Sunday, October 26, 2014

Let's Go Home

       During those days after my second surgery there was an instant when my husband and my Mom were in the room with me, I was curious as to what actually happened to us.  Not quite understanding the details or maybe the details were blocked as a safety measure by my own instinct, I asked them for specifics about the crash. 

     I had no recollection that there were four vehicles involved.  I thought it was just him and I.  Four vehicles,that's a big deal.  Inquiring about the other motorist, they broke the news that we were hit by a drunk driver and that he did not survive.  

     Time froze in that moment of realization, complete shock encompassed me.  I could barely obtain a clear thought anyway, but this had me in astonishment.   Their images were obscured as I tried to grasp their words.  I was involved in a fatal car crash, this was hard to fathom.  I asked many questions.  Sometimes asking the same questions over again because I didn't recall asking them the first time.  This stage replays in my head many hours of the day as I try to comprehend.

  I was  involved in my own thoughts when I heard my Mom say something about my face.  Oh my Gosh!  I had been consumed with my ankles and hadn't even considered that I may have lacerations or burns.  In fact, I had not even looked at myself above the waist, at least that I could recall. 

      I asked for a mirror and they explained the left side of my face was burned from the airbag.   When I viewed my image I was a taken aback by the reflection.  I scanned my face and it was red from the burns and starting to peel in some places.  There was a perfect line down the center of my face since I had apparently turned my head to the right when we were struck.  

      I examined the rest of my body to find it was beaten up as well.   My left shoulder had a deep throb in it, like something was torn.  I had minimal movement with it.  Bruising was shown everywhere on my person especially on the left side of my body.  Deep, purple bruising.  My body was riddled with them as well as cuts and scrapes.   How my face and upper body were spared from the glass I can't figure out.  The glass had only penetrated once at my hair line and once above my lip.  Minor scars for such a severe tragedy.  


   Daytime softened into night and on my ninth day of being stationed on the orthopedic floor of the hospital, the day before I was released, I was jolted to consciousness by an immeasurable pain afflicting my right lower leg.  It was centered exactly over my fibula that had been crushed.   It stole my breath and ability to speak.  My husband was swiftly by my bedside asking what was causing such drama from me.  In the midst of expressing my thoughts, I could feel the spasms forthcoming.  It began slowly, as to let me know I had better prepare, then it rushed in a wave of convulsions.  I thought my leg was being shattered all over again.  

My husband called for the nurse as I collapsed back to my pillow.  The lines around my eyes grimaced as my eyes slammed shut, gasping.  There was a traction device over my bed and with the next spasm I grasped the handle and  growled as my teeth clenched together furiously.  Involuntary short grunts were coming out between my gritted teeth as I endured the torture.  

     This happened time and time again, never relenting.  This behavior is not an action I am accustomed to.  I have no control over this.  A sob escaped my lips as I was fighting another convulsion,  I can't take anymore.  "Please!" I begged silently.  In desperation, my husband grieved, " Oh Carey" as he laid his head on the bed beside me while grasping my right arm,  my amazing nurse let tears fall as I fought through this. She frantically called for the physician to obtain permission for an additional dose of Dilaudid.  My cries were great as she pushed the brilliant fluid through my IV.   Quickly the spasms subsided as I abandoned awareness.

     The humor of my coming experiences were just beginning.  The next morning all thoughts of the previous day were forgotten as my nurse entered my room explaining that I could be discharged as long as I had a bowel movement.  She was candidly holding a suppository in her hand and asked if I wanted her to insert it or if I preferred to do it myself.  My head whipped over to look at her hand and I was bewildered and appalled.   It was like she was asking me if I wanted cereal or eggs for breakfast.   "Uh, I'll do it" I stammered.

  Good grief, the things I have to go through!  I knew anytime you have surgery or an extended hospital stay that this was policy, I just hadn't thought about it for myself.  Later, I was abash when my husband informed me that this wasn't the first time I had encountered the nurse with a suppository.  I'm overjoyed that I don't remember these incidents. 

     A physical therapist taught me how to get out of bed and transfer myself to the wheelchair.  We toured the orthopedic floor as I learned to maneuver my new ride.   I giggled at the thought that they let me operate it while under the influence of such strong pain meds.   We were in good spirits and on the tenth day I was released to go home to live without Dilaudid.  

"When something bad happens to you, 
you have three choices.

You can let it define you, 
let it destroy you, 
or you can let it strengthen you."



Sunday, October 19, 2014

Angry Enough to Stand: That Ugly Cry

     This day I awoke impatient and agitated.  My muscles atrophied quickly as my bones took their time healing.  Although my mind is becoming more clear as I decrease my narcotic use,  I still could not guess the date or even month we are in.  I assume it should be late April, I am hoping.  Each day I receive more clarity, is a day that my active personality slowly returns.  I find my time sitting in a wheelchair has become mundane.  Winter refuses to lessen it's grip and I have rolled around every room in the house trying to find adventure. 

     Rolling myself down the hall, for who knows how many times that day, I stop to rest near the top of our stairs.  I am exhausted from the attitude I am carrying around.  My attention is constantly compelled by thoughts of walking.   My life is in limbo and that is what I am most frustrated about.   I want to know if I will be able to stand again or should I just accept that I will "roll" forever?  Sitting deep in thought, I work myself into a frenzy.   I am angry.  I am angry because I cannot stand.  I am angry because I cannot retrieve my own plate or cup from the cupboard.  I am angry because I cannot do any activity without pain.  I am angry because I cannot visit my basement!   Basement.  Oh, yes.   I still sit at the top of the stairs, while at the bottom, leaning against the wall, are a pair of silver crutches, smiling.  Winking.  Beckoning.

     I was done with fragile lady words today.  " Oh, *%#! this!", I yell at my empty house as I slam my palms on the arm rests of my wheelchair.  I am done with this sitting on my hind end, relying on everyone to help me.  Rolling to the steps, I stare and lament.   Locating my children's step stool, I place it on the floor in front of the stairs.  Unable to lower myself directly to the floor, I must proceed to the stool, then to the floor, now to the top step.  I weigh nothing, have no strength and movement is painful.  What the hell, I've already been broken and survived, it couldn't be worse.  I've used up four minutes moving just from the chair to the steps, which is about two feet, it could take all afternoon to master the stairs. 

    My attitude plunges me forward into the task.   Each and every step, I start by placing my left foot, then my right onto the next stair down.  Gingerly I would lower my bottom down.  Reaching the bottom, I leaned forward, grabbed the crutches and hurled them as far as I could up the treads.  Looking back up the steps, it is like the hallway in a movie that grows longer the more you stare at it.  I retreated back up the stairs just as I had come down them and safely returned to my metal chariot.  Covered in sweat and sucking some wind, I glance at the clock, Holy!   The clock says it took me nearly thirty minutes to achieve this.  

     I will stand today.  I just have to figure out how.  Rolling to the doorway, I park facing the wall.   Assuming this was the tactic that was most safe, I locked the brakes of my chair.   If I were to fall, I would either hit the wall or fall back into the chair, maybe.  Lifting the footrests, I place my braced feet to the floor.   I was still wearing my original black braces that were not manufactured for standing.  Rocking back and forth in the chair, my fourth attempt landed me cheek against the wall, gripping the door frame, scrambling to find a crutch before I crashed. 

     Thinking this may be the most stupid decision I've ever made certainly crossed my mind.   I did not have permission to do this, had never attempted this with supervision and here I am doing it alone in my house.  What a half-wit I am, which is most literally true in this case.  

     Well, I am already up, I shouldn't waste the opportunity.  For whatever reason I don't feel the carpet is stable, the kitchen hardwood is just a step away.  Placing my weight on the crutches I hear my braces slide against the oak wood as I drag them forward.  I look across my kitchen and I am dumbfounded by the view and feelings that overwhelm me.   My Lord!   I am so tall!   I have not viewed anything from this level in months.  I am enormous, feeling as if I loom over the counter tops.  Deliriously happy, I break into uncontrollable laughter, it comes from so deep that my belly aches.  I did it, I stood!   

    My open mouth laughter promptly turns into sobbing.   Drooping on my crutches, my shoulders are racked with deep, anguished sobs.  My cries come in pulses, matching each sob.  I suck in a deep gulp of air as each episode ends and another begins.  The emotion engulfs me to the point that no sounds are forthcoming anymore.  My eyelids have seized shut. I sob so hard my mouth will not close, my face is contorted with the pain I have survived these past months as I still hang on these metal contraptions. 

   Many minutes later as I finally release the last of my pent up grief.  I open my eyes and my shirt is wet from the river of tears I set free.  My first real cry.  I was not sad.   This was a healing cry.  I just needed release.  Staring down at the floor, I found an actual puddle of drool.  How ridiculous that must have looked hanging from my gaping mouth as I cried like an infant.  That is what you would call an ugly cry.  Ugly, but much needed.  

     After wiping the floor of my grotesque amount of saliva, because all I would need now is to slip in it, I had to share this with my husband.   Even though it was the middle of the day and he was at work, I had to share this with my confidante.  I confessed my drama of the afternoon and he remained quiet as my voice became thick with feeling.  He may have held is head in his hands and thought, "Woman, you are surely going to give me a heart attack", but he had nothing but compassionate words for his wife.

     I would say to anyone who made a decision like this, the same as I said to myself, " That was a foolish and hazardous decision, what the (bleep) were you thinking?"   It wasn't based on intellect for sure, it was a decision based on emotion.  I am stubborn and I don't regret it and it wasn't the last time frustration won over common sense.  

     What it did, was give me was hope.   
  Strength can only give you power, but hope can give you success.






Sunday, October 12, 2014

It's Time to Wake Up

   My last two blogs have been some of my most emotional.  Continuing this same path for the rest of this month makes me sigh when I choose what I want to work through next.  Only due to the high emotion is causes, but each week I purge and the part of me that hurts so much from that particular remembrance ebbs. 

  It is working. 

     Natural curiosity is abundant when an event of this magnitude occurs.  Asking ,"What was like when I awoke or what do you remember as you awoke?" was and still is a dominant inquiry.  Here it is as "I" relive it. 

      Six-thirty.  There were no sirens that I could hear.  I started to wake just like the actors do in the movies.  Trying so hard to pry my eyelids open.   Feeling as if they had weights hanging from them.    They blinked dramatically slow.   Fogginess obscured my mind and focusing was minimal.  I had no idea where I was or what had transpired just moments before.  When my eyes could focus, I ascertained I was looking out my drivers side car window, but there was no glass.  I believed I was looking at a hillside of grass.  It was at the level of my window and I could only see in black and white.  When our car finally stopped spinning  after the impact, we circled to a gridlock in a ditch along side of the rail road tracks.  

 I was trying to make sense of what I was seeing when I heard what I thought were people yelling at me.  Where was that coming from?   Did I hear, Mommy?   It had to be the girls, they were both calling my name, begging me, "Please wake up, please!" "Are you okay?" they demanded .   

Words finally penetrated through my lethargic mind.  "Mommy, I think I broke my arm", the oldest said softly.  Broke her arm?  What is she speaking of?  It started coming back to me, creeping ever so slowly into my confusion.  

Dear God, we were in a crash!  I knew it had to be terrible, there's no way we couldn't be hurt after a crash like that.   Her voice was trembling as she stated again, "Mommy, I think I broke my arm."    I thought I knew how strong I was until I heard the pain in my children's voices.  

  I  turned my head towards her voice and my movement seemed unusually delayed.   There was only darkness with a white light in the upper left corner of my vision when rotating my head to the right.  Why couldn't I see them?   I knew my eyes were open, I had just been looking at grass. 

 I was desperately trying to get the words that were in my head to reach my lips.  I needed to give them reassurance.  I spoke softly to them, " Calm down, people will be here to help us soon.  Call 911."  Only partial words were coming out, but they understood enough to take action.  She grabbed her cell phone from her pocket and called for emergency help. 

 Again I tried to move, to help the girls and yet still I couldn't see them.  Something was so close to my chest, it wouldn't let me turn either direction and the lower half of my body wouldn't move.  I was trapped and couldn't understand why my body wasn't feeling any sensations.  The shadows kept trying to envelope me, they were breathing down my neck.  I fought for consciousness every moment.

  I heard the youngest say in a small voice, " Carey, I think I'm cut on my belly pretty bad."  My heart sank as I wondered what injuries they had sustained.  My little angels were suffering.  I tried to ask her if she could see the cut.  She then stated confidently, " No, no I think it's okay" then just mere moments later, the worry is back in her voice as she whimpered, "No, Carey, I think it's pretty bad."  To hear her tone and the way she is dramatic one moment, then nonchalant the next, it is just so her.  I don't know how humor could show it's face in my drowsy mind at that moment, but it did.  Even though my heart was aching for the girls, it let me know her personality was still intact.  Their speech was coherent, this let me assume they did not bear brain trauma.  I did not hold this same confidence with myself. 

    I instructed the girls to call Dad.   A woman took my daughters phone to finish the 911 call. "My  phone is in my purse" I whispered.  Again the youngest asked with all her sassiness " Where the heck is that?"  Again a small smile entered my mind at her.  I told her it was on her floorboard before the accident.  Luckily it lingered at her feet.  

 I was so proud of these two girls.  They really did stay calm in light of what they had just been through.  The oldest took charge of getting us help. She was calm with the 911 operator and in relaying details to my husband about where we were located. 

 What he must have been thinking, I can't imagine.  We had just left the house maybe eight minutes before the collision happened.   

 It's odd that I couldn't get my thoughts to form out of my mouth, but I had so many inside of my head.  I was worried about how badly the girls were injured.  I was frustrated that I couldn't help them.  I wanted to hold each of them tightly and whisper comforting words in their ears.  They were frightened.   I must have hit my head so hard because I just couldn't stay focused on what was happening.  

      As the girls ended their phone call with my husband,  I again tried to turn towards them, then the most God awful, intense pain I had ever felt, hit me in my lower legs.  Never had I felt anything so explosive in my entire life. It was completely overpowering.  Sensation had come back to my body with such severity, rating it on a pain scale was absurd. 

  I reached down and could feel my legs had been pinned by the car.  Debris surrounded them.  Sharpness from the broken car was everywhere.  If I could move them, even a little, maybe it would give me some kind of reprieve from the monstrous agony I was in.   Gently I tugged on my legs and they did move just slightly as my body spasm-ed with pain.  I rested my forehead on whatever piece of the car was against my chest and decided to try a second time.  Pulling just a little harder this time the waves of sickness were too much as the misery escalated me into unconsciousness. 

 Had I been able to think clearly, I would have understood that I should not be attempting this action.  Thank goodness they did not move because I would have caused even more damage to myself as the fractures in my right leg had perforated my skin and were now exposed. 

    There is pain that makes you cry and there is pain high enough to make you vomit.  Then there is the pain that is so severe, your body's natural response is to send you into shock because it cannot tolerate the reactions it's feeling. 
 Your body is in survival mode only. 


    I know what drinking and driving is, my story  is how drinking and driving feels.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Another Page Turns on the Calendar

     October is a month full of activities.  Many of us are excited about the Fall Season and the holidays to follow.   Lots of gatherings, eating and drinking.  The last full week of October is celebrated as the Red Ribbon Week. The preceding and following weekends may also be included as celebration dates as well. During this period, students all over the country pledge to live a drug-free and alcohol-free life.   As long as I can handle it, I will write each week about details regarding my collision and recovery to help celebrate this month and support this movement.

     I want no one to make any mistake about this.  I am not against drinking alcohol or the excessive consumption of it.  That is a personal decision of the consumer.   I will never lecture or stand and preach about it.   I do not want another person to take my life or the lives of my family and friends into their own hands by then driving after that excessive consumption. 

     I choose large moments in my recovery to write about.  Again for my own healing and also to let you know about so many of those small stages that you would never think about, that are so substantial to those of us who are dealing with it.  I choose to speak about the day I read the accident report.  This is a public document, anyone can view it via the internet.  I am the only one who can divulge the emotion of reading about your own tragedy on a piece of paper.  

     This hour that I spent pouring over it, again and again, unsure of what I wanted to believe, piecing together facts that I could not elicit on my own, had more of an effect than I had anticipated.  Coming across it innocently as I was rifling through our "accident" folder looking for my surgeons phone number, I slowly removed it.  Nine months into recovery, I read through the entire document.

     I view in writing that indeed four vehicles were involved, not
just the two of us.  A section at the bottom of the page shows the damage to our car I was driving that cold evening.  One section is not circled.   The trunk lid.  The only part of our car that did not receive damage that night.  Timidly, I turn the page.   A full size pick up truck hit us.  Okay.   I view the other drivers names that were involved.  I wonder about them.  How are they doing?  How did they react?   Did they have passengers as well?   Our children's names are printed in black and white as victims.  My chest immediately tightens at the bold type.  Listing their names, address, birth dates, sex, numbers that indicate their seat in what became our cocoon.  More numbers that illustrate if their air bag deployed, if they were ejected or transported elsewhere.   Their ages, ten and twelve, hit my conscious along with their faces and I consider how terribly young they are to have survived an adversity of such magnitude.  Will they understand how close we were to becoming extinct?  Will they view life differently as they mature due to their unfortunate circumstances?  

     Statements.   Driver and witness statements.  Mine?   I could
actually give a statement?  Did I give the details while still trapped in the car, in the hospital, ambulance?   What did I say? 
      "We were headed east into Cuba.  I told the girls he was on the wrong side of the highway."  What woman says they were headed east and why did I assume it was a man?  
     While both accounts are correct, it baffles me how our minds work.  The other drivers both stating the same as I, that the pickup was driving in the wrong lane.  Witnesses accounting for a high rate of speed (excess 80 mph) as the pickup passed them around corners and up hills.  
     I picture this through their eyes, driving in the dark on that December eve, viewing it from their perspective, outside of my own car, as if as a spectator.  Piecing it together, for there are so many holes in my memory.  Trying to make sense of it.  "He tapped his brakes."  "He fishtailed." "As I came over the hill, lights were everywhere."  "Parts were falling from the air when I drove up."  My chest aches, it has become rigid. 

   (Olivia's seat)
  The girls statements came as a surprise.  I didn't realize they would take a minors statement.  "I saw sparks fly, and I saw the other car hit the truck and trailer in front of us.  I heard Carey scream, "Oh my God."  I gasp.  There is no room in my chest for the air has frozen in my lungs, like blocks of ice, unyielding, unwilling to allow breath.  I do not remember the trailer, but yes, I remember, "Oh my God" distinctly.  In my mind, I screamed it so loud the residents of Cuba could hear it. 
      "We were driving and all of the sudden my Mom yelled and all the lights went out." I was thrown right back in that car, feeling everything as if it had just happened seconds before.  Numbness and a dream-like effect had started to replace the rawness over the past nine months. 
      This moment, these words, tore at the thick scab I had grown over my hysterical wounds.  Sobs rose up and out of my body before I could call them to a halt.  Like a kitchen faucet had been turned on, the warm tears cascaded down my face as my chest caved.  It is always the girls pain that gets me.  I can handle my own pain, but not theirs.  
                                                                                  (my seat)
     Soothing myself, there is one last paragraph.  The assessment of what occurred.  Many, many times, I questioned myself, "Had I done anything to help avoid the collision, to save our children?"   Surely I would have done anything, right?   If anything, this report awarded me the confirmation that, indeed, I did try to help us.

  " Driver 2 took evasive action to the right, running off the right side of the road, in an attempt to avoid Vehicle 1. Vehicle 2 traveled off the south side of  Route ZZ and struck a tree before coming to a rest in the south ditch, facing west."  It may have been instinct to jerk to the right, but I am so ever grateful that I did.  This is why, even though hit head on, the impact was on my side of the car only. 
             Demolishing the front of the car and spinning the truck into my door.  Sparing our child in the front seat from the head on and our child in the left passenger back seat from a second impact.  This is one worry I may finally relinquish.  Relief, knowing I did all that I could.   I understood that the car had stopped facing the opposite direction we were traveling, I recall nothing about hitting a tree.

     Returning from work that evening, my husband sat with me as I purged the details of my impassioned afternoon.  Sobbing again over the pain of reliving the details.  Once finished, he looked at me apologetically and sympathetically, while holding my hands and stated softly,
 "Carey........ that is the third time you have read that crash report."  I sat in silence, gaping at him.  Completely astonished.  "What?"  "You mean, we have done this before?" I asked in awe.  A simple nod, yes. 
      I  have poured over these details, reliving this, feeling my children's pain three times?  Did I react this way on each occasion?  Did my heart clench this intensely each time I read their words?  How many more memories have I lost?  I am dazed.  I feel a sense of betrayal from my own mind.

     Stopping, I proclaim that it is possible that my mind was doing me a favor.  It is conceivable that my psyche only recognizes  this nine months later because this is when I can handle it best.  Well maybe my subconscious is smarter than I give it credit for.  My vision becomes more clear as I raise my confused stare to my husband.
       "You sat quietly, and patiently listened to me mourn over the same details three times and you let me finish?"  A small smirk.  "It's what you needed." he whispers.  My chest relaxes.  Air flows freely into my lungs, heaviness leaves my body as if it's fog being burned off from the morning sun.   This time my tears are for the man God sent to me, who has been unwavering in his support of my many and long recoveries.     

     As another season passes and I turn the page to another month, I accept that not knowing everything may not be as great of an annoyance as I previously thought. 

What we need to know about the past is that no matter what has happened, it has all worked together to bring us to this very juncture and guide us into the unpredictable future.