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 screaming...it 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. 

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