Rustling about trying to collect myself, I grabbed my keys and headed out the door for a job interview. It was December 17th, 2003, at 9:15am, and my appointment was in fifteen minutes.
Impatiently, I lowered the lift on my wheelchair accessible van and quickly raised myself up on it and wheeled into the van. Sliding into my seat, I shoved my keys into the ignition and started the van. I should have known at that moment that the engine was accelerating too high, but I ignored it and started down the street.
I turned onto state route 4 and picked up speed, and that is when I felt it. The accelerator opened up, the transmission gave a big kick, and the van started picking up speed. To my horror the hand controls were rock hard and my power breaks were not activating. Panicked, I looked around, I saw a series of traffic lights up ahead, and the road changing to one lane. A tanker truck just ahead of me evoked visions of hitting the tanker and pyrotecnic explosions following, so I moved into the right hand lane to look for an opportunity to turn off.
Pushing down on the brake as hard as I could with one hand, I turned off the main road with the other hand. Unable to slow the van down to the proper speed, the turn threw me to the left. The van balanced on two wheels, and fell back down on all fours. This bounced me around, and took pressure off the break, and caused the van to pick up speed. I gained my senses back and cried out to God in the realization that I was in a parking lot full of cars and people walking back and forth. In a split second decision I threw my wheel to the right, electing to take a brick wall instead of plowing through people and cars. I gave one last jerk of the wheel to the left trying to focus the blow to the passenger side, but my efforts were to late. I closed my eyes and prayed, “Father, please don’t make me leave my little girl.” Slam! I hit the wall head on.
Raising my head off of the steering wheel, looking into the cracked windshield, I noticed my breath was short and stabbing pain hit my ribs as I tried to sit up. Looking down the spinner knob that protruded out from the steering wheel, I knew it was the obvious culprit to my pain. I moved the steering wheel until the knob was clear of my ribs. I started looking around for my cell phone. The burning pain of my ribs forced me back to the steering wheel again. Just then my van door opened. Weakly I arose to greet my rescuer and a mans voice gasped “Oh dear God!” Taking off his sweatshirt he put it under my head and told me to be still. “My husband please call my husband,” I replied, giving him his name and number. The man gave my information to a woman standing next to him and she rushed off to call. “The ambulance is on the way…Oh man!” a second man exclaimed as he looked in at me. I lay there grunting and gasping for air, still feeling around for my cell phone. I wanted my husband; he needed to know I did not make it to my interview. My head was numb and buzzing, and everything looked like I was in a tunnel. “Just be still,” the first man told me. They asked me if I believed in God, and my reply was, “My faith is unshakable.” Then the men laid their hands on me and asked if they could pray for me. When I nodded my reply, they began to pray. Then the ambulance arrived, and I was pulled from the car and placed on a gurney and rushed into the ambulance. Drilled with questions, I noticed their shock that I was aware of my surroundings and totally responsive.Again I asked for my husband and asked if they would call my interview. “That is the last thing you need to worry about!” the paramedic next to me scolded. Then he turned to the driver and said, “Tell her husband we had to take her to Middletown Hospital because they are the closest place with a head trauma unit.” Head trauma! I thought, did I not make it clear how much my ribs hurt? My head burns a little but I very well could have broken ribs! My knees hurt too, I thought. The throbbing of my knees had become a little prominent but oh my ribs!
Consumed by a flock of doctors and nurses the reality of my injuries still had not hit me yet. I just could not understand why everyone was fussing over my head. “My ribs hurt. I think they are broken.” I said in breathy voice. Why were they so oblivious to the obvious and so fixated on something that does not even hurt? Frustration filled my voice when I asked again for my husband. One nurse patted my arm where a new array of tubes spilled over my arm, dripping toward the floor like a spider plant. The conclusion that pain relief would soon follow relaxed me back to my pillow. I shivered under heated blankets, after my favorite suit was sheared away, with a few swipes of their scissors. Everyone still seemed taken aback by my coherence and my willingness to complain over my favorite bra, now garbage.
The arrival of my husband gave me a sense of permission for myself to surrender to the pain I was feeling and my body’s impulse to fall in and out of consciousness. After all the x-rays, blood drawing and situating of my body I just wanted to sleep it off. The mention of surgery squared my attention once more but only briefly, because with the sweet ride to dreamland first class on the Demerol train, I had little care what happened next.
Hours later in my room after all the traffic left me for a while, I reflected on the day and the assessment on all the damages of the aftermath. My husband lay collapsed from exhaustion in the recliner next to my bed, hand resting on my arm as if to police any movement I might make. Closing my eyes, I ran down the list of damages, broken window to the business I hit and my van was totaled. Here I am, to my shock there were no broken ribs, but I had a broken nose, bruised liver, a bruised duodena that I did not know that I had, My right knee opened to the knee cap, and a laceration across my head from temple to temple and down that had exposed my skull. I had no clue! Scrunching down in the van, my head went into the steering wheel. A perfect cut to the shape of the wheel was on my head. Shuddering at the thought of the spinner knob resting at the top on impact, I lost myself to tears, thanking God that I was still here.
Christmas Eve I found myself promising to stick to a month long liquid diet that was treatment for my bruised liver and duodena, in order to be able to spend Christmas at home with my kids. After a week in the hospital my face looked like “Beetlejuice” on steroids, with my black eyes and partially shaved head. I was content sitting out of family pictures, but thankful I was there to have the holiday with my children. An experience like this really inspires you to look back at your life and take notes on all you have accomplished, and the significance you have had on this planet. I do not know why my liver damage was minimal; I do not know why my skull was not opened up along with my head. I do know that I am grateful to be here and I will live loving every day and the people around me.