I was near a crossroad where an antique car museum is, I watched several old tractors come flying across the road in front of a couple vehicles in front of me, it looked as if the tractors were racing perhaps. I had put my clutch in to slow myself down being at least 70 yards away from the vehicles in front of me. Once the tractors had cleared the road I let out the clutch and accelerated. I had anticipated the vehicles in front of me would begin moving once the tractors were out of the way. I anticipated wrong. All of a sudden I realized the truck in front of me was not moving, but was stationary. I hit the brakes but it was clear I would not be able to stop before I hit the truck in front of me. I opted to go to the right hand side of the road and hopefully pass them by with no ill result except for scaring the hell out of myself. Wrong again.
I went to the right going too fast, I would guess about 40 miles an hour. I remember it felt like I hit something hard, whatever it was it jounced the Jeep hard, it bounced me to the left and I was afraid I was going to hit a red car that was in front of the truck, something that I could identify as a 1960's muscle car. I tried to move instead further to the right, it was a very wrong move. Instead of saving me I hit a dirt road turning right and going too fast, the result was the Jeep rolled to the driver side.
I remember realizing that the Jeep was falling and hitting on my side, I recall watching my front windshield shatter. I remember absolutely nothing after that until I was stopped on my passenger side. It is a very odd sensation to realize this accident is probably the most traumatic event of my life and yet I recall very little of what happened. I have absolutely no recall of rolling on my roof or of even stopping. My recall starts at a point where I was already stopped.
I think the reaction I had has everything to do with the fact that I am an RN. I became very analytical. The first thing I recall was realizing that I was laying on my passenger side, that I was awake and conscious. The next thing I did was take my right hand and run it around my head, my left hand was still on the wheel. I found no obvious head injury, thought ok no numbness or tingling anywhere so likely no spinal cord trauma. I was hanging in place with my seat belt holding me completely against the seat. I then realized that I had blood running down my left arm. I took a quick look and could see a laceration that was totally clean, no rough edges and then realized I could see what I believed was bone. I then put pressure on the area to stop the bleeding. At that point I remember thinking it seemed a long time had passed and no one was coming to see if I was ok. I tried to think how I could get out of my seatbelt, then a man's voice yelling "Are you OK?"
I said yes, I just needed help getting out of my seatbelt, and then there was the sound the Jeep's top being torn. I am still not sure if there was already a hole from going over or if in his panic this man simply tore the top open. He asked me if I was hurt, I told him it was only my elbow. Even though I had seen bone I told him it was bleeding but that I didn't think it was broken, didn't seem to hurt too much. I asked him to get me out of my seatbelt because I couldn't get it. He was initially reluctant to do this, but I told him that I hadn't any other injuries, that I had checked and I was a nurse so to please do this. I recall him reaching up and turning off the engine and me thinking I didn't even realize it was still running. Someone else from outside the Jeep said I don't see or smell any gas but we better get her out of there just in case. The original man and another man got me out by one holding me while the other undid the seat belt. I was then sitting on my passenger side window. A woman came up and told me she used to be an EMT, another woman who obviously was with the first asked if I were ok. I told them I was except for my elbow when I suddenly became very light headed, I stated out loud I thought I was going to pass out, I had become very nausated as well. I recognized that my blood pressure had taken a nose dive, and I seriously feared passing out or vomiting. When I say I feared passing out I really mean I had great fear of losing my grip on what was going on, feeling that it was paramount that I not pass out. The woman who had been an EMT told me to put my head between my knees, which I had started to do but she pushed me forward which put pressure on my elbow as I was still holding it and I told her not to do that because it hurt my arm. After about a minute the feeling that I was going to pass out went away.
Somewhere in all this someone brought me a glass of water, and a towel with ice in it for my elbow. I remember thinking it must be the woman from the house on the corner, they sell fresh vegetables and fresh BBQ. I vaguely recall someone either saying I needed both of those items or someone asking me if I wanted them, I am not sure which.
Once the feeling that I was going to pass out went away I asked one of the ladies to get my cell phone out of my purse, she told me 911 had already been called. I explained I needed to call my husband and my work. I could not make my left arm work so I asked her to dial a number for me, explaining that I was on my way into work as a nurse and that I had to let them know I would not be making it to work. She asked if I wanted to call my husband first, I know it sounds really stupid but I had to call work first because I knew they would have to find a replacement on short notice, and in the nursing world that is a major issue. Patients have to be taken care of no matter what and if there are not enough nurses it means someone has to stay over a shift that is already 12 hours until a replacement can get there. So I called work. Got the charge nurse told her I had rolled my Jeep and that I would not be in. Somehow it made complete sense right at that moment that this was the first phone call I had to make.
Next I had the lady call my husband. First that lady spoke to him, I think she was afraid I would scare him or something, I told her I needed to talk to him and she asked me if I was sure. I said yes and she gave me the phone. I was still having trouble making my left arm move, but in my mind I was sure I had not broke it, it was simply that the impact which was also making my shoulder ache, had made it difficult. I calmly explained to my husband what had happened, that I was essentially ok, and for him to please come.
Shortly thereafter the fire dept came. Some fireman climbed into the back of the Jeep to hold my head to make sure that I kept my spine and head straight just in case I had injured it, a police man asked me what happened, I realized it was a State Trooper and wondered how they got a trooper out here in this rural area so quickly. I told him I had misjudged what was going on in front of me, and briefly outlined the same story of what happened as I have told here. By this time the initial people who helped me had stepped back, I wanted them to still be there though, I was thinking how I needed to get their names so that I could thank them properly, but by now there was the police, the firemen and the EMTs. Someone said to do a walk around the vehicle to make sure gas was not going to ignite and I told them the gentlemen who had initially helped me had already done that. I told everyone who would listen to me that I was a nurse, that I knew I had only injured my elbow and that I wanted to get up now. Finally after trying to figure out how to get me on the back board several times but with me insisting I could get up, the EMS guys allowed me to stand up, at which time they assisted to the cart and into the ambulance I went.
I was asked if I had a preferance as to where I was treated, I told them to take me to my hospital which also was the closest in any case. I remember telling the EMS guys to make sure and get my work bag out of my Jeep because it had my stethoscope in it as well as a couple of rare books I had recently purchased to do research with. While in the ambulance I had the gentleman who was with me get my phone out again so I could call my husband and let him know where I was going. Then I chatted with the EMS guy about little things, I felt completely in control of myself and frankly in the situation. I felt everything was really ok, that I could get the laceration in my elbow sewn up in the ER, it had been wrapped by this point, it stung but the pain did not seem unbearable by any means. I stressed to the EMS guy that I routinely carried a low blood pressure because I did not want him thinking I was going into shock, often my pressure is below a 100 on a good day.
Once in the ER I chatted with the nurse, annoyed the resident who was treating by insisting I was going to use my cell phone there to call my husband again because as I explained, I had to let him know I was now at the hospital and ok. The resident informed me that I could not use my phone as I am talking to my husband, I got off the phone and explained to her the policy of the hospital was I could not use the phone within 6 feet of a medical device and since I was not hooked up to a monitor and was more than 6 feet away from the patient next to me I could use my phone and would if I wanted to. Very unreasonable of me, but at the time completely reasonable. The resident asked me if I needed anything for pain, I told her a vicadin would probably do. I really felt very little pain. In a bit my nurse brought me one vicadin and I took it thinking maybe I didn't even need that but that I probably should take something.
In a bit the nurse came back and told me she was going to give me a tetanus shot unless I had had one recently. Told her not since I started nursing school some 17 or 18 years before. So she was going to give me the shot and I told her no I didn't think I would care to do that. The resident came back and told me that I was going to get an xray of my left arm shortly. So far everything was just the way it was supposed to be, some little gal came in and started asking me about insurance and I was answering her questions when I saw my husband behind her. Me, the nurse who had not cried, who had willed myself not to pass out, who had remained completely calm and analytical then came completely undone. I started to cry, I couldn't stop myself and I tried, I didn't want to cry in front of people that I knew, I found that embarrassing. But I could not help myself. My husband was there and it dawned on me that I could have been dead instead of a simple injury and that he could have been identifying my body instead of coming to be with me.
Shortly thereafter the orthopedic doc on call came in. He started talking about my arm, he told me I had a break. I was a bit surprised, I just had not believed that I had broken it. He explained it was not my arm, but the elbow itself. Next he asked me when was the last time I had eaten, I asked him to repeat himself and he did. I looked at him and said "Are you taking me to surgery?" and he answered yes. I could not believe it, why did I need surgery? The doc, bless his heart, looked at me like I was out of my mind and then spoke slowly and surely. I had an open fracture, it needed to be cleansed and as soon as possible. Did I not tell the resident earlier that I had seen bone when I had looked at it initially? Well yes, but I believed that was because the laceration was very deep. He explained no, it was an open fracture and that I would need to stay a couple days for IV antibiotics.
So I started to cry again, we were supposed to go up to St. Ignace for the Labor Day Weekend and go camping, go do the Bridge Walk, go to the Soo so our youngest could see the locs. I had worked six days in a row, what was to be 8 days in a row so we could do this. I had looked forward to it for six months and now we couldn't go. Somehow the fact that I wasn't dead just injured escaped my thought process. When I said all this to the doc, he asked do you mean camping camping? I said yes, what fun was camping if it was pretend camping? He looked at me and said no camping. No, you cannot go up north. And I wailed, my stupidity had cost my family a trip we were all looking forward to. The doc went out and then came back in and asked if I wanted a narcotic, that apparently I had only asked for a vicadin? He acted like I was out of my mind. I told him I didn't think I needed more. He told me he insisted that I take a narcotic, that I simply was probably having some numbness but in time that would go away.
To make the rest of my story short, I woke up in the recovery room to a nurse I had worked with and liked a great deal. I was very grateful to him. Within an hour of coming around, well enough that they let you leave the recovery room anyway, my elbow was in a great deal of pain. I spent two more days in the hospital, most of which is a blur in my mind, I took a fair amount of pain med.
A little over a week later I had a second surgery to put two screws in my elbow. I was told I had a very unusual break, most have. Some seven physicians looked at the xrays. I may have permanant inability to fully extend and flex my left arm. I am hoping at least it is better than it is right now. I spent 3 weeks in a half cast and ace wraps and initially when it was taken off 5 days ago I had almost no control over that arm at all. Right now I am grateful that I can lift the arm up on it's own without having to take my right and lift the left. I do have better range than I did 5 days ago, but right now I cannot reach my face with my left hand by a good 10 inches, nor can I fully extend my arm. The physician told me I may have some permanent impairment before the second surgery was ever done. Next week I start Occupational therapy and hope that a great difference can be made. I have already compensated to a large extent and can manage to dress myself with no help now, and at least do my hair enough not to look like a wild woman. I am off work until at least the end of November if not more. Hell of a way to get time off.
A good many things have been put in proper perspective. The fact that my college age children seem to think living with their respective significant other is ok is not nearly as distressing as it was. I still don't like it, but don't think it is worth fighting with them about it anymore, it has lost a great deal of importance. What is important is that I still am able to talk with that at all. How horrible it would have been if I had died and the last things I had said to them were harsh things. While I still do not approve, there are better ways to handle it than I have been. I look at my youngest, age 10 now and thank God several times a day for sparing my life. I swear I had an angel riding with me that day. The Jeep was totalled, yet it says something for the construction of the Wrangler when one realizes that I completely rolled my vehicle with a soft top on and the only injury I have is a busted elbow. The roll bars did exactly what they are designed to do. I will buy a Wrangler again.
This is not the true end of the story. My accident occured Aug 30. On Sept 16 in exactly the same place there was a fatal accident. On Sept 19 at the same place there was another car accident fatality. It is an area that used to be a sleepy little rural spot, but with the expansion of the car museum there is much more traffic there, and the cross road that comes up to that intersection has a stop sign that is poorly posted ahead, one comes up on it not expecting to stop. It is my intent to write to MDOT and get the ball rolling to see about changes in that intersection. Hopefully no one else dies first.
I still have a great deal of pain, better than when I was in the hospital and better than it was the first week or so, but still there. The area is still deeply bruised with a fair amount of soft tissue damage so the soft tissue is still swollen. I believe I will have better mobility once that swelling is completely gone. I wonder how much general achiness I will have on cold wet days. In the end though all of that is small in comparison to what could have been.
So hug and kiss your children and remember how precious it is to have them and be alive. I have written little on this blog in the last year as I have been fairly absorbed in researching the cross pollination between liberal protestants and socialism. I had intended initially to write about it all here on this blog, but later I determined the amount of material I had needed to be a written book or a specific website all it's own. It certainly is a story that needs to be told, and given time it is something that I intend to do. For those of us who believe in true freedom it has to be done, and right now I have a couple months worth of time on my hands so it is time to get started at least.
So I close thanking God for the blessing I have, for my children and for my husband. Go to bed at night and think of all the blessing you have, and what others do not. It keeps you humble.