Just Enough Space

I was on my way to a family birthday party.  My husband was in Indiana for a hamfest with one of his best buddies he seldom sees.  When I left home the roads were dry, but as I neared Marysville, I received a weather warning on my phone that Marysville and Delaware were experiencing flash flooding.  The shorter route to my destination would go through Delaware, but I decided to heed the warning and take the longer route around Columbus.

It was true that as I bypassed Marysville there was a great deal of rain and by the exit to Delaware traffic had slowed down to 40 mph in order to avoid hydroplaning.  Then, as I neared Columbus, the pavement dried again and there was no more rain.  Even after the by-pass, as I drove northward on 71, all was dry and the sun was shining.

Suddenly it began to rain heavily, yet traffic continued at 70 mph.  I was in the far-right lane of two going north.  I remember there was a semi in front of me, one behind me and I’m not sure what kind of vehicle was to my left.  Just as suddenly I was pushed to the right — toward the berm.  It didn’t feel like hydroplaning because it was such a perfectly side-ways push.  It almost felt magical, except that it was terrifying.  At the end of the push there was a little kick or twist to my car’s movement.  That’s when it felt like hydroplaning, but I hadn’t turned the steering wheel.

I remember I cried out “No!  Jesus! Please don’t let this happen!”  But it was happening.  I had been pushed out of the line of traffic, but I was still on pavement as my car began to spin.  I remember I could see all the traffic going by in front of me.  It was terrifying.  Then I could feel that the surface under me was a little different.  I put on the brakes because I knew my car had ABS and I thought if I could get any traction, I might slow down some.  But I kept spinning.

Then I heard some trees brushing the windshield.  I think I must have closed my eyes out of fear, as I was flying off the road.  My car had turned more than 360 degrees and my impression was that I was pointed at a 90 degree angle from the road, yet flying sort of forward and to my right.  I remember there was one moment when it felt like my car might flip.  That must be when I went down off the berm over a ditch and toward what I thought was a “woods.”  The reason I think I closed my eyes is because I remember opening them and I don’t think I ever lost consciousness because I remember the sensations and sounds that happened between the time I saw all the traffic going by me and when I thought I was flying towards a “woods.”  I remember putting my soul in the hands of God.  It wasn’t exactly a prayer; there were no words.  There wasn’t time for words.  I simply entrusted my whole-self to God.  I didn’t think I was going to die; I was afraid I was going to be badly mangled.

Then I crashed.  Into a tree.  I opened my eyes and saw the hood had popped.  I was grateful to be alive.  I remember I felt almost ecstatic to be alive.  And apparently not mangled.  But I was also filled with fear and disorientation.  I tried to get out of the car.  I saw steam coming out of the hood and I was afraid the car might blow up.  I couldn’t get out.  I didn’t know it at the time, but the driver’s door was bent inward about a foot.  I was shoved up against the steering wheel, between the door on my left and the console on my right.  I saw later how my seat had been buckled during the crash.  The seat was folding inward in the middle and the back was folding inward in the middle too.  When I saw how the seat was shoved forward and folding inward, I realized why I had felt so pinned in.  But I also realized there had been just enough room for me.  Just enough.

At the time of the crash, when I realized I couldn’t get out of the car, and having turned off the motor, I searched for my phone.  It was under my right thigh.  I had tethered it to the lighter, keeping it charged while I used my GPS.  I remember I couldn’t quite figure out how to use my phone.  That’s when I realized I didn’t have my glasses on.  So I fumbled with my phone a bit til I got it turned right-side up and figured out how to access the dialer on the phone function.  I called 911.  Instantly the 911 operator knew where I was.  (I think she knew nearly instantaneously because I had my phone GPS on.) I remember I was so grateful she knew where I was because all I really knew was that I had been going north on 71.

Then a Good Samaritan showed up. It felt like he arrived almost instantaneously.  I could hear him talking while he was approaching.  When he got to my car, he first approached me on the right but I couldn’t really understand what to do.  I think my body was starting to panic.  When he came around to my side, I realized he was praying.  I said “Are you a Christian?”  He said “Yes!”  I said “I am too!  Are you praying for me?”  He said “Yes!”  And I said “Pray louder so I can hear you!”  I was really glad to have someone there with me and I was especially glad someone was praying for me.  I felt much less afraid.  He was able to confirm for the 911 operator where I was.  I think the 911 operator told me to stay on the line, but I was paying more attention to the Good Samaritan.

I told him I couldn’t find my glasses, and asked him to look for them.  He looked around the car — all the glass had blown out, and in, some of it on me — and said he couldn’t see them.  But then after a bit he looked outside the car, and they were right there at his feet.  I think when the car hit the tree, all the glass blew out, and my head must have been whipped to my right and then back to my left and that’s how the glasses flew out the window.  The Good Samaritan put my glasses on my face and then I started looking around.  I felt my body start to tingle all over and I felt nauseous.  I told the man I was afraid I might vomit and I didn’t want to vomit.  I particularly afraid of vomiting because I tend to then go into dry heaves and I feel fear I won’t stop.  He led me in breathing deeply and slowly — inhale, exhale…  It helped tremendously.

By then the EMT’s had arrived.  I remember there were 5 men.  I think 3 of them were with the EMT, 2 of them were firemen, and 1 was a Trooper; I could tell by their uniforms.  It was a bit difficult to get out of the car, but with their help I got over the console, onto the passenger side, and then out of the car.  I was able to walk, but I felt very shaky.  I remember one of them told me to watch out for some mud and water, but I didn’t see much; I felt like I was being carried.

I remember I started asking them from even before I got out of the car to call my husband and my niece.  But it wasn’t until I was in the ambulance that I could clearly ask them to make contacts.  One of the EMT’s had brought my purse into the vehicle and I let them get my ID and insurance card, etc.  I also asked them to access my phone quick call to make calls, but I don’t think any calls were made until I was in the hospital.

I remember I thought everyone looked beautiful.  I was especially glad to see people’s eyes.  In the ambulance I wanted the medic to talk with me.  At some point (I’m not sure when) they had put a neck brace on me and I couldn’t look around.  He was checking my vitals again and again, and I asked him to tell me about his family.  I just wanted to hear someone talking.  I felt very safe, but hearing someone talk helped me feel grounded.  They asked me which hospital I wanted to go to.  I had no idea.  They took me to St. Anne’s even though it wasn’t the closest.  I heard 2 of the guys discussing hospitals, and 1 of them felt the nearest hospital wouldn’t be able to take care of me.  So I told them “just take me wherever you think best.”

I think it took around 30 minutes to get to St. Anne’s.  By that time I felt peaceful.  But I was already starting to feel some pain on my left side.  I was afraid that I had broken some ribs and was concerned I might be at risk of having a lung punctured.  I also felt like I needed to stretch my back, but I couldn’t figure out how to move my torso.  But I also felt confident that I would be well taken care of at St. Anne’s.

I remember when we went into the hospital, I could only see directly above me so what I was noticing was the ceiling, security cameras, and a couple of nurses faces.  One of the first nurses to speak to the medics taking me in was a blonde with bright read lipstick; she was wearing a strong perfume that was pretty and I thought I should recognize it but I couldn’t think of what it was called.  That’s when I remember telling the Lord, “Well, Lord, I really didn’t want to be in this situation, but while I’m here I might as well notice everything I can in case anything is interesting.”

Another nurse guided us down the hall.  They almost took me into an open room, and then the nurse said, “no, that one needs to be reserved for [psychotic/ suicidal] patients.  The room they put me in was part of the ER, but a private space with a very wide and very comfortable bed.  Initially they had me propped up too high and I couldn’t adjust myself because every movement felt too painful.  It felt like there was a big knife stabbing me deeply in my left side.

After the initial procedures of taking vitals, hooking me up to an IV, etc, I asked again for someone to contact my husband, and I asked to use the toilet.  They didn’t want me to walk to a restroom, and I didn’t want to use a bed-pan, so they brought in a bedside commode.  Eventually when a nurse came to help me use it, I did manage to use it, but when standing up to get back into bed, the pain was unbearable.  I felt tingling all over and I felt nauseous and I started to black out, but the nurse got me back into bed, and this time she adjusted the bed so I could lay flat.  Soon after that they gave me morphine.

I remember 3 of the nurses.  There was initially a Stacy, and then an Ashley.  I think it was Ashley that helped me on the commode.  They were both very kind and very beautiful.  Everyone looked so beautiful.  I remember I told one of them they had beautiful hair, and another a beautiful name, and I think I even told the ER doctor she had beautiful eyes.  When she was examining my eyes I could see hers very well and I felt like I could look at them all day.  What I really wanted to tell everyone was that they were so very beautiful and that God loved them so much and I was so grateful to receive their good care and they are such precious sacred persons.  I just felt so full of gratitude and so conscious of how incredibly beautiful and wondrous humans are!  But already by this time I was aware that I shouldn’t gush too much because maybe it wasn’t proper.  So I was trying to find specific things I could compliment people on so that they might be able to receive my gratitude.

What’s interesting to me from this point in time is how much gratitude a person can feel even in the midst of “unbearable” pain.  It was like my body was wakening to the trauma it had experienced, but my mind was still euphoric with having survived something that might have terminated my life as I know it.

While at St. Anne’s, besides basic treatment, they took blood for blood tests, urine for tests, and they did several CT’s.  The ER doctor was amazed that I hadn’t even fractured any ribs.  I just had “rib contusions.”  They kept me on a small dose of morphine for a while, and then when getting me ready to leave, they put me on a different pain medicine.  I remember the doctor explained a few things to me, and put some papers in my hands, but I knew I wasn’t absorbing everything she was saying.

The last nurse who helped me get dressed was unlike the others.  Nearly the whole time she was in my room she complained about her work.  I remember thinking “would you like to switch places with me?”  but what I said upon leaving was “I hope you day gets better!”

I was at St. Anne’s what felt like most of the day, but I think it was actually from some time around 11:00 a.m. until around 4:30 p.m.  A sister-in-law picked me up when I was dismissed.

A few (? several?) days after the accident, my husband went to the site of the accident and reported to me that he couldn’t find a “woods” in the area; it was only a line of trees.  It’s possible he hadn’t found the right site; it’s also possible things looked enlarged to me as I approached them at nearly 70 mph.

The thing that I was so very grateful for from the first moment I started spinning and saw that I had been pushed aside from traffic was that no other vehicles were involved in my accident.  That event could have been so much worse — not only in terms of injuries to myself, but in terms of effecting others.  I am so profoundly grateful no one else was hurt or even involved.

My husband thinks that it is most likely a semi had been passing me and the resulting slip-stream pushed my car to the right.  Even if that’s how it came about, I think God choreographed everything so that I would be taken out of the line of traffic, my car would crash into a tree exactly where it did (because it so happened that the tree hit right between the doors where there is a structural support — had it hit my door, my injuries could have been grave — )  and that the crash would be serious enough that CT’s would be done.  In retrospect it really seems to me that the whole “point” of the accident was to reveal some information to me that I would not have thought to look for.

The reason I think all that is because the timing of everything was so very providential and because it turns out I needed to learn what the CTs showed.  More about that in my next post.