I was with a friend today, and we dropped in on her daughter, Sarah, at work. I hadn't seen Sarah since they visited me in the hospital after the accident, and I don't really remember much about that. Her boyfriend is a volunteer firefighter. Today she said to me, "I haven't told you, but we heard your accident dispatch over the scanner, and thought wow, that sounds bad. I didn't know till a couple of days later that that was you."
It surprised me. I don't really think about the accident itself much anymore. I felt a little detached as I asked her if she remembered what was said. She said, "I'm not sure, something like, 'rollover accident...vehicle in flames...driver trapped.' "
I was instantly awash in gratitude all over again. I give thanks daily for little things I notice. Like this morning at the chiropractor I noticed that I could let her work on my upper back, whereas up till now it was still too tender. Or last Monday having my GP ask about the nerve pain in my arm, and realizing that it had been gone so long I had almost forgotten about it altogether. When these realizations crop up, I stop and say a big "Thank you, Lord for your tender healing care."
But Sarah's comment took me back to that moment, and the sensation I had of the BIGness of God. The first moment of awareness upon regaining consciousness, I felt Him there. That's not really a good description, it defies description. Embraced? Held? Peace. Comfort. An intangible, vibrational something. Communion? Waking to a stranger praying over me was incredible, and I wanted her to know the Presence I felt.
It's not something I talked about. I didn't feel ready to write about it. It felt too sacred to do so. I did feel the urging to share it with someone who has been living through the hardest thing I can imagine. I wasn't sure how it would be received, but her response was very precious to me. It was affirmation that it was right to follow the Spirit's prompting, and share it with her.
I don't think I'll be writing any more about the accident after this, so I want to record the details that I remember or have pieced together from what I was told. I tend not to remember or to minimize things as time goes by, and I think I should remember this...not to dwell on, but I should be able to look back and remember the journey. I've never put it down in a continuous stream before.
The accident happened on a narrow back farm road a few miles from our home. I don't remember what made me lose control, but I'm wondering if I was changing from my regular glasses into sunglasses, as neither of those were ever found, nor was my glasses case. It happened right in front of the home of a couple that we buy hay from. She was not first on the scene, but when she got there she was able to call Carey at work. I've never seen much traffic on this road, but this day several people came upon the scene immediately.
Carey always insists that we carry fire extinguishers, and mine was ejected from the vehicle when it rolled (three times). A teenage boy found the extinguisher and used it to put out the fire. (Thankfully I was unaware of the fire, and did not learn of it until much later.) I was told that he had to climb part way into the car with me to put out the fire. I am in awe. I spoke to him later to tell him thank you, and you would think I had thanked him for picking up a book I dropped...Yes, ma'am. No problem.
A registered nurse and her daughter, both from a hundred miles away, were visiting a friend that lived in our area and were on their way out shopping. They got me out of the car with the help of the young man who put the fire out. These were the women who were praying over me. (Carey saw the car a few days afterward; he said he didn't know how they got me out.)
The ambulance from a rural volunteer fire department made it to the accident before the state trooper. Though I did regain consciousness briefly before the ambulance arrived, enough to have my vivid recollection of the feelings described above, I wasn't capable of real coherent speech, and I don't remember being moved into the ambulance. I am really hard to get an IV into, or even to take a blood test, and I always request a butterfly in the back of my hand. I always thought that most of the reason was just because I stress so much over it, and that if I was ever unconscious, they would have no trouble getting a vein. Well, my first clear sentence was prompted by them having a real challenge with my veins. I said, "You're going to have to put it in the back of my hand." The EMT told me that that wouldn't be sufficient, but that's what they ended up having to do. And of all my many and deep bruises head to toe, those, where they tried to insert the IV at the inner elbow, were the very last to fade.
I remember the state trooper arriving at the ambulance door right before they closed it, and I heard him ask, "Is she gonna make it?" I didn't hear the answer. I was in and out of consciousness on the trip to the trauma center about an hour away...at least I guess I was, because the trip seemed incredibly short.
The trauma center is kind of a blur. I remember a bunch of doctors and nurses each telling me that wearing a seat belt saved my life. I remember my kids being there, and me telling them to make phone calls to their grandmother (it was her birthday, and I hadn't called her yet), a friend that I was thinking about flying out to visit to tell her I definitely wouldn't be able to make it, and a co-worker that I was supposed to fill in for the next Monday. Yes, even under extreme stress my brain is like a steel whatchamacallit...or I'm just unbelievably bossy. I remember them telling me that Carey couldn't get a flight in till the next day...he told me later what torture that was for him.
My injuries were pretty mild considering:
...I had between four and eight broken ribs.
...I had some intracranial bleeding that they were worried about for awhile, but it stopped on its own. They put some staples in some cuts to my scalp.
...The right side of my face was swollen and bruised. At first they thought my jaw was broken.
...I had hematomas across my chest and abdomen from the shoulder and lap belts...they watched those pretty closely for awhile too, but the bleeding stopped on its own there as well...felt like ropes under my skin forever till they finally healed.
...I had pretty bad whiplash...don't recommend it. There's still an indentation on the left side of my neck at the base...the neck specialist thinks that the shoulder strap caused a tear in the muscle (not muscle from bone, but cellular [?])
...The hand seemed not so bad. My fifth day in the hospital I insisted on being released. My neck was having unbearable muscle spasms at night, that triggered my vertigo and then vomiting (take it from me, you do NOT want to heave with broken ribs). I blamed part of that on the hospital beds which have always been hard for me to deal with. Each of the doctors had to come by to okay my release. I was highly amused (or maybe just high and amused) at the hand specialist's face when Carey said, "It's not bad enough to need surgery, right?" Poor doc explained that, no, one of the bones was "pulverized" (his word), and that if they opened it to operate he was afraid it would just flake apart. It never hurt though, and after four months in a cast and another in a splint it has healed really well. I can now make a fist and cross my fingers!
...The nerve pain up my arm was really, really awful...glad that's over.
...I have lots of scars on my left upper arm, from glass I guess. Had some stitches on some of those.
...And though not an injury, a side effect of note was that I had unbelievably vivid movie-like dreams while on the pain killers and muscle relaxers.
I don't know why I survived. I don't see the whole picture...but Someone does. For each person that rushed to my side, that cared for me, that prayed for me, that helped my family, I give thanks. Now it's time to leave the pain in the past and move forward, giving thanks for each day, each lesson, each smile, each gift, trying to follow God's plan for me.