6 years ago, today, my life changed drastically. It was the summer between my junior and senior year of college. I was on the way to Steven’s Point with my then boyfriend, Marcus. I was reaching for my phone to call my mom and let her know we arrived safely when we went off the road. We were just about to cross over a bridge so we literally flew off the cliff, over four lanes of traffic and rolled the car into the opposite ditch. I was ejected.
I don’t think I really knew I was ejected until I read the police report. From then on, it was like a movie playing before me. Hearing my name being screamed from somewhere at my feet. Marcus stumbling towards me, with blood running down the side of his face. I held my hands up to say STOP when I realized my cell phone was in my hand. I dialed 911. What the heck was I going to tell them? I had no idea where we really were, somewhere outside of Wausau. I heard sirens coming so I hung up right away. I had to call my mom.
Just as I had dialed, Marcus wanted to tell my mom but he just started sobbing. A stranger came from somewhere behind me, took the phone and spoke with my mom. “Your daughter has been in a terrible car accident. She seems to be talking clearly but she has obviously broken her leg. The paramedics are here now and they are going to take her to a clinic in Waupaca.” My mom, dad, sister and grandma were at my little brother’s baseball game. They tell me that they just scooped up everything, threw it in the trunk and started driving. My mom whipped out a map while they were on the freeway and they figured out how to get to me as quickly as they could.
My dad tells me later that at a certain point, he felt a quick pain. Like his breath was taken away. He thought at that very moment, he might have lost me. We tracked the timing and we think it’s when the EMTs lifted me to the stretcher. It was that moment that the real pain of my 8 pelvic fractures, broken femur, broken tail bone, two broken ribs and torn urethra really set in.
I tried so hard to answer all of the questions. Tell and re-tell the story to doctors and police officers. No we weren’t drinking or on drugs. No there was no foul play. I don’t know why we went off of the road, I was digging through my purse.
Once my parents, sister and grandma met me at the clinic I don’t remember much except my nurse was really nice. Her name was Al. I left the answers to them.
I was flown by Flight for Life to Freodert hospital where I would receive the best care in Wisconsin. I spent 6 weeks on the orthopedic floor. 5 of which were flat on my back as I lay in traction. We didn’t use any plates to hold my pelvis together … it was longer recovery, but in the long run would be better. I did end up with a metal rod in my right leg. The scars from the surgery are something to brag about.
After my stay in the hospital, I spent another 10 weeks in a wheel chair, allowing my pelvis to really heal. I had to spend the first semester of my senior year of college at home, sleeping in a hospital bed in the living room and using a commode. I couldn’t go outside by myself … my house wasn’t handicap accessible. The showers were on the second floor so I could only take bird baths. I struggled with being bound to a wheel chair. When I would complain, my mom would get frustrated and remind me that it wasn’t permanent. I should be thankful that one day I’ll walk. I just needed to suck it up.
There is rarely a day that goes by that I don’t think about this part of my life. I was changed completely. I was down a path of being a typical college student … lots of drinking, testing my boundaries, dating the wrong kinds of guys. This experience was my wake up call. I learned about myself in ways I never would have been able to. While I don’t wish to be ejected out of a car again, I treasure this experience. This pain is apart of me and it’s woven into who I am today. It was through this experience I learned how to really smile in the face of tragedy. To find something good in being on bed rest.
My mom and I remember that even on our worst day … we never felt like we were at the bottom of the monkey pile. There were so many things that could be worse. I was still thankful for being alive and for having so many people love me. I remember the same kinds of feelings with Owen. I only had 6 months with Owen. But what about the mother that had 32 years with her son … and now that person is gone? Yes I have a 6 month void … she has a 32 year void. Which would be worse? What if I didn’t have two other babies to come home to? Even now, I’m not at the bottom of the monkey pile.
While in the hospital after the accident, there were days I laughed so hard! Once my dad bought me power puff girl temporary tattoos; just for fun. My mom and I spent an evening putting them in random places. One was on my knee near my pin sites, where the nurses cleaned each morning and night. One went on my big toe so when the doctor did his rounds and checked my toes for circulation they would also find a surprise. Another went just above my belly button so when I got my blood thinner shots in the morning the nurse would also find a little ‘treat’.
We had “party hair” days. This included me putting my hair into two Thumbelina buns on the top of my head with puffy girly frilly barrettes my sister bought for me at the dollar store. I had my selection of body sprays that I got to select from each morning. And don’t forget the ping pong ball gun I used to shoot at my nurses as they walked by the door.
I learned what a mother’s love could do. My mother, not once, did she leave my side. She slept on a cot, under the darn sink, each and every night I was there. Ok, I think she had 3 or 4 nights off where she spent time with my brother or got something done with the house her and my dad were building at the time. She was there though. Through everything. My dad, sister and brother also came up every day. It’s not like the hospital is in our backyard … it’s a good 25 min drive. But they were there for me.
I had always doubted my family’s love. They couldn’t possibly love me. I grew up thinking I was the odd duck out. this is complete preposterous … and foolish. My family’s love is so deep, so pure. They have been my strength through the hardest times in my life. I wouldn’t be me without them.
Every ache in my hips, every lock of my leg, glimpses of my scare, I am reminded. I am a survivor. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.