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Peter Eichenberger on the mend 

Three weeks ago, when Indy writer Peter Eichenberger was unconscious in the neurological intensive care unit at WakeMed, with more wires and hoses going in and out of him than a V8, one thing made friends and family hopeful: He couldn't stop thrashing around. That told them the real Peter was still in there, and he wanted out. Bad.

Peter Eichenberger is nothing if not determined, they knew. And he values his freedom more than anything. After he was picked up off Bickett Boulevard in Raleigh early the morning of Wednesday, Jan. 25, when he crashed his bicycle, banging his head so hard he needed brain surgery to drain the bleeding and relieve the pressure, the thrashing was a sign he might just be able to will himself back to life.

They were right. A week later, he was squeezing their hands. A week after that he was calling me at 8 a.m. asking if I could bring him a Guinness.

A friend and I went Monday night to see Peter, and he was resting in the WakeMed rehabilitation wing, still restless, but the wires and tubes were gone. He showed us the horseshoe-shaped scar on the right side of his skull where they'd cut into his brain, and the staples on the other side where he'd been hurt in the fall. We marveled at his recovery and he said, "Time flies when you're unconscious."

He had a lot of other things to say, but you'll be able to read them for yourself when he writes soon about his experience. But, in a nutshell, he says he's felt a love and connection with humanity he never imagined thanks to the many cards wishing him well, the outstanding care of the people at WakeMed, and a harmonious world vibration that was amplified when they opened up his skull. He says he's ready to forget the tired, old political discourse and take his actions and activism straight to the people who need it, like the people he'd met while writing about the Common Ground collective in New Orleans' Ninth Ward. He has, he says, a new appreciation for the importance of living every second. I guess nearly dying will do that for you (he says he didn't see a white light, but a blaze of colors).

He expects to get out of the hospital on Monday to recuperate at home. In the meantime, plans are in the works for benefits to help him pay his hospital bills.

In perhaps the greatest testament to the healing power of love, a benefit is planned Saturday, Feb. 25, at Sadlack's in Raleigh, scene of a well-documented altercation between Peter and a bartender last year that got him banned from the joint. It starts at 4 p.m. and will feature jambalaya, steamed oysters and a musical line-up including Patty Hurst Shifter, The Cartridge Family, The Semantics and perhaps others.

On Sunday, March 5, another benefit concert is planned at Kings (where Peter's son, David, works) from 1-8 p.m. featuring Oedipus Dick, The Countdown Quartet, Heads on Sticks, Alphas Wear Grey, Spader, DJ JJ and more.

And look for Peter's first-hand travelogue soon in the Independent.

  • 'Time flies when you're unconscious,' says Indy columnist

More by Richard Hart

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