Shakespeare urged people to beware the Ides of March. On the 15th day of the third month of the year something quite tragic will likely occur.Evan Chadwick, a 24- year-old former student at Elon University in Burlington, North Carolina, recalls the 14th day of March 2003 as the most enjoyable and exciting of his young life.
At 10 a.m. that morning the University of Vermont men’s basketball team represented the home state of Chadwick and his roommate in the championship game of the America East Conference.
“He and I were so excited that we didn’t hardly sleep the night before,” Chadwick said in a recent interview. “We grew up playing golf together in Vermont. He always kicked my butt, but I schooled him on the basketball court.”
Fully clad in green from head to toe, the two watched Vermont win over Boston University and earn it’s first ever birth into the NCAA tournament.
Following the huge victory, Chadwick and his roommate, who he and all of his friends referred to as Tromsie, began the celebration of a lifetime. Their six suitemates witnessed it all day and night.
Jamie Cox, a biology major from Virginia, recalls his general impression of the two Vermonters that he lived with that year.
“They used to tease the hell out of me,” Cox said. “Studying to be a doctor didn’t give me much time to party. But nobody could ever keep up with those two. When UVM won we all just said, ‘look out.'”
Chadwick and Tromsie, possessing the expired driver’s license of Chadwick’s older brother, stormed to the local Food Lion and purchased two cases of Miller High Life. The case they split from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. would not be enough on this day.
By the time the clock struck midnight on March 15 the two cases had been shrunken down to empty aluminum containers that could be redeemed back in Vermont for a nickel each.
Elliott Brady, a dear friend of both Chadwick and Tromsie, recalls joining the two at around 1 that morning.
“They were absolutely annihilated when I got there,” Brady said. “It took two of us to get Evan into his bed. Tromsie was in the other room playing X-Box.”
“Then I was outside smoking a cigarette and Tromsie stumbled out. He sat on the railing with his smoke and I tried to tell him that maybe that wasn’t the best idea.”
They were on the third floor landing and Tromsie was sitting with his back hanging over the second floor landing. There were six other students there to witness the horror that would follow.
Chadwick was passed out in the suite.
“I woke up to horrifying screams,” Chadwick said. “I jumped up and ran outside. It was the most scared I’ve ever been in my entire life. I thought he was dead.”
Cox, as well as the other 60 or so residents of Barney Hall, was awakened as well.
“We immediately called 911,” Cox said. “There was blood everywhere. I’ll never forget it as long as I live.”
Tromsie had fallen 25 feet and smashed his skull on the unforgiving cement landing.
The ambulance arrived promptly, but the paramedics had little hope for saving the young man’s life. Due to inclement weather they were unable to airlift him, so the ambulance was forced to race him 35 miles to the Chapel Hill University Hospital.
His parents’ phone rang that morning at 5 o’clock.
His mother knew instantly that something was terribly wrong. They immediately got on a flight to North Carolina after being told by doctors that there was less than a 10 percent chance of them ever seeing their first-born alive again.
They arrived at the hospital three hours later, and were met by a friend from Vermont that they had contacted before their flight.
Judy Colomb was in Chapel Hill visiting her daughter Meghan. She received a call from his parents right after they received word of what had happened.
“I was at the hospital in 10 minutes,” Colomb said. “He was in a coma. He fractured his skull in two places, had a severe concussion, and lost almost half of his blood from the five inch laceration on the back of his head.”
Colomb remarked at how amazed and touched she was by the massive amount of Elon students that had gathered at the hospital at such an early hour.
“It was incredible,” she said. “There must have been at least 40 kids.”
Only two short hours after Tromsie’s parents arrived at his bedside the doctors began to sing a much more optimistic tune.
“They said that the alcohol actually saved his life,” his mother said with half of a smile, and a piercing glare. “However, I doubt he would have fallen had he not been drunk.”
She tries to laugh.
The next day, wrapped like a mummy from the eyebrows up and equipped with an Office Depot sized supply of staples in the back of his head, Tromsie was speaking, and shortly after he was walking up and down the hallways of the hospital.
Exactly one week after the catastrophic accident he was walking down the fairways of his favorite course in Naples, Florida. Amazingly, he shot a 78 that day.
Chadwick, still envious of his buddy’s golf game, reflects on what could have been.
“It was the best day of my life immediately followed by the worst day of my life,” Chadwick said. “I’m just so happy that he’s here, and that he is able to share our story.