I was in Money Town. I had just dropped PR off at baseball practice. I stood in the parking lot for a few minutes chatting with another mom from the team. It was around 5 p.m. and a beautiful summer evening. I got in my SUV to head home and exited the sports park. At the end of the driveway is a 4-way stop. I stopped. Another car approached, stopped, and waited for me to proceed into the intersection. I did.
There are times in life when everything seems to speed up. There are times when life is suddenly in slow motion. As I pulled into the intersection I watched, in slow motion, as my life was permanently altered. Coming through another lane, running the stop sign, came a third car. The driver's eyes met and held mine in the milli-seconds before impact. His BMW t-boned my car on the driver's side. The thought flashed through my head as he collided into me, "Thank God I just dropped off PR."
Contents in the car went flying everywhere. My SUV spun a full 360 degrees on impact. My back tires were blown out. My body hurt instantly. The noise of the crash was akin to an explosion and heard from more than a mile away. When my car came to a stop it was facing the direction I had come from. There were skid marks on the street. There was debris from the accident strewn everywhere. I couldn't get out of my car because the door had been jammed by the impact. My left leg was swelling quickly, and something was terribly wrong with my right arm.
Today is the two year anniversary of my car accident. It is a date I will acknowledge for the remainder of my life. There was my life before the accident. There is my life since the accident. They are two different lives, and I am a different person now.
There have been five surgeries. Two "top" surgeons have worked on me. When I had the first surgery, I thought the doctor would fix me and, with a few months to recover, I would return to my old life. Clearly, that is not what happened.
Until very recently I sobbed, and I don't mean cried – I mean sobbed, daily in breathtaking pain. All the pain meds in the world could not mask the teeth clenching, oh-so-intense pain I was in. Pain so intense, it would not allow me to sleep except in brief interludes. In fact, even now, two years later, I have yet to sleep through the night even once since the accident.
Two years … today. Two years and much of it spent in a drugged up post-surgery haze. Trying to mother my kids, sending one off to college, all the time wondering if I could get through just one more day. My life has been just one more piece, the largest piece, of debris from the accident.
I am right handed. My right hand works, but my right arm does not. Imagine trying to go through one full day not only with intense pain, but with your dominant arm tied behind your back. From the moment you wake up, until you fall asleep.
Imagine just for that one day. Brushing teeth? Showering? Shaving? Shampooing? Brushing hair? Blow drying hair? Putting on make-up? Getting dressed? Pouring coffee? Opening doors? Driving one handed? Making beds? Changing sheets? Cleaning? Lifting? Putting dishes away? Carrying even small objects? Not being able to carry pots for cooking or cleaning, not being able to stir or chop for cooking, not even being able to cut your own food with a knife.
Not being able to hug your own children.
Now imagine your life altered permanently. Losing the ability to do the things you love most, including photography and gardening. The joy of planting a flower … gone. Losing the ability to do just about everything you did before.
And the worst thing? Being a (very!) independent woman who is now forced to depend on others for help with simple every day things. Having to ask your children to open doors for you, help you push a grocery cart, lift things for you, and humiliating as it is … even cut your food for you.
Now imagine living like that for two years … and counting.
Envision, initially, a community coming out in force to support you and your family. Friends, and even people you barely know, bringing meals for you. People offering to go to the grocery store and provide rides for your kids while you are too drugged up to get behind the wheel.
Then flash forward to the one year point. With more surgeries scheduled. And your "friends"? Well, most of them have completely disappeared once it became apparent there would be no neat and tidy recovery. Not even phone calls to check in and see how you are. Nothing.
Let's face it, someone disabled, and in intense pain, is just not much fun are they? It makes us feel uncomfortable … being reminded sometimes, in life, bad things happen. Maybe it even makes some people feel like they might "catch" your misfortune. As a caveat, if you ever have a friend go through something like this, they need your support much more for surgeries number three, four and five than they ever did for the first one.
And now, today, it has been two years.
The life changes went beyond the ongoing surgeries, recoveries, pain, and disability. In addition to the readily apparent trauma, there was also the loss of a lifestyle. That loss, is the biggest loss of all. For two years there has been a new lifestyle. Long days of trying to complete basic day to day activities. Hours upon hours spent with my physical therapist.
Physical therapy has been my "occupation" for two years now. Often I have gone to PT daily, six days a week, for three hour sessions. Long painful sessions during which I have alternated swearing at my therapist, begging him to stop hurting me, and sobbing on him.
Add in nonstop doctor appointments, painful injections, and the stress of the inevitable accident-related lawsuit. Just the fact a lawsuit exists is incredibly stressful. Lawyers are stressful. Also, did I mention the private investigator who is following me, trying to take a photo or videotape of me "faking" my injury? Never knowing when someone might click a camera is also stressful. (Not to mention, invasive.)
There has been very little time to have a real life. No time even for the things I might be able to still do with one working arm. There is more … so much more I could write, but the purpose of this post is not to list every life change, nor is it to have a pity party. I'm writing this post to acknowledge the reality of what this date means to me. This date has divided my life into "before" and "after".
I'm aware many people have far worse things to deal with in life. Soldiers are coming home from war without arms. Knowing that, does not prevent me from feeling frustrated about having mine, pain-filled, attached, and not working. There is guilt with that too. No one needs to remind me of how much worse my accident could have been. No one needs to remind me my injuries, although painful and disabling, are not life threatening. I have been living and breathing this for two years now. I know, sadly, there are people who are hurting worse than me. My heart aches for them with intense empathy.
The woman (a medical professional and I use the word professional loosely) who told me I "must have been a bad person in a previous life" and therefore I "have to pay for it now in this one"? She, especially, was not helpful. I really could have gotten through a few of the toughest months without her. Her comment, as repulsive and hurtful as it was, just about pushed me over the edge at a time when I was at the lowest in my life.
Another individual, a convert to the book The Secret, told me I had "caused" the accident and resulting nightmare by the thoughts I put out into the universe drawing the other driver towards my car. I explained to her, no, I did not cause the accident with my thoughts. The asshole who ran the stop sign caused the accident. I think she was offended. So was I.
Blaming the victim injured is easier for some people than accepting the reality which is bad things really do happen to good people.
I think the worst of my ordeal is behind me. There will, hopefully, be no more surgeries. Physical therapy is now limited most of the time to three days each week. The last surgery I had seems to have been the most successful. My pain level has dropped from teeth clenching to a mere unbearable. Quite honestly, even three months ago I was wishing someone would euthanize me. No one should have to live with pain like that. It was, truly, horrific.
My doctor saw me on Monday and announced I have regressed recently. He is "very concerned". He has renewed the treatment of horrible injections. He's insisting on more frequent visits to see him. I choose not to believe what he's saying, although I will follow his direction. I'm trying to deny the existence of this regression. I'm insisting to myself it is only a minor, temporary, setback. I will live in my world of denial for as long as I can.
He also felt, with the milestone of my two year anniversary, it was time to have a serious talk with me about my long term prognosis. I can't write about what he said yet. I'm not ready to face it. It was not positive, and it was much worse than what I expected to hear. Let's leave it at that.
Despite my doctor's words of doom and gloom, my hope is, as time goes on, perhaps the pain will decrease even further. Perhaps I will regain at least a portion of the function I have lost. I'll take anything at all – the smallest of improvements are still improvements.
Next year, on this date, I will probably write another anniversary post. I hope I will be able to share with you then, a year of milestones and accomplishments. I hope I will be able to share with you then, news I was able to plant a flower.
Even if it's just one flower … it would mean the world to me.
© Twenty Four At Heart