What You Might Not Know About Stephen King's Near-Death Experience

Novelist Stephen King is no stranger to death. He's been instilling the fear of it — and worse fates — in his terrified readers and moviegoers for decades. Many of us can remember the fear of even walking down the hall and to the bathroom at night after reading "The Shining" and "It." The author has even had a close brush with death himself, but it wasn't from an encounter with a disembodied spirit or some kind of demon fidget spinner or whatever else he'll come up with next. It was actually much more mundane than the nightmares roiling inside King's head.

According to PopCulture, he was struck by a minivan one afternoon in 1999 during a walk near his home in Maine. Distracted by an unruly dog in the car with him, driver Bryan Edwin Smith sent King flying 14 feet off the road. A helicopter took King to a hospital in Lewiston, Maine. He had several broken bones in his right leg, a collapsed lung, and multiple head lacerations. He was in such bad shape that doctors thought they might have to amputate his leg, but luckily they were able to avoid such extreme measures. He underwent five surgeries in 10 days, then entered a rigorous physical therapy program to recover.

Stephen King considered his near-death experience a formative event in his life

Fortunately for those of us who don't like to sleep at night, Stephen King pulled through both physically and artistically. He famously wrote about it in his memoir "On Writing," published the year after the accident. He wrote that the orthopedic surgeon that worked on him described his right leg below the knee as "so many marbles in a sock." As PopCulture notes, it took him a while to get back to his marathon writing sessions. He had to start with 40-minute bursts at a time, but eventually made it back to his old, tortured self.

In 2019, King tweeted about his experience, describing how it changed his outlook on life. "On June 19th, 1999 I got hit by a van while taking a walk," he wrote. "As I lay unconscious in the hospital, the docs debated amputating my right leg and decided it could stay, on a trial basis. I got better. Every day of the 20 years since has been a gift." And he continues to use that gift to scare the dickens out of the rest of us.