NORTH OGDEN — Many lives have been touched by the ripple effect of connection and compassion that began the instant a drunken driver’s car crushed the legs of young Sidney Reeves and killed his girlfriend almost a quarter-century ago.
Reeves, now 43, of Ogden, was jogging with his girlfriend, Marcella Montgomery, on the night of Sept. 22, 1987. Just two blocks from Montgomery’s home, the two were struck by a Lincoln Continental traveling 60 mph at 2550 North.
Montgomery went through the windshield of the car. Reeves was thrown to the road and knocked unconscious. Both his legs were shattered and doctors told him he would never walk again. It was later discovered that the driver of the car had a blood alcohol level of 0.18, twice the legal limit in Utah.
It was a crushing blow to the lifelong athlete who began playing football at age 8 with some of his best friends, including Kendall Youngblood and Larry Cain, who both went on to become well-known in Utah athletics.
“I had two goals in life. To serve a mission and to play football for the University of Utah,” Reeves said. “Now, here I was, in the hospital with two shattered legs and bones sticking out. I had hundreds of pins holding me together. It was devastating, but I did everything I could to keep my spirits up.”
Reeves was adopted at birth. His adoptive mother struggled with diabetes and lost both of her legs. Now they both were in wheelchairs and in the care of his adoptive father.
“I can’t imagine what it was like for him,” Reeves said. “To have two of his loved ones in a wheelchair at the same time. And then, shortly after my accident, my mother died from the ravages of that horrible disease.”
Reeves had decided to serve a local mission for his stake. During that time, he met his natural mother, who lived next door to a young woman he was teaching. At the time, she was losing her mother.
“We were going through a loss at the same time,” he said. “She introduced me to my natural father, who had just lost his home to the Oakland, Calif., fires, so there we were. The three of us all going through a tragedy at the same time.”
Reeves also learned that at the time his natural mother got pregnant, her best friend also got pregnant.
“Well, guess who her best friend was? The mother of Kendall Youngblood,” Reeves said. “The kid I played football with and became good friends with.”
During his recovery, which included 25 surgeries and his legs being sewn together at one point, Reeves said he began talking about his accident with others. Jon Huntsman Sr. heard his story and paid for a speaking tour. Reeves was also invited to be on the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” along with the driver who hit him. Reeves also would later discover the man who hit him lived just blocks from his home and had been arrested for a DUI a week before hitting him.
In addition, Reeves, who has four children and is divorced, met one of the witnesses to his accident years later when the two discovered their daughters were good friends.
Billy Ross, of North Ogden, was just 17 years old when he came upon the accident that night in 1987. He said although the police got his statement as a witness and released him from the scene, he always followed Reeves through news accounts and often wondered what had happened to him. Then a new family moved across the street, and his daughter invited a new friend to spend the night.
“The next morning I heard a knock at the door,” Ross said. “I opened the door, and Sidney Reeves was standing there. He introduced himself, and I told him I already knew who he was, and that I had been looking for him. I told him his life had been spared for a reason, because he should have died that night. He has since become a great support to me and my family.”
Another witness to the accident, Rachelle Johnson, was the first voice Reeves heard when he regained consciousness at the scene.
One day while visiting the library in North Ogden, he ran into Johnson’s sister-in-law who re-introduced the two.
“When I heard her voice over the phone, I just started sobbing,” Reeves said. “I have always remembered her voice, because it was her voice that brought me back.”
These are just a handful of connections resulting from the accident. There are many more. Reeves, who has recovered 100 percent, went on to medical school and switched careers midway through. He now owns his own fitness and training center, Sidney’s Fitness Studio, LLC., in North Ogden, has appeared on local television and speaks around the country.
He is known as “Dr. Fit,” a nickname given to him by a local radio DJ. He also is working on a book about his experience and hopes one day his story will appear on the big screen.
“Life is amazing. It’s a small world, and it’s been interesting to hear all of the different perspectives from other people who were affected by this accident,” Reeves said. “I had so much love and support from my friends, family and the many doctors who worked on me. I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart. Life is precious. It’s worth living and we should never give up.”