Saturday, January 14, 2012

"Oh God, this is it"

Some dates just ingrain themselves in your memory, January 13th is one of those dates. Not because I am superstitious about the number 13, but because on January 13, 1994, I totaled my first car. Not intentionally of course, but completely totaled nonetheless and almost totaled myself in the process. I was sixteen and driving my little red Pontiac Fiero to school one Thursday morning when I suddenly lost control around a curve in a roller coaster of a road. I wasn't speeding and don't know the cause of the control loss, but I found myself turning to the left and then after over correcting my steering wheel to the right I saw the edge of the pavement before me in slow motion and remember saying to myself "Oh God, this is it!"

I woke up alone and cold with the car still and the only sound coming from a cassette tape still playing in the radio. I looked around me taking in account what had happened to realize I was in the confines of a broken and mangled corpse of a car. I knew that my parents would kill me if they heard the music I was listening to and in severe pain I leaned forward in a desperate and thankfully successful attempt to press the eject button to silence it. I then reached to my door handle to open it and emerge from the car, but the door didn't move and I looked down to see that though I thought I felt my attempt, my arm had never moved from my lap. I was trapped and couldn't move my left arm or legs.

I woke up next to a woman's voice asking me my name, asking me my phone number and telling me it would be okay.

I woke up again to sirens, lights flashing up above me, the sound of my mom's voice and several people talking all around me. The cold was getting colder and pain was overcoming my body. I still could not move within the confines of my car. I began yelling for someone to get me out of this car. I'm going to blame the expletives I was using on pain and shock and finally calmed after my mom instructed me to calm down and hold still. The firemen and paramedics were working to get me out of the car and did not want me moving my neck as they did not know the severity of my injuries. I fell in and out of consciousness as they worked. My sunroof was already broken from the accident, so they cut and pried the roof more and in protection covered me with a sheet to raise me up through the roof.

I woke up again on a hard and even more cold surface and my neck immobilized in a brace. A woman's voice told me she was going to have to cut my clothes off to determine the extent and give aid to my injuries. I pleaded with her in my modesty to keep me covered, still hearing numerous voices all around me. Sixteen and selfishly upset that my brand new jeans and the popular at the time flannel shirt I had gotten only the night before were being cut off my body and ruined.

I woke looking at the ceiling of a hospital room with voices of my mom and friends around me. My neck still immobilized in a brace, I could not see anyone unless they leaned directly over my face. Begging for something for the pain, my mom explained that they would not yet give me anything as the doctors wanted me to be able to tell them where my pain was. It was all over!

Time would determine that I had broken my left arm, left leg and pelvis and the before mentioned shattered sunroof had cut my head causing a substantial loss of blood. A six hour surgery with two of our town's best orthopedic surgeons repaired my arm and leg with rods in both preventing me from having to wear any casts. Yet the combined breaks put me in a wheelchair for a period of about six months. The hospital therapist taught me to walk with one crutch under my right arm within the parallel bars of the therapy unit which I was able to do for short distances. Though my blood levels were low, medicine did not know what we know now about AIDS and blood transfusion, and the decision was made to allow my body to build back it's own blood supply. It was a long process that kept me very tired and just the exertion to take a shower and get ready in the morning would cause me to pass out.

I don't know if I slid on the morning's wet road or if I blew a tire (I had four blown tires at the end of it) causing my wreck. Beyond my mind's distinct picture of the edge of the asphalt my car went over a twenty foot embankment which would have been more if it had not been caught in by the trees in Brenda's yard. Brenda was the woman who I woke to asking me my name and phone number who's schedule never had her home on Thursday mornings ever, except for this particular morning. She was getting ready when she heard the collision outside and instantly called 911, knowing with the landscape whatever had happened would be bad.

I eventually got another little red car, a Nissan Pulsar that time, that I could easily sling my wheelchair in the hatchback of and hobble around the car to the driver's seat. My head healed, my bones healed and through another surgery the following October, I got the rods taken out and as high school senior, I began to play a few sports I had never had the courage to try out for before. After the wreck I had a new sense of trying new things, pushing myself and not allowing intimidation to stop me, I realized the quickness that life could be swept away. I learned about being temporarily handicapped and overcoming obstacles. I learned first hand about divinely appointed timing and the miracle of life.

Yesterday was eighteen years since my wreck. Maybe I am a little superstitious now as I have always picked the number 13 as my lucky number being that it marked the day I beat the odds of living through a wreck the emergency responders said I shouldn't have. I am reminded of it when my little bit of arthritis kicks in after excessive exercise and periods of cold and rain. I still have minuscule splinters of glass that make their way to the surface of the skin on scar of my forehead and my daughters have questioned the surgical scar on my shoulder and the longer one on my leg.  I am thankful that I was wrong when I saw the edge of the pavement, wrong when I said "Oh God, this is it," or was I? Maybe I was wrong in the fact that the pavement's edge was not the end of my life, but right all along "Oh God, this is it," as the edge marked the beginning of my life.


  1. It is good to hear the story straight from the horses mouth, as I think I have told you before. You definitely were the talk of the town back then. I cannot believe it has been 18 years! Whoa.

    1. Did you just call me a horse? You and your little terms of endearment! lol

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