Saturday, August 28, 2010

Replacing the zoom zoom...

I very quickly decided that I was going to have to get clearance to drive and find a car or poor Kip was going to have to devote his entire day, 5 days a week to toting me around. He was amazingly great about it but, when I started having some sort of appointment almost every day (some days more than one), I just couldn't ask him to keep it up. 

Before the wreck, new car shopping was just about my favorite past time!  There was also something I liked better and wanted. When I bought my Mazda 6 (on 6/6/2006 yes, we laughed about it then), I made a vow that I was buying a car that I would pay off and keep at least a year after that so I would have a decent trade in (instead of upside down) and a chance to get some extra money in savings. So much for that great idea!  Now car shopping was scary. Some of my friends friends wanted to try to turn it into something fun and we would go around doing test drives all weekend. I wasn't ready for that. First of all, walking around a dealership on a walker wasn't my idea of fun and getting behind the wheel wasn't either. Luckily I had a dr's appointment within a few days of making my car buying decision so I could get the ok to drive before I changed my mind. 

I didn't know where to start. Usually I went car shopping because I fell in love with something I had seem on tv so it was just a matter of finding the best deal.  Cute was all that mattered!  Now cute wasn't impotent at all. All I cared about was their safety record. When I look back, I am VERY impressed with how my Mazda held up in the wreck. The fact that everyone involved wasn't killed instantly shows how much has been done to improve the safety of cars!  Unfortunately, my car innocence had been destroyed. We get in them everyday and never give a thought to the fact that cars are dangerous. There are people that would walk from New York to LA before the would get in a plane even though you are far more likely to die in a car.  Some of those people will argue that they have control of their car but they don't have control of the plane. The thing is, you have control of your car and you might be the world's best driver, but you don't control what goes on around you. My wreck happened so quick that all I remember was the sound of the crash and spinning. I couldn't control the girl that hit us. Once you realize that you have very little control, driving is scary. All you can do is be in the safest car you can afford!  Of course Volvo is known for their safety features but I knew I couldn't afford that. Being in my 4th month of being off work and only getting 60% of my salary, price was definitely a big consideration. Something kept taking me back to the Volvo site. One day I noticed a 2008 S40 with just under 11,000 miles at a great price.  Soon we were signing papers and it was time for me to drive off the lot. Of course Kip stayed with me, letting me follow him to lunch and then to the place to get my handicapped tag (more on that later). Finally it was time for Kip to push me out of the nest and both of us to drive home. Driving turned out to not be as bad as I thought it was going to be. It took a while for me to not flinch every time someone got too close to me and for me not to freak out if I drove past a wreck. I still hate driving outside the city and beyond hate driving on two lane roads. As we approach the second anniversary of the wreck, I can finally say I passed a car on a two lane road!  That was one of my big moments!!

Now I have the new car bug again.  Safety is still King, but I am looking at cute too!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Home sweet home...

After signing my new lease and some where did Shermaine leave the key, I was home. Bailey didn't hate me for being gone for three months but she took her frustrations out on Kip and the Time Warner guy!  When he was sure I was settled, Kip left and I was completely alone for the first time. I think if I could have gotten up and run after him I would have. The warm fuzzy of being home had quickly turned to pure terror. My physical therapist made me promise to keep my cell phone charged and with me at all times. I sat there, looking around an apartment full of boxes, scared to get up. Of course, all it would take was one phone call and Kip would have come back to take me to stay with him and Kristi or Mary would had one of her girls come pack me up for the trip to her house in Brownwood. No matter how scared I was, I was determined to make it alone. Of course, for me, alone would always mean with an army of support. 

When I finally got enough nerve built up to try to move around, I realized how exhausting it was to move from room to room. My 600 sq ft apartment seemed like 6000!  No matter how tired I was, I vowed not to use the wheelchair unless I absolutely had to. I walked out of rehab on the walker and I was NOT going to use it at home!  I made it to bed and just collapsed!  I had forgotten what a real bed felt like. I had also forgotten the simple joy of rough Bailey kisses. As scary as it was, it was nice to be home and feel like a normal person again. 

The girls at my apartment office sent me welcome home balloons and offered to come help me with anything I needed. Shermaine came by every night and wouldn't leave until I was tucked in with a bottle of water and coke by my bed. Kip bought concrete stepping stones to boost my favorite chair up so it was easier to get out of and was also the person that took me to my constant dr's appts and physical therapy. Kip also got me out of the house several times a week to go walking at the mall. As tough as it was, it was also fun getting out and just hanging out with Kip. 

Slowly I started cooking a little and figured out ways to get things where I needed them. It might not have been the normal way but I made it work.

Of course, as you gain confidence, you start being stupid. I was walking around my apt some without the walker some (I had a trail of furniture and counters to hang onto). One day I went to the bathroom without the walker and fell. I knew better because the bathroom floor could be slick. Also, my left foot was stuck in a position that made it almost like walking on tiptoe on that foot. I don't remember much except for being on the floor and my cell phone being in the bedroom. One of the things that concerned my occupational therapist in rehab was the fact that they couldn't teach me how to get up from a fall because of the limited weight i could put on my left leg and right wrist.  Now, here I was, on the floor, with no clue what to do!  I slowly drug myself into the bedroom and figured out a way to climb into bed. Luckily I was fine but my confidence took a big hit!  It took a while before I tried to walk without the walked again!  

Sunday, August 22, 2010

One last look at rehab...

Before my rehab stories are over, I do want say there were happy times.  There was a never ending line of visitors. It was fun for my family to meet my friends. On one occasion it was pretty interesting. We will just say one of my friends lives an alternate lifestyle (nothing illegal). She was talking and a few things slipped out. No one seemed to notice but a few weeks later Kip was like hey ???  I just laughed and said yep. lol

There was also am insane ritual every morning. I guess all the old people get up with birds but not me!  At 5am they came around to get your stats, at 6 it was time for for meds, 7 was breakfast and therapy schedules, then at 8 it was time for therapy. Everyone that knows me, knows I do not do mornings!!!

Another funny thing about rehab was my wardrobe. One of my friends brought me a bunch of work out stuff but most of the bottoms were shorts or capri's. Sure, shorts were cooler but my legs hadn't seen a razor since thanksgiving!!  Sometimes my workout stuff looked like a colorblind 5 year old picked them out in the dark. My favorite (NOT) was my Christmas pajamas!  I don't know why I worried about it considering the situation but it kind got to be a joke with my friends. 

The most fun part of my therapy session was when the cute therapist tied me up. Ok, so he really but a belt around my knees because I didn't have the strength to keep my legs together during my leg lifts. Everyone teased him about liking to tie me up. 

After finding out my wrist was broken, I had to change up my therapy. Instead of doing the hand bicycle I got to play wii bowling!!  I made fast friends with a man that had also been but on the wii. The funny thing was that we were both right handed and suffering from right side injuries yet we STILL beat the therapist!  

Yes, there were some fun times but, good or bad, my time at rehab was quickly coming to an end.  I was finally going home!!!  My last few days of therapy were teaching me how to do things and making sure I would be able to manage on my own. Mary wanted me to come to Brownwood so she could take care of me and Kristi and Kip were more than happy for me to stay with them for a while. The thing was that I wanted to go home. I wanted to see my cat Bailey, who is my baby. I wanted to not have people hovering over me all the time. So, after practicing getting things out of and putting things back into the refrigerator, simulating cooking and doing laundry, and getting in and out of the shower using a shower chair I was deemed homeable...great word huh!  lol. 

I also practiced walking outside with my walker. When you are stepping off a curb with a walker, it seems like stepping off a bridge!  My last hurdle was practicing getting in and out of Kip's SUV since he would be the one that would be picking me up. That went really well so I was headed home!!!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The car tried to eat my leg...

The next part of the rehab experience the I left out was coming to grips with the massive scars on my left leg. After the skin graft was done, I avoided looking at my leg because I was scared it of seeing how bad it was. Before the surgery it looked bad but I still had the surgery. When the bandages came off for the first time it looked horrible but the plastic surgeon was thrilled with it. Grafts of this size rarely take the first time but mine far. The surgeon was NOT happy that I was going back to Plano and actually told me that if anything happened with the graft, it was because he wasn't the one taking care of it!  

Fortunately my wound care dr took very good care of it but I still didn't want to see it. Even though the dressing had to be changed every day, I made it a week or so without looking at it. The part of my thigh wear they harvested the skin was a different matter!  It was now a huge scab and had healed to to point where it didn't hurt for air to touch it but pretty everything else was still bad. I left a trail of scabs wherever I went...sorry, I know that is gross. lol. 

One day fate intervened and, what would turn into a daily ritual, forced me to get used to seeing my scar. Integra was in the process of being sold so things that were not needed a lot seemed to get overlooked when the orders were done. Apparently the medicated, vasoliney strips that were the first layer of my wound dressing just happened to be one of those items. While the nurses were scouring the place for the yellow strips, it was just me and my uncovered scar. Eventually I could look at it but touching it was another matter. As my release date approached, I knew I was going to have to get used to it and finally worked up the courage to touch the tip of it. Accepting it took even is still in process. I vowed that I was not going to spend my life trying hide it...that is kind of hard when you live in Texas and the summer are long and HOT. You get used to the stares and even the questions. One day while I was at a family get together, someone asked what happened. Tori (my adorable little cousin who told me jokes after my surgery), protectively told the little boy that I was in a bad wreck. It was so cute because she had this you don't ask people that look. Her tone said you definitely don't ask me that!  She is my little protector!  She and Nick worked really hard to have great jokes ready for me whenever they came to see me!  

As everything started to come together, plans for my release went into high gear. There was a handicap accessible apartment right across from my old place...same exact floor plan. Even though I had an assigned parking space and no car, there was a handicap spot right in front of my door. The army of friends moved my stuff so, when the big day came, all I had to do was head home. This starts what I call the Kip part of my rehab. 

Friday, August 20, 2010

Rehab revisited...

It has been way too long since my last blog. I think that is partly because a lot of the things I felt like I needed to get out of my system have already been said. Another reason is that reliving it every day takes a toll. Now I have had a break and received an amazing email from my favorite nurse at Scott and White, I am ready to start again.  Traci made me realize that I have to finish my story, not so much for myself anymore, but for that one random person that might happen upon it and get some inspiration from it. 

I rushed through most of the rehab story because it was so frustrating and I really didn't want to get into it but it is important so here we go. 

Living in a rehab facility is really depressing...especially when you are the only one under the age of 70. I don't want to give the impression that Integra wasn't a great place or that the people there weren't amazing, but it is not a happy place to be. First of all, being back in Plano but not being able to go home was much harder than being in Temple. It was great to be able to see all of my friends that couldn't make the weekly 4 hour trip to Temple. As I got sicker of hospital food, someone was always bringing me fast food while Kip and Kristi brought me a home made meal every week. The medical staff joked about my room being standing room only on weekends and that was pretty much the truth. Those were the happy times. 

The unhappy times where when I was forced to accept reality...I was not going to walk out of there and back into life as I knew it. Unlike the hospital where it was all about encouragement and getting better, rehab was facing the cold, hard fact that I would be going home with a walker and wheelchair and that my goal was to be able to walk with a walker (if I was very lucky, maybe a cane). 

Like I said in the last blog, I started feeling really sorry for myself. I remember the day I decided I had to fight. I was sitting in my wheelchair, mad that they were making me sit up when they knew it hurt my tailbone to sit up. Even with oxycodone it hurt.  I was also mad that everyone was starting to get tough with me (friends and family) and telling to get really mad and fight. What did they know?  They didn't have their whole world destroyed!  They didn't have to hop down a hall on one foot every freaking day!  No one understood how bad it was but poor little me!  Then it hit me like a ton of bricks...if I didn't stop sitting in that wheelchair thinking that I was the only one in the world that had been through anything this traumatic, I was going to sit in that wheelchair the rest of my life!  I decided I was NOT going to live the rest of my life in a wheelchair no matter what it took!  

Making that decision was not all it took of course. I had to stop thinking about how bad it was and think about how lucky I was. It could have been much, much worse. I also had to remember that there were millions of people that would give anything to be in as good a position as I was in!  I had a choice of being in a wheelchair or walking, even it was in a walker. A lot of people don't have that choice. I was also very fortunate to have a good job with great benefits so, with some of the wreck insurance and some savings, paying my bills wasn't a problem and the hundreds of thousands of dollars of hospital bills were all being paid by my health insurance. 

With my attitude adjusted, I started taking pride in getting dressed before my occupational therapist came to help me get dressed. I would try to make it at least two or three more hops when I thought I just couldn't go any farther. My only problem was that nagging pain in my right wrist. 

Yes, as mentioned earlier, xrays showed it was broken in the accident (there was partial healing).  All of the weight I was putting on it during my hopping expeditions had irritated the healing bone to the point that I has to go see my orthopedist to make sure the rehab x-rays were correct. At least this trip to the dr was in a handicap van and not an ambulance. I was still a couple of weeks away getting clearance to put some weight on my left leg but my physical therapist told me make sure I asked about moving that date up. Here I am, with a date to go home (referenced in the last blog), and now my wrist is broken and my orthopedist tells me that I can't put any weight on it for a few weeks. Something welled up inside of me and I told him NO!  I had to have either my left leg or my wrist. He was taken aback but agreed to letting me put a little weight on my left leg!  

The next day my walker got a crazy, raised arm rest to take the weight off my wrist, putting it on my forearm. I also got hit with the news that my release date might be delayed because I was going to have to learn to walk with the new contraption. This was not an option for me!  I hopped the farthest I had ever hopped that morning and, in the afternoon, started actually walking with limited weight on my left leg!  I was going home!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

When the list of what you can't do is longer that the list of what you can...

With all the breaks and new metal accessories I had, learning how to walk was expected. What wasn't expected was that I would have to work so hard to do just about everything. It took weeks to be able to push myself up out of the wheelchair. Getting dressed was daunting task, especially when we found out my right wrist had been fractured in the accident (I guess it wasn't that important compared to my other injuries at Scott and White). I can still remember how I felt when I reached each milestone...getting out of the wheelchair without help, putting in my socks, putting on my pants, standing without help, hopping one carpet square further, putting weight on my left leg and taking actual steps. Each thing was so simple yet I felt like I had won Olympic gold. Every week the doctors and therapists had meetings to discuss you progress and the person assigned to reporting to the insurance company came and read the findings to me. It sounded more like something a mother would write in a baby book...Peggy stood up my herself for the first time today. Ugh, I hated those reports! When I hit week 3 of therapy my doctors decided I was doing so well that I might get to go home in 5 weeks instead of 6. I had never really concentrated on my date to go home because it had been vague and I didn't want to be disappointed. Now I had a real date!! That was the good news, the bad news was that I was going to have to move because my apartment wasn't accessible for me. One hurdle always seems to lead to another.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Is this an Alaskan cruise or rehab??

As I was being wheeled to my first rehab session I became aware of something i had never thought about...I was the youngest person in rehab. When I say that I was younger than the other people, I mean younger than most of there kids!  I don't know what I expected, but not this!  It was weird to see and old man in a wheelchair using his legs to walk the chair around and be jealous. 

Seeing these people made the reality of my situation hit home. I wasn't going to just get up and walk out one day. While my evaluation was going on, I watched people making circles with their ankles and putting pegs in holes. In a lot of ways it made me hopeless...almost like being put in a nursing home. Here I could hide from my disabilities. Actually there wasn't much of anything I could hide from. 

I had lived in a bubble at Scott and White. Everyone knew my situation and information I was given was closely monitored by the doctors. Saving my leg was the big fight, walking was a distant dream. Here no one knew what happened to me so they all asked!  There was always a new patient or nurse who wanted to hear the story. The doctors knew the medical details but wanted to know the rest. My Neuropsychologist wanted to delve into the details. Somewhere along the way I started felling really sorry for myself. I went through a period that I cried every waking moment I wasn't in physical therapy. I honestly thought I was losing my mind!  This was the part of my recovery that I really wished I had died. It was strange. As little as a knew about the month I was out, I did know that there were times things were very serious. There was also the wreck itself...people die every day in wrecks no where near as bad as mine. Why did I have to be the one that lived?  There were a couple of times that I think I could have easily killed myself if I has been mobile enough to get to something that would have done the job. Being in a wheelchair and learning to hop on one foot was not how I pictured this point in my life. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Rehab here we come!

When the plastic surgeon finally showed up, I was anxious to find out the the skin graft was doing. When I saw it, I thought the whole thing had failed but disgusting must mean great when it comes to grafts. As happy as he was about the graft, he was NOT happy that I was going to Plano for rehab!  He told me that the graft was taking 100% and, it anything happened, it would be my fault for not staying in Temple. That was a chance I would have to take. The drive to come see me was between an hour and a half to four hours for my friends and family.  In Plano, the drive was across town for most of them. The next step in the journey was going to require a lot of support so I had to go home. 

After I got clearance from the plastic surgeon, I was in an ambulance on the way to Plano within a matter of days. The trip was excruciating!  Every bump sent waves of pain through my lower body. By the time we got to Plano, all I wanted was pain medication!!  

Integra was everything I had hoped. There was a beautiful lobby with a grand piano. The sheets were soft and the room, other than the hospital bed, did look like a hotel. That first evening, I met one of my many doctors and tried to settle in. The next day I would start 3 hours of physical therapy 6 days a week. The days of being happy with one hop was over!  It was time to dig in and fight!  I had been in the hospital 2 months and rehab was the only thing standing between me and home. They were hoping I would get to go home in 6 weeks but that seemed like forever. Strangely, being in Plano made me feel even further from home. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Making plans to go home...

Ok, not home home but back to Plano. As my skin graft surgery date was set, I had to find a rehab hospital to go to. I just wasn't sure that letting a stranger pick the place was the best idea so I took out the trusty iPhone and started my search. Somehow I stumbled across a place that looked more like a nice hotel than a hospital. I instantly knew this was the place!  After insurance was approved and papers were signed, it was final...I would go to Integra Rehab in Plano!  Of course, before rehab there was one more surgery to get through. 

When the surgery day arrived, I was terrified!  It sounds weird after all I had been through been through but I had never had so much as a broken bone before the wreck. The only time I had gone under the knife was to have my tonsils out when I was 5. Now I was laying on a bed waiting for them to take me into the OR. Nell, Kevin, Kelli, and Kelli's kids Nick and Tori were there with me. The joke of the day was that I thought I was going in for my 3rd operation. I knew that something had happened during the first surgery and they had to stop and do it again another day but that was it. After several minutes of comparing notes, everyone agreed that this was surgery number 6!!  What?!?!?!  6?!?!?!  Missing a month of your life SUCKS!  What doesn't suck is when they start the pre op drugs because all the worry fades away. There are bright lights then nothing. 

As had been my experience of late, waking up is never fun!  I had been warned that the skin donor site would hurt worse than the graft site. This wasn't surprising since I didn't have much feeling below the knee. What they didn't explain, or what I didn't want to hear, was that I was going to about a 6x6 inch patch of exposed nerves that hurt when air touched them. There were not enough drugs to make this stop hurting!  The only thing that helped was Tori. She had knock knock jokes to tell me. Ok, you are probably thinking that the last thing anyone would want is a kid telling you jokes when you are in pain. I would have thought that too but she was so cute and sweet standing at my side trying to think of things to make me laugh!  I hurt so badly and was so full of pain killers that I really had to concentrate on what she was saying to even be able to respond to her. I guess it was that concentration on Tori that helped me not concentrate on my pain. We bonded that day over the jokes. Tori and Nick always had new jokes when they would come to see me. How could you not feel better with that much love?

The next several days were pretty much consumed with being in pain. The nurses did everything they could to keep me comfortable but this was pain I was going to have to deal with for a while. Everything was covered up with orders not to touch the bandages until the plastic surgeon came to remove them himself. On the following Sunday (the surgery had been on a Mon or Tues) the head nurse came in and looked at the donor site bandage and threw a fit. Yes it was pretty disgusting looking but it was starting to hurt a little less so I wasn't complaining!  She told me the bandages had to come off and she was going to call the plastic surgery on-call to get it approved. She also told me that it was going to be bad because the bandage had dried stuck to the donor site. When she got to approval she came to tell me the plan. If there is a plan, this can't be good!  It wasn't. She applied sopping wet, hot towels to the bandage to try to loosen it. When she thought it was as good as it was going to get, she gave me a shot of the strongest pain killer she could and proceeded to pull the bandages off. Dr's and nurses always ask you what your pain is on a scale of 1-10. Most of live our lives thinking a 6 or 7 is a 10. This was a 12!  While I was peeling myself off the ceiling, she applied new bandages (these weird yellow bandages that feel like they are coated in vaseline...I had these somewhere on my leg/foot for most of 2009).

Now we just had to wait for the plastic surgeon to come to see if the graft took. They had prepared me for the worst...most skin grafts this large don't take 100%. Even though I hadn't forgiven God enough to pray yet, I think I did say one for my skin graft to take. 

Monday, August 9, 2010


That first step would be the only step I would take for a while but it was a huge emotional victory. It gave me some hope. 

As my birthday approached, the never ending stream of amazing friends and family kept me going. Two of my friends from high school drove up from Austin. Loria brought an old yearbook and we all laughed about old pictures and tried to figure out who some of the people on Facebook were. Amy brought me the first two books of the Twilight series. As hard as it might be to believe, I had no clue what Twilight was!  It was fun to laugh and talk about things that didn't involve the hospital or my injuries!  It was almost like going out to lunch with friends...I just wore a really ugly outfit!

The hardest visit came from one of Mom's best friends...L. Mom considered L an adopted daughter (as she did Mary) and she was one of the last people to talk to Mom before she died. Mom's last days were the biggest pieces missing from my month long nap. L told me that Mom knew she was not going to make it and she gave L a message for me. Mom wanted me to know that I was strong like she was and that she knew I would be ok. She also wanted me to know that she loved me for being there for everything. Even when she was dying, she was worried about me feeling guilty about not being there with her.  That was Mom...  

While I needed to hear everything, L also told me something that would haunt me. She told me that the morning Mom died she called L and begged her to come get her because Mom was terrified they had given her the wrong medicine.  L told her she was fine and that she would come visit her that night. That night was too late. Even though I know L loved Mom, she went to work after hearing Mom beg here to come to the hospital. To make things worse, the hospital in my hometown is not know for quality treatment and I feared that she had died because they did gave her the wrong medicine. If I had just been there!  Even though Mary had talked to the doctor that day and was able to reassure me that Mom was given the right medicine, I have never gotten over L not going to the hospital that morning. 

No matter how much it hurt, I had to concentrate on healing right now. I had to bury the emotions to prepare for what was coming graft surgery and then, finally, being able to go home to Plano and start rehab. Three birthday cakes later, a surgery date was set!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Baby steps...

I am not sure when I realized that I couldn't walk. I think my assumption was that my right leg was fine and I would get right out of bed and be able to walk on crutches. The weakness didn't concern me...who knew that it that you lose 1% of muscle strength a day but only regain it at 1% per week?    I was given a band to use for arm exercises and the physical therapists started working with my right leg. My left leg was still strictly off limits. Slowly I began to make small movements with my left leg and was attempting to move my left ankle. 

The next challenge was to get into a wheelchair. I can't begin to explain the frustration of something so simple being so hard!  You want to sit up, swing your legs off the bed, and just hop into the chair. Reality is having to hold a bar above the bed to hold yourself up, moving your legs centimeters at a time across the bed, then having to try to slide on a board into the chair with the help of two therapists. The first time I attempted the chair transfer, I realized that this was going to be the battle of my life. Just that much motion exhausted me!  Thankfully they loaded me up with pain meds everyday before physical therapy.  

After getting into the chair came working on the strength to actually wheel myself down the hall. As hard it was, I was excited to be up and out of my room. The nurses would stop give me words of encouragement. No matter how hard it was I was determined to make it down the hall and back!!  After a little time getting some arm strength back, it was time to attempt getting up and taking a step!  My family had bought me some of mine had been ripped off in the accident and who knows what happened to the other one. It was so exciting to think about walking again!  Nell and Kelly were visiting me on the big day (I think Kelly's kids were there but I was still on enough drugs that details got fuzzy at times). I was wheeled between two bars and it was time. The therapist got me up and there I was, standing on my own!!!  My arms were shaking and I was on one leg because I couldn't put any weight on my left leg but I was standing!!  Then it was time for the step...pretty much a one footed hop. I am not sure if I did one hop or two but I felt like I had just won the New York marathon!  That was my first real happy moment since the wreck!  

My family was so proud of me and I was so happy they were with me when it happened. I think that was the moment that it really hit me...they were no longer extended family, they were my immediate family. On the day of they wreck they had split up so someone would be with Mom and someone would be with me. They have been with me every day since. 

Saturday, August 7, 2010

And the journey begins...

As the fog slowly started to lift, reality started to sink in. My friends and family kept things organized and flowing in my personal life while other family and friends dealt with my Mom's store and tying up her financial loose ends. I was given some details of what I had been through medically and some idea of what was to come. 

At this point I found out exactly how Mom had died and the details of her funeral. I felt like had let her down. I would cry, uncontrollably at times, because the person that was always there for me had died alone.  Whenever she was in the hospital, I barely left her side...even on the night that it meant sitting up all night in the worlds hardest chair. I had been to most of her oncology appointments and most of her cancer treatments. Now all of that didn't matter because I wasn't holding her hand as she died.  Even though I was fighting for my own life at the time, I still felt incredible guilt. This was the start of a period when I couldn't picture her face or remember her voice. I would lay awake at night trying so hard but it was like it had been erased from my brain. Now it all seemed like a cruel joke God was playing on me!  The only thing I could remember was the touch of her hand after the wreck. It wasn't until the following weekend when Mary and Michael came to see me and brought me a picture of Mom, that I could remember. That picture was what I would look at when things were at their worst because I knew that Mom would have wanted nothing more than for me to recover and move past this. Also, the saying we all laughed about at Mom's store, if Momma's not happy, nobody's happy, was very true...Mom wouldn't be happy if I gave up!  

I started concentrating on getting back into the swing of life. Nell had brought my purse to me and Shermaine would let me know if a bill came in so I could call and pay it. Mom's best, Doris, was quick to jump in and take care of all the financial matters in Brownwood. I contacted the insurance company of the girl that hit us to start the claims process. I won't go into all the details but will say that, if you have insurance from any of the companies that are run by Safeway Insurance, please, please stay as far away from me as possible!! I don't think I could take having to deal with them again!!  Also, MANY THANKS to my insurance agency, Allstate. They went above and beyond dealing with Safeway and always made things as easy as possible for me. 

Once the business side of my life was straightened out it was time to get the physical comeback started.  They did testing to make sure my brain functions were normal...thankfully they were. The pins in my pelvis and the rod in my femur were healing well.  Now the main focuses were my lower left leg and getting me out of bed and mobile again. There had been such a large area of my leg ripped off that they had to build a  healthy base before they could attempt a skin graft. The larger the skin graft, the smaller the chance it will all take the first time. To achieve a heathy base, they attached a weird vacuum thing to my leg. This is going to sound gross but it continually sucked nasty looking liquid from my leg. When they were changing the dressings under the pump, I could see my leg and it honestly looked like a piece a raw meat...I guess that is actually what it was, my meat!  I had no feeling so I can't say what any of it felt like. The plan was to do the skin graft before the end of January and then I would go to a rehab facility to learn how to walk again.

You don't realize how quickly you lose muscle strength until you have been laid up for a while. My legs were so weak that I needed help just to move them across the bed. There was also a big concern about my left foot dropping (kind of continually pointing down). With the large area of future skin graft extending almost down to my ankle, they couldn't use any of the traditional treatments for foot drop so all the could do was try to work my foot each day.

The next step was getting me out of bed. I NEVER expected it to be so hard. 

Friday, August 6, 2010

Taking a moment...

As therapeutic as writing this blog is, it is also very emotional. Tonight I need to take a break and gather my thoughts. To everyone that is following my story, thank you for taking the time and interest. I hope my journey can help someone on theirs. Tomorrow the saga continues...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Calm before the storm...

When your head is spinning from a toxic mix of drugs and emotions, it is hard to know how to begin to get your life back. You know there are things you need to do, have to do, but what and how?  Slowly you start to put together tiny pieces of your life. Shermaine was taking care of Bailey, Mary was taking care of Mom's store, between family and friends, they took care of everything they possibly could. HR was taking care of the paperwork and making sure that I had full paychecks as long as possible. Thankfully most of my bills and rent were on automatic payment and I had some savings to fall back on. Like the medical assessment I did in the car, I tried to do a life assessment. I had finally convinced myself that I hadn't driven into my apartment (yes, I was THAT sure it was real) so I felt secure in having a home to go back to. I knew my car was destroyed but had taken the optional insurance that pays your loan off and getting in a car was the last thing I wanted to think about anyway. I had my trusty iPhone so I was connected to the world again...even if people had no clue what my texts said. 

The days were still a blur that first week or so. My New Years Eve was spent getting a line put in my vein so they could give me medicine and take blood without having to continually poke me. Several of the nurses got really attached to me and did their best to make sure I didn't feel alone when the army of family and friends weren't at my side. One brought me chicken fried steak that her husband made and even managed to get me moved to the floor she was transferred to.  I remember the deputy that worked the accident calling to check on me. He said that he normally didn't get emotionally involved with wreck victims, that he couldn't. He said there was just something about Mom that got to him. He told me that she begged him to make sure the didn't take me to the hospital in Brownwood...where they were taking her. The hospital has a bad reputation and she wanted to know that I had the best possible care. He also said that, when he would say something about the wreck, it seemed like everyone knew Mom and talked about how wonderful she was. 

This was probably the easiest time for me. It was almost like the eye of the hurricane. I was still too numb to really grasp losing Mom and too drugged up to understand how badly I was hurt.  Unfortunately, you can't live in the eye forever...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Now the real nightmare begins...

This part of my story is the hardest to write. I will never forget the day I woke up. Nell was sitting in the chair across from me. There was small talk about how I was feeling then I asked where my Mom was. The words "she didn't make it" didn't seem real...they couldn't be real. Even today, almost 2 years later, they don't seem real.  She was fine. The last words I remember her saying to me were that she would be with me as soon as she got out of the hospital. Now you are telling me she she died??  Not only had she died from complications of pneumonia, but she had been buried almost 2 weeks before I found out she was even gone. This was all too much!  Suddenly the realization of how long I had been asleep hit me. It was either just before or just after Christmas...I had been out for basically a month. Looking for anything else to talk about, anything else to think about, I asked who was taking care of my cat, Driscoll, that lived with Mom. Oh yeah, he had gotten sick and, since he was so old, they had to put him to sleep. This couldn't be happening. I was scared to ask another question. I couldn't take anything else. After Nell left, I tried to make sense of things. Everyone was calling to check on me and tell me how sorry they were but that just made me realize that everyone knew Mom was gone but me!  There were so many emotions that I could never begin to explain how I felt. At times I was too numb to feel. A group of my friends had driven to Temple to be with me the day Mom died. They knew that the doctors wouldn't allow anyone to tell me but they wanted to be with me.  My best friend, Shermaine, the one that everyone thinks is so tough, broke down and cried when she found out.  As much as I loved everyone for caring so much, there was a lot of anger too. 

How could everyone let this happen and not tell me?  How could this have happened at all?  I was mad at myself for not being with Mom at the end. I was mad at the girl that hit us. I was mad at Mom for leaving me. I was mad at God for everything. I was mad at the world. Mad was easier than sad. 

Slowly I began to realize that losing Mom was not all I had to deal with. The reason I had been out for so long was that I had almost died several times. My injuries from the crash were severe. My pelvis was broken on the right side and severely broken on the left. My left femur was so badly shattered that they had to insert a rod in it and my spleen had a laceration. As if this wasn't enough, my lower left leg had been mangled by the wreck to the point that they had almost resorted to amputating it to get me out of the car. I hadn't realized it had taken 45 minutes to for them to get out. 

It was all too much to comprehend. During a month that my clearest memory was of a hallucination of driving into my apartment, my life had collapsed around me. I wanted to go back to sleep, at times I wanted to die. Unfortunately, the time to sleep was over. Now it was time to fight. I just didn't know if I had the strength or the desire to fight anymore.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I went to the iPod convention in Las Vegas!

Ok, I didn't REALLY go to an iPod convention in Las Vegas but I apparently thought I did. This blog is going to be a mixture of what I remember and what I was told. The iPod convention was something I was told...along with the fact that I dropped the f bomb every other word and flipped people off a lot. I don't want to give you the impression that I am miss innocent because the f bomb is not unheard of in my just isn't my standard verbiage. I am not sure I have ever flipped someone off but I probably have!  lol. Apparently drugs don't bring out the best in people...  That is what people saw on the outside, on the inside it was even crazier. Everything was mix of some reality and a lot of crazy. 

First the somewhat normal dream. I was 100% sure that, after the wreck, I had driven my car into my apartment...TWICE!  That dream was so detailed that I thought I had been taken to court by someone who was buying the apartment next door (I live in a big apartment complex so I don't know where the apartment buyer came in). It took several days of talking myself through how it was impossible to drive into my apartment before I believed it. I would wake up thinking that I needed to call the apartment manager and see how much I owed for the damage.  

I remember my friends coming to see me (two groups of friends alternated driving the 4+ hour trip each week while members of my family were there almost every day when things things were touch and go). I also remember getting really mad at them because I thought we going out for dinner and drinks...I think that was the f bomb episode. For a while I was at a house in the country with a bunch of other people. I also thought I had been in like 10 different rooms. I remember talking to Mom once...not the actual conversation but just the feeling that I talked to her. I also knew she wasn't with me. One of my dreams revolved around my leg injury. They were going to allow medical marijuana but it was liquid marijuana (what do you expect from someone who thought a nurse borrowed a mylar balloon to wear on a date lol). The catch was that Mom was the only one that could put it on my leg. I knew that my friends and family were there but where was Mom?

Monday, August 2, 2010

When the drugs are turned off...

The next period of my life was marked by the medical staff at Scott and White being able to to wake me up and make me sleep with the ease of flipping a light switch. 

When I woke up I was in the ER. There were bright lights, people poking me everywhere and asking if it hurt. YES IT HURTS!  STOP POKING ME!  When I wasn't gasping in pain or going through the latest round of hyperventilating, all I cared about was how Mom was. Most questions were answered with one my Mom ok.  There seemed to be one nurse who's sole responsibility was to keep me calm and take care of anything I needed. She called the ER in Brownwood and had them get Mom on the phone. She promised me that she was ok and would be with me as soon as she got out of the hospital. We said our I love you's...that is the last memory I have of her. I guess my iPhone made it on the helicopter with me because I vaguely remember the nurse asking me questions and calling someone to let them know about the wreck and that I wouldn't be at work Monday. It's funny how you actually worry about things like that when they are cutting a hole in your side and putting a tube into your lung with no painkiller. I remember begging for something for the pain and then the light was flipped off. 

The next time the light was flipped on, I was about to go into surgery. I have no clue what day it was. My cousins Nell, Pat, and Peggy were least I think they were all there...things were really fuzzy. I know Peggy was there because I remember being confused because I hadn't seen her in years!  The doctor explained how they were going to attempt to put pins in my broken pelvis but they could never be sure if it would work or not. You would think I would be freaked out waking up just minutes before major surgery but it all seemed perfectly normal. Ok, try the pins, whatever. I don't remember asking or even wondering what would happen if it didn't work. More bright lights, then they flipped the switch and I was out again. 

At this point I want thank my amazing family...both by blood and friendship. I started to list people and all the things they did but I don't want to forget anything or anyone. I am blessed beyond belief to have you in my life!  I love you all!!!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Big Event

First, let me say that the "it won't happen to me" attitude is only for idiots!  

I used to love the holidays!  Who didn't love just over a month of spending time with family and friends, celebrating, being thankful, not to mention all of the extra time off work!  The 2008 holidays were going to be the best yet!  Two weeks before Thanksgiving, we received the best gift ever...the news that Mom's stage 4 breast cancer was going into remission!  Finally we could think about something besides cancer and dying!  I had also managed to save up enough vacation hours (even with all the days I took for Mom's treatments and doctors appointments) to take two weeks off at Christmas. My plan was to plan a trip and surprise Mom. We had always loved to travel but hadn't been able to for the last few years. Since we lived 4 hours apart, it was a much needed trip.   

We were headed to what always marks the beginning of a great holiday season...Thanksgiving with the family!  I had driven from Plano to Brownwood to pick Mom up and took a little catnap while Mom finished her blueberry salad. She usually offered to drive to Goldthwaite when I had just driven in from Plano and I usually accepted. I don't remember if she didn't ask or I didn't accept this time. We were about 15 minutes from Nell's house and were discussing how we doing really well because it was 11am. That was my last happy thought for what would seem like an eternity. 

If you haven't been in a similar situation, I am not sure you will understand this part...take a moment to thank God for that fact!

I remember my first thoughts as the car was spinning out of control...OMG we were hit. I tried to brace myself for another collision because I didn't know how the other drivers on the crowded two lane highway would ever be able to miss us. I also remembered hearing a strange was me. Then there was the realization that I could breath in but not out. I was going to die. While I am sure that, from the time we were hit to the time the car stopped spinning, it was probably less than a minute, but it seemed like days. The first voice I heard was Mom's. She was  being the perfect mother...asking if I was ok, not an ounce of fear or pain in her voice. All I could say was that I couldn't breath. As odd as it seems, I started doing kind of a medical inventory of my condition. My lower back hurt but I was able to wiggle my toes so that was ok. Nothing else hurt so, if I could just start breathing normally, I might be ok!  Within seconds of the car coming to a rest, a man named Miller (I only remember his last name because that is also the last name of my family we were on our way to see) was in the car, holding my head and neck steady. He had been right behind either my car or the car that that hit us and was a volunteer firefighter. After asking a few quick questions to assess our conditions, it was determined that Mom had some broken ribs but was otherwise ok and that they had airevac on the way for me even though no law enforcement or fire rescue had arrived. He alternated between telling me that the wreck wasn't my fault and calming me down so I would stop hyperventilating. Mom held my hand, constantly asking if I was ok. I thought I was. Yes, there was some pain in my lower back but it wasn't that bad. People kept coming to the window, telling me to hold on, I responded by saying I was ok. I remember their sad expressions. It didn't occur to me until much later that they really thought I might die before help arrived. The impact has pushed my seat to the left so I couldn't see Mom but she held my hand until they got her out of the car. By the sounds of all the sirens, it seemed as if the entire Brownwood fire department had made the 30 minute trip to the middle of nowhere. Even though the first thing the rescue team did was put a collar on to immobilize my neck, Miller didn't leave my side until they put me in the helicopter. I will never be able to repay that kindness. Through all of the cutting, prying, use of the jaws of life, I saw Nell (the person whose house we were headed to and my cousin) standing across the highway. After they took Mom to the hospital, she was what I focused on. I can't imagine how hard it was for her to have to watch them try to get my mangled left leg out of the car. No matter how hard it was, she stayed where I could see her!  Little did I know that the fantasy of not being hurt was about to be blown out of the water!  When they finally pulled me out of the car, I realized that I had never really known what pain was before!  I also realized how your brain takes care of you in this type of situation. It keeps you from feeling all of the pain. Once I was on the stretcher, the pain subsided again. I thanked everyone that had helped me, laughed when Miller told me that he bet I didn't think this was the way I would end up getting to ride in a helicopter, made sure that my family got my iPhone, and argued with the airevac people because I wanted to go to Dallas not Temple. The man in the back of the helicopter with me told me I had to go to the closest level 1 trauma center...end of discussion.  My dream of being ok was officially gone. As I drifted off due to the wonders of modern medicine, I had no clue how bad the nightmare was going to be.