee open -- likely contributed to a drop in blood pressure before he ever got to Shock Trauma, said Dr. Aizik Wolf, the senior neurosurgeon who treated him. The low blood pressure increased the pressure inside his brain, which retarded the flow of blood to his head, and kept oxygen from his brain.

David's two sisters, Janina "Nina" Thornton, mother of the twins, and Leslie Collins, joined the others in the soft gray waiting room for family members on the first floor, where the television flickered and paintings of flowers hung on the walls.

This was too much to absorb. On Aug. 29, Mrs. Bojanowski's father had died. Three weeks later her mother died. And that was only two weeks ago:

We huddled in a corner of the waiting room together, trying to comfort each other. There were no words, only solemn silent promises that if David lived, we would help him with every ounce of strength we had.

The day after the accident, David was transferred to a private room on the fourth floor of the neurotrauma intensive care unit. His family could see him for 15 minutes, twice a day. That first week, a counselor asked Mrs. Bojanowski to fill out some insurance forms. David had no medical insurance, she said. Would she like to apply for public assistance for him? the counselor asked. Yes, Mrs. Bojanowski said. And she mentioned that she had learned the owners of the van had $100,000 in medical coverage.

"Oh, he'll eat that up in three weeks here," the counselor said.

The doctors' problem was to bring David's brain pressure under control. They drilled a hole in the right side of his skull, inserting a monitor the size of a pencil lead into the brain tissue to check the pressure. It was high, blocking an adequate blood flow to the brain.

"It's like trying to squeeze toothpaste into a container whose pressure is too high to contain it," Dr. Wolf explained. "If the pressure gets so high in the brain that blood can't enter, a person becomes brain dead. And brain dead is dead."

To lower the pressure, the doctors began to administer Pentobarbital intravenously, inducing a medical coma that would last for weeks. The coma would slow David's body functions, reducing the pressure in his brain, allowing blood to flood its tissues. Time passed, and the family watched him anxiously.

After about two months of not much hope, we began to see signs of awakening. David's eyes opened a little at a time over a period of several days, but he didn't seem to see anything. He moved his unbroken arm and hand but without apparent purpose. He would squeeze my hand if I put it in his but there

was no proof he knew what he was doing. The doctors called it reflexive movements . . . just his reflexes. We called it hope. We called it progress. We watched his every move and gave them all great significance. We planned his recovery. We knew it would be hard but we'd retrain him to walk and talk and we'd help him, no matter what handicaps he might have.

Repeatedly doctors asked David to follow commands.

"Show me two fingers.

"Hold your thumb up.

"Show me your left foot.

"Open your eyes."

David showed no sign that he heard and understood. But the family rejoiced when he was weaned from the respirator and could breathe again on his own. They thought it was a big turning point.

His 27th birthday came Dec. 9, 10 weeks after the accident. The doctors relaxed the rules to let his mother, fiancee and 15 family members and nurses have a celebration in the room. They had double reason, they thought. David's physical injuries had healed, and Shock Trauma was ready to let him go. So they dressed him in a new pair of gray flannel pajamas with red stripes, and put a red baseball cap that said "All American Hero" on his brown hair. They filled the room with helium balloons that said, "Atta boy, Dave!", sang Happy Birthday and cut a birthday cake.

David sat like a stump in bed, his eyes vacant under half-closed lids.

His care at Shock Trauma had cost about $250,000, and it was being paid for by taxpayers, through Maryland's medical assistance program.

On Dec. 17, David left behind the world of high-tech medicine which had kept him alive. An ambulance carried him 50 miles away to the Rehab Hospital of York, in Pennsylvania, an institute with a different mission. Medicine had kept him from dying. Medicine had restored his body's health. Now the question was whether he had a mind.

At the Rehab Hospital, he was placed in a cheerful, semi-private room, beneath a pink bedspread. Pink curtains framed a large picturewindow overlooking a wide expanse of lawn and a settlement of condominiums across the street.

David registered none of it. He lay in bed, passive, unmoving: tubes bringing food and fluid to his body, tubes carrying waste away. The first goal, said Dr. Gary West, a specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation, was to try to rouse David. If the staff could arouse him, then it would try to make him aware.

On a structured schedule, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, nurses and family members tempted David's senses with different kinds of stimulation -- noise, odors, tastes, familiar pictures. They kept a log each day.

Dec. 18, 1990: clapping beside both his ears, calling him by name -- quick blink.

Stimulus repeated -- no response.

Taste of vinegar, coffee -- grimacing.

As the weeks passed, David's family scanned the log for signs of progress. Some nursing assistants told them they were seeing purposeful responses from him. The family was elated. But David didn't repeat the actions. He would seem to look at family pictures, but he wouldn't do it again. He yawned and coughed, but it seemed involuntary. And, although he settled gradually into a pattern of wakefulness and sleep, the main difference seemed to be that when awake, his eyes were open. Dr. West watched him, and after two months of care, at a cost of about $1,000 a day, he called a meeting with members of David's family. They came, clinging to every hopeful sign they had found in the daily logs, but Dr. West was emphatic:

"If you're waiting for David to come out of the coma, he's out. That's why he has sleep-wake cycles. This is all he can do. He's in a persistent vegetative state. He cannot get any better. This is it."

Four and a half months ago, on that first night in the emergency room, they had been told that David probably would not be conscious again, that he probably would not live. Now, after more than 18 weeks of the most intensive medical care, they had the verdict: he would live, but he would not be conscious. Unable to communicate, apparently unable to think, unable to love, unable to relate to life in any meaningful way. He existed in an artificially-maintained vegetative state. Through the feeding tube that had been placed into his stomach that first week in Shock Trauma, David was being fed and watered like a plant.

The doctor discussed the family's choices: they could put David in a nursing home, take him home, or remove his feeding tube and let him die.

Mrs. Bojanowski asked if the feeding could be halted at the York hospital. Pennsylvania is a conservative state, Dr. West warned her. The hospital had not dealt with this before, and the staff told Mrs. Bojanowski she would find the process easier in Maryland, her own state.

Mrs. Bojanowski turned to Joe and Joyce Cruzan, the parents of Nancy Cruzan, who lay inert for eight years in Missouri because the courts there refused to allow her parents to have her feeding stopped. The United States Supreme Court, earlier that year, had upheld Missouri's right to decide such policy. Finally, the Cruzans obtained another hearing. Nancy's friends from work testified that she had said she would not want artificial life support, and Nancy's doctor said she ought to be allowed to die. The Missouri judge gave permission for the feeding to cease, and Nancy died very peacefully, the Cruzans said, 11 days later.

In long telephone conversations, the Cruzans reassured Mrs. Bojanowski that it was the right thing to do, and after five months and 21 days, she decided that she wanted David's feeding stopped.

On March 21, the family brought David to Deaton Hospital and Medical Center, a chronic-care hospital and nursing home in South Baltimore. She told Dr. James P. Richardson, to whom he was assigned, that she wanted David to be able to die. It was the first time Deaton was being asked to remove a feeding tube from someone who was not terminally ill and who had signed no directive. Dr. Richardson said Mrs. Bojanowski would need a court order to stop David's feeding, but that he would support her request if his own examination showed that David was in a persistent vegetative state.

That is what the law requires in Maryland. "You do have to go to court if the patient is not terminally ill, even if the family is in agreement that feeding be stopped," said Jack Schwartz, chief counsel of the Opinions, Advice and Legislation Division of the Maryland attorney general's office.

The cost of maintaining her son had risen to $350,000.

It was heartbreaking to see him lying there knowing he had no options. His legs and arms had withered to flesh and bones. His skin had whitened for lack of sunlight and his face was empty. No feelings or thoughts shown in his eyes. There was no response from him at all.

I could still see in my mind the jogger, the football player, the drummer that I knew so well. David loved to cook and would never even eat another meal. He loved his nieces and nephews so much and would never have any children of his own. The pain I felt for him was unbearable.

Rather suddenly, David developed pneumonia, which for centuries had ended the lives of the old, the bedridden, the chronically ill. At 2:30 a.m. on April 5, he was transferred to the emergency room at the University of Maryland Medical Center. His temperature was 105 degrees. He was having seizures. Mrs. Bojanowski and Lin arrived to find David lying on a stretcher, shaking violently.

"Tell them to let him die," Lin whispered to Mrs. Bojanowski. "Please, you have the authority. He's trying to die. Make them let him die."

"Please," Mrs. Bojanowski screamed to the doctors, "just let him go! Let him die!"

Dr. Greg Dohmeier, the family medicine resident on call, had worked an eight-hour shift and was asleep in the hospital when his beeper sounded. He took the elevator down six floors to the emergency room and there found Mrs. Bojanowski and Lin. He asked David's mother if she was her son's legal guardian. He asked if David had signed any advance directives -- documents that said whether he would want to be kept alive in this condition or not.

Mrs. Bojanowski had to answer no to both questions.

It was not that David hadn't thought about the issue. He had. Two weeks before the accident, Lin said, she had told David she would not marry him unless he made out documents that said whether or not he wanted artificial life support. They had discussed it as they drove to his grandmother's funeral. "He said 'absolutely no heroic measures, no life support, no food, no water.' " Lin asked a friend in the attorney general's office to mail documents for both of them to her. About three weeks after the accident, they came. Lin filled out hers alone.

"I think that the most horrible thing for me was to have this fiancee sitting there telling me the story with the diamond ring on her finger," said Dr. Dohmeier.

Only 28, the young physician felt torn. Medicine and the law, empathy and a doctor's training were clashing as a 27-year-old man lay convulsing on a stretcher in the hall.

"We run into this everyday," he said. "A patient is there, having no advance directive, yet someone is there saying, 'We want him to die.' I learned in my training in medical school and training in the residency program, that you have to treat if there is no advance directive."

And so Dr. Dohmeier admitted David, treated him with anti-seizure medication, antibiotics for the pneumonia, and four days later sent him back to Deaton.

Now Mrs. Bojanowski turned to her lawyer, Ira Cooke. She asked him to start the court proceedings.

"Oh God," Mr. Cooke thought to himself, "I'm going to have to do something. I had hoped it wouldn't come to this." Aware of the case since Mrs. Bojanowski first called him for advice after the accident, he felt morally torn by the idea of arranging for her son's death. He went to the hospital to make his own judgment about David, and standing by his bedside, thought he looked like a young man asleep.

"Suddenly his eyes opened. To see his eyes open scared me. I was there to effect his death and he was looking at me." A doctor reassured Mr. Cooke that David was a vegetable, but a licensed practical nurse took him aside, Mr. Cooke said, insisted that David was aware, and told him she did not approve of what he was doing. In turmoil, the lawyer went to see his neighbor, Rabbi Ira J. Schiffer, of Beth Am Synagogue in Baltimore. They sat together, and Rabbi Schiffer told him that while a Jew is not allowed to commit suicide, helping someone in David's condition to live or die naturally was the moral thing to do, if the lawyer could be sure that that would have been David's wish.

Mr. Cooke felt better, but he asked Mrs. Bojanowski, a Roman Catholic, to consult her priest. She called Monsignor Nicholas Amato at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Mount Washington. The monsignor listened to her story, and then assured her that the church does not feel a responsibility to keep someone alive artificially. "David was not born with a feeding tube in his stomach," he said.

The Bojanowskis decided to proceed. They discovered that the law required an adversarial hearing, with a lawyer appointed by the court to represent David.

Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Richard T. Rombro appointed Arthur L. Drager in June, and on Aug. 19, almost 10 months after the accident, the family, the doctors and the lawyers came together in court to debate whether David had to live in this condition, or whether he could die. Mrs. Bojanowski sought two things: legal guardianship, and permission to let Deaton Hospital do whatever was necessary to allow David to die.

Lin and the family testified about David's desire not to be artificially sustained. And then Mr. Drager cross-examined them at length about those conversations with David, and how they had occurred.

"He was really very hostile about it," said Kathryn Bojanowski, Michael Bojanowski's wife. "I've never understood why they [the state] fought it and I'm really pretty bitter about it."

But Mr. Drager said he had a court-appointed role to play.

"I had no personal knowledge of what David Bojanowski had said. That's the reason why living wills and powers of attorney are so important," he said. "You can direct the doctor. You can control your destiny."

It was now 10 months and 18 days since the accident. Mr. Drager asked Judge Rombro to let David live at least a year. He had been advised by a doctor at Deaton who was aware of David's case, he said, that the American Medical Association recommended waiting a year before withdrawing life support from someone as young as David, in a coma or vegetative state.

Judge Rombro would later say that's why he ruled as he did. "There had been some testimony, an American Medical Association study," he said, that the waiting period "ought to be one year."

But Mr. Drager's information was wrong. The American Medical Association has made no recommendation about how long a person should remain in a persistent vegetative state before life support is withdrawn, said Dr. Nancy W. Dickey, an AMA trustee and member of the AMA's Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs. "That really is a clinical decision that should be left up to the individual patient and family and physician," she said.

Asked later about the source of his information, Mr. Drager declined to name the doctor, saying it was a friend of his who was aware of the case. But he subsequently produced a copy of an article from the Jan. 1990 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association in which he said the recommendation of a year's wait "was implied." On the third page of the article, which was about withdrawing life support from patients in a persistent vegetative state, was this sentence: "Even in young persons who have experienced head trauma, a conservative criterion for the diagnosis of persistent vegetative state would be observed unconsciousness for at least 12 months."

The same article noted that in most of the known cases, those who recovered consciousness after long periods were severely disabled, and that the odds of recovery after such a time were probably 1,000-to-1.

Dr. Richardson testified that David was not expected to recover. But Judge Rombro said he would have to hear from the hospital's ethics committee to be sure they did not disagree with the family's wishes.

And if they did not, he said, then David's tube feeding could be stopped in six weeks -- one year from the date of the accident.

Five weeks later, on Sept. 24, the Deaton Patient Research and Advisory Committee interviewed Mrs. Bojanowski. She mentioned that the Baltimore police called her periodically. They were waiting to charge Thomas Mitchell Jones with auto manslaughter when David died, she said. Otherwise, he would be charged with driving while intoxicated.

After that meeting, Mrs. Bojanowski said, Dr. Richardson told her the committee was concerned about the impending charges, about the hospital getting dragged into the case. "It was a question that came up" before the committee, Dr. Herbert L. Muncie Jr., the committee chairman, acknowledged later. "It was two separate issues [David's right to die, and the hospital's potential liability] but it was hard to separate them from the institution's viewpoint."

"I didn't see how one had anything to do with the other," Mrs. Bojanowski said. She felt that letting David die was a separate issue from punishing the drunken driver. If David's feeding continued, he might live another 25 years, she thought. And she did not want to have to worry that the outstanding charge could delay David's right to die. So she sat down and wrote the state's attorney a letter saying the family did not want Mr. Jones charged with manslaughter, and gave a copy of the letter to the hospital committee.

But a secretary at Deaton thought she remembered there was a law in Maryland saying that manslaughter could not be charged if the victim lived a year and a day after the assault. She was right. "It is the law," said Alexander Palenscar, the deputy state's attorney for Baltimore. If David lived at least a year and a day, as Mr. Drager had suggested to the court and the judge had decided, then the other driver could not be charged with manslaughter, and the hospital would risk no liability.

On Oct. 1, exactly one year after the accident, Dr. Muncie, the committee chairman and medical director at Deaton, delivered to Judge Rombro a letter stating that the committee had met the day before, Sept. 30, and decided "that there was no objection to carrying out the substituted judgment of the patient, including withdrawal of artificial sustenance."

On Oct. 2, 1991, one year and a day after any sign of intelligent life in David had ceased, Dr. Richardson wrote an order in his chart to stop fluids and food so that David could die. The cost of sustaining him had edged close to half a million dollars, and there was still a little time to go.

"I really didn't think it would take more than a week or 10 days," Dr. Richardson said. That is the amount of time in which death by dehydration occurs.

Dr. Richardson did not have the feeding tube itself removed. He wanted to give medications through it to prevent the seizures that might come on. They would be hard on the family, and he was afraid someone on the staff might again send David to the University of Maryland Medical Center emergency room to get ** the seizures under control.

Time passed and David stayed the same. It began to appear that some sabotage was at work, that someone opposed to David's death was watering him through the tube. "I thought it was a possibility that he was getting some water or fluid, because he didn't get dehydrated," Dr. Richardson said. And the Bojanowski family decided that someone on the night shift may also be feeding him through the tube, because they found a bowel movement in his bedclothes.

The hospital was concerned. "We did look into it," Dr. Muncie remembers. "We didn't find anything." Each day Dr. Richardson checked on David, and each day David continued to look pretty good. "I felt inadequate that I couldn't say 'Yes, he's getting there, tomorrow's going to be the day,' " the doctor said later. The tip-off would be a drop in his blood pressure. But David's blood pressure continued in the normal range.

Finally, Mrs. Bojanowski, her sister Lollie and Lin began to stand a watch in the hospital room. Lin sat always by David's bed, and his brother and sisters came as they could. It was a 24-hour guard, to prevent someone from keeping David alive.

On Oct. 24, after almost a week of that, David's blood pressure dipped a little. The next day it dropped below normal. Dr. Richardson said he thought David might die that night.

The family crowded into the third-floor room, and waited moment by moment for David to die. The hours passed. Leslie went down to the first-floor sun room to breast-feed her baby, returned and went down again. The others lay on the floor, or dozed in chairs.

At 2 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 26, David's pressure began to rise. Mrs. Bojanowski told her children to go home and rest. "I'll call you as soon as it starts to drop again," she promised.

Lin remained by David's side. At daybreak, Leslie and her husband and baby left. And then David's blood pressure began to drop again.

Mrs. Bojanowski called all the family back.

Nina sat on the edge of a chair with her hand on David's chest so she could feel him breathing. On the other side, Leslie held his hand and arm. Michael was behind her. Lin stayed close to David's head. Mrs. Bojanowski and her sister were at the foot of his bed.

Less than an hour after they all rushed back, David took what appeared to be one last breath. They all looked to each other, with the same silent question: "Is that it?" His lungs heaved again. And then he was still. It was very peaceful.

"He's dead," Nina said. Everyone burst into tears.

Lin went to get the nurse. She came in with white gauze patches soaked in saltwater and put them over both David's eyes. The family had been warned this would happen because Mrs. Bojanowski wanted to donate David's eyes, and the patches were to keep the corneas moist.

Trying to create some good from David's tragedy, Mrs. Bojanowski had arranged to donate whatever part of David's body was viable. In addition to his eyes, skin and bone would be taken.

But something went wrong. "There was some mix-up or delay or oversight," Dr. Richardson said. "Somehow it just didn't happen."

It seemed to be a bureaucratic thing. Mrs. Bojanowski remembers being called at home by someone from the state medical examiner's office. He wanted the number on the traffic ticket the police had issued in David's accident. He couldn't get David's body to the site where his tissue would be taken for donation, the caller said, until he could get his paperwork done.

"In the middle of all of our grief, I'm supposed to come up with some sort of a traffic ticket from over a year ago!" she said.

But she called one of her lawyers, who called a secretary to go down to the office, and get the number out of a file. Whether that or something else delayed it is still not clear, but the funeral home director told David's mother that his bone and skin were never taken. She felt a keen disappointment.

Ira Cooke, the family lawyer, came early the afternoon of David's funeral service. But his feelings were so powerfully mixed and sad, he could not stay. Usually, it was a happy thing to win a case. But even though he did not regret David's dying, he felt responsible for it. "It was the first time I had ever done a negative," he reflected. "My job was to arrange for his funeral. Winning was going to David's funeral. It was such a juxtaposition values." He quietly slipped away, and took the afternoon off.


David Bojanowski lived a year and 25 days after the accident.

The sentencing hearing for Thomas Mitchell Jones came four weeks later, and lasted just 10 minutes.

"When the victim died, it was more than a year and a day," said Deputy State's Attorney Palenscar, "so we were precluded from charging auto manslaughter." It was a plea-bargained arrangement. Jones pleaded not guilty on the statement of facts, and District Court Judge Theodore B. Oshrine found him guilty of driving while intoxicated. With no previous criminal record or drunken driving arrest, Jones was sentenced to one year's imprisonment, with six months suspended, the other six months on work release, and three years on probation. The judge ordered also that Jones abstain from drinking while on probation, and have an alcohol restriction on any future driver's license. He must attend two panels where victims of drunken driving accidents, or their families, discuss the pain the accidents have caused. And he must perform 200 hours of community service, (( pay a $500 fine, and $20 in court costs.

"Mr. Jones, I'm sure you find it -- I hope that you do -- difficult to live with yourself at this point," Judge Oshrine said. "But let's hope that, with some help, you can come away from this matter certainly with a better understanding of drinking and driving and a better appreciation for life and the responsibilities of driving. Good luck to you, Mr. Jones."

Thomas Mitchell "T.J." Jones spent nine days in jail and is serving the remainder of his six-month sentence by working during the day and returning home evenings under electronic surveillance.

Reached at home by telephone, he refused to comment on his experience. "I have nothing to say to you," Mr. Jones said.

Lin Bauer still works as a hospital critical-care nurse, wears David's engagement ring, and visits his grave two or three times a week. "Everybody was fighting for his life, and he survived. That's the real tragedy. He survived," she said. "Without medical support, he would have died in the first 36 hours."

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