*** CAUTION: GRAPHIC PHOTOS *** CAUTION: GRAPHIC PHOTOS ***
*Before you start, this is going to be a long one. Click on any photos to embiggen
This is what I see every night when I close my eyes:
Two years ago today, my life was irrevocably changed forever.
Marv and I were going to be working all weekend and even though Scootie and Sissy were perfectly capable of staying home by themselves, I didn't want them to have to sit in front of the t.v. and be bored. So, Sister L said they could come over and hang out with her, my BIL Scott-dot and their Grandpa. Marv had already been working all day after having worked his regular job and was headed home for some sleep before going back out again the next morning. The kids and I went to leave the house and for some reason, instead of getting in my assigned (by Marv) vehicle, we jumped into the nice, much newer Ford F150 (you know, the one we were still paying for that had all the bells and whistles, not to mention 4-doors and a full backseat).
Sister L and BIL Scott-dot live about 13 miles from our old house. Just a hop, skip and a jump. I was in a ratty old t-shirt, sweats and flip-flops because I was going right back home to try to get some sleep myself. I dropped off the kids, hung out for a few minutes talking to the family, telling the kids to behave, yada yada yada. They invited me to stay and have some dinner, but I told them I needed to head home because tomorrow was going to be a long day. I should have stayed.
Less than five minutes after I left their house, less than three miles away from where I had just left two of the most important people in my life ( and three that come in a close second), I thought mine was about to end. The road I was traveling on has a speed limit of 45-mph. I had the radio on, but just for a little background. There were a few cars behind me, but not too close. I was probably about 300-yards from "THE CURVE." We all have one of "those" roads where we drive just a little extra-careful. This was my road. I noticed approaching headlights coming around the curve, knowing they were attached to some heavy machinery. "Hmmm. That car looks like it's going a little fast." The next series of events took seconds, but seemed like they were in slow motion. The swiftly (too swiftly, it turns out) moving vehicle came around "the curve" waaaay too fast, on my side of the road, and did exactly what those pesky driving instructors tell you not to do. The driver over-corrected. This promptly sent the vehicle veering (at a high rate of speed) to the shoulder of the road. Again, over-correction. I am observing all of this and have started to slow my speed because I know the driver is probably going to over-correct again when they hit the dirt on the shoulder. Fast-moving tires, dirt, gravel and fear do not mix well. I'm still slowing, moving over onto my shoulder of the road, trying to give the driver room to manuever, hoping they can get the vehicle under control. My heart is racing, I'm checking my rearview mirror to make sure the people behind me are slowing, seeing what's happening. The driver corrects again and the vehicle darts back up onto the road, still going so much faster than the posted speed limit and I'm thinking to myself, "Why don't they hit the brakes? Why aren't they slowing down?" By this time, I am almost completely off the road and the other vehicle has swerved back onto the road, but is going back and forth in a crazy zig-zag motion and then ....
All I could see were headlights. It was almost like the driver just said, "screw it," and let go of the wheel. The vehicle took an abrupt left turn and came straight at me. I was pretty much off the road by then, but still slowly moving forward. There was no squealing of brakes, no smoke clouds rising up like you see in the movies. Just headlights.
The impact was at the left front and the trajectory of the resulting waves was right into the driver's area.
At the scene
At the wrecker yard, in daylight
That red arrow is pointing to my flip-flop. No doubt my foot was on the brake pedal.
Everything went really quiet. Then, I must admit, I screamed. Twice. I was knocked sideways into the middle console from not only the impact, but also from the airbag deployment. I have always heard airbag horror stories about people's faces, chests, ribs, being broken upon deployment. As I am vertically challenged, I was so happy with the adjustable pedals on the F150. It allowed me to be able to move the seat back so I wasn't five inches away from the steering wheel. Soon after my last scream, I did an evaluation, telling myself I wasn't dead and that was good. I look down at my hands (why do we always do that?) and notice my left arm is looking a little like an "s". "That's not right." I noticed everything on the vehicle shut down. There was nothing working ... except the radio. The satellite tuner had been plugged in and it was on something like "top 20" whatever. But I looked over and the tuner had come unplugged and the radio had tuned to another station. It was a sermon. Did I mention that EVERYTHING ELSE electrical in the vehicle was not operational? No lights, I couldn't roll down the windows, nothing. Weird. But wait, I smell smoke. I smell burning. I don't want to burn, I don't want to burn. I see shadows outside the vehicle, so I start yelling at someone to please open the doors. Open the door. Open the door. I don't want to burn.
A good samaritan, one of several, yanked and yanked on the door until he could get it open. Finally. I was able to get fresh air. I then realized it was not smoke or fire, but the chemicals from the airbag. There were several people outside the vehicle and I could tell there were others over near the other vehicle. I kept asking if the other driver was okay, but no one would tell me anything. "Don't worry about him." I thought he was dead and they just didn't want to tell me. Someone had called 911 and they were asking about injuries. I showed her my arm and told her I couldn't feel my feet. Help was on the way. I was trying not to lose it, asking about the other driver. No one would tell me anything.
One of the ladies on the scene went around and got in the backseat to talk to me and help me stay calm. Turns out she was the attendance lady at Scootie's high school. They asked me if there was anyone they should call. I told them to contact Marv. The 911 personnel kept trying to call Marv, but he had just fallen to sleep. Anyone who knows Marv knows he does not like to be disturbed after he's fallen asleep, especially after having worked a double. Marv ignored the phone as long as he could before snatching it up. "Katie's been in an accident." Now, this was not an unusual car for Marv to get. You see, I seem to be a magnet. People LOVE to run into me, though usually it's minor. A fender-bender, if you will. Did you remember I was driving the nice, new truck? Yeah.
Emergency crews began to arrive. I was trying to stay calm. I knew these people. Well, I know them, but I don't KNOW know them. You know? People are shining lights in my eyes. "Did you pass out?" "Did you hit your head?" "What hurts?" There's people everywhere, I'm stressing, I'm still trying to find out about the other driver. I just know he's dead. Then, I hear a voice I recognize. It's our friend, Maximum Justice. He lives right down the road from the accident scene and knew he could get there before Marv. I still don't know how he heard about the accident. At that moment, I knew everything was going to be okay. I could breathe. Someone I KNEW was here with me. I have told him before (several times, in fact) but MJ will never know how much it meant to me for him to be there. MJ finally told me the other driver was okay but did have some injuries (he had a broken femur and some type of injury to his collarbone). I kept looking for Marv, but I couldn't see him. I didn't hear him. Turns out, as Marv was headed to the crash scene, he was almost involved in a head-on collision when a motorcycle crossed the center-line into his lane.
The rescue personnel pulled me out of the vehicle and placed me on a backboard. If you've never experienced this, and I hope you don't, you'll have the WORST headache before they get you off the thing. Anyway, as they're about to load me into the ambulance, I finally see Marv. The first thing I said was "It wasn't my fault," but I think he figured that out. Did I mention Nascar was in town? No? Well, it was. I didn't get one of the nice, new, high-dollar ambulances. Oh, no. I was loaded into a "back-up." All the good ambulances were at high-volume stations or at the track. Yay! When you have a back-up ambulance, it is not as well-stocked as one that is used every day.
So, I'm in the back of the ambulance and I hear things like "fracture", "compound fracture", "laceration", etc. I realize they are talking about me. I mean, I know my arm was messed up, but I had no clue. I also hear Marv about to argue with the ambulance personnel. They are trying to refuse to let him ride with me saying there won't be room for him with me on a stretcher and two of them in back. Let's just say Marv won that argument. The AmbuBoys start pulling out wraps and gauze and lines for an i.v. I told them I had very small veins (why can't the rest of me fall in line with that?) and they would need to use a butterfly needle. Back-up ambulance, remember. No butterfly needles. They then proceed to stick me in the right arm (the only appendage I have that does not have any trauma) about 15 times trying to get a vein. No luck. Then it's on to the back of the hand, about five or six times. No luck. They finally are able to get a doctor on the radio to request a stop-over at the local hospital (I have to go to the big ATL to a trauma center) to stabilize me and then fly me to Atlanta Medical. Doc, of course, says no can do. They are full up and by the time they do all that they could have me at AMC. Oh, did I mention there's a rookie driving? Hitting every pothole? I forgot that part? So sorry. It's SUCH an integral part of the story because as everyone knows, if they can't get an i.v., you get no fluids and NO PAIN MEDICINE. The whole time I have two AmbuBoys and Marv looking at me and talking about how they would be screaming. I still didn't know at this point exactly what was wrong. I was just trying not to cry and scream my head off. I think I definitely surprised Marv, but I know I surprised myself. I just kept telling myself it could have been a whole lot worse. And, I remembered everything my Auntie BJ had gone through years ago when she was hit by a woman who ran a stop sign. My Auntie BJ was so brave and fought through so much. I knew I had to try to be half as strong as she was during her recovery. After everything they had tried, and kept trying, the AmbuBoys finally got approval for a direct shot of some morphine to "take the edge off" ... when we were getting off the exit ramp in the ATL. Did I mention potholes before? ATL is built on potholes. Yay!
I have to say, I was still doing pretty well ... until I got in the trauma room. Those places are CRAZY! I had people yelling, yanking on me, moving me from the stretcher to a trauma bed. A nurse climbed on top of me and got right in my face. All I could see were her eyes and a blue mask and she's asking so many questions. "Did you hit your head?" "Did you lose consciousness?" "Do you have any pain in your abdomen?" And on and on and on. The AmbuBoys are shouting out numbers and all the trauma personnel are asking why there's no lines. Marv is being shuffled down the hall and I lose sight of him. I'm doing okay, but I'm starting to panic. There's too much going on and I can't see anything except this person in my face and then ... AAAAGGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!!! Someone has taken their fingers and stuck them inside the open wound on my right calf (from an apparent compound fracture). Totally unexpected and it BURNS. Someone has taken a fire poker and stuck it in my leg. I couldn't help screaming. Everyone around me starts screaming. I hear someone yelling at whatever jerk did this not to touch me again. "No one touch her again until we can get some meds in her!" Turns out it was an intern and this particular intern apparently had a hearing problem because next thing I know, someone is taking my left foot and rotating it and STICKING THEIR FINGER IN THE OPEN WOUND!" AAAAGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!! More yelling, the doctor throwing someone out of the room and threatening everyone if they touch me again. I'm APOLOGIZING to Mask Face because I yelled. I just wasn't expecting it. Then, I'm out. Apparently, this is the point where they stuck a FIVE INCH LONG WIRE into my neck, directly to my heart because they couldn't get a line anywhere else. One working appendage, no good veins, no good for me.
Meanwhile, the ER waiting room is filling up. I can't tell you to this day who all was there waiting with Marv. I just know we have a bunch of great friends. They stayed with Marv and my sisters and my dad and took care of them while they were waiting on news about me. From what I understand, they took me into surgery right away, but only to stabilize me. The serious stuff would come later. I had a fracture of the left fifth metatarsal (the bone on the outside of your foot), a compound fracture of the right tibia and fibula, fractures of the cuneiforms in the right foot (the bones on the top of your foot) and fractures of the left radius and ulna. I was a mess, but it could have been worse. I was in the ICU for 5 or 6 days and had several surgeries, one to alleviate what they call compartment syndrome in the right foot (the blood goes in, but doesn't want to come out). I don't remember much about those days, but I do recall Cousin Mark coming in to check on me (he is a respiratory therapist at AMC) and Aunt Jean coming by one day. The rest, a blur. Apparently, someone decided it would be a good idea to put a phone next to me. I immediately called Marv (who was and had been in the waiting room for days) asking why he hadn't come to visit me. They took the phone away from me after that. Marv thought it was funny.
After the ICU, I had more days in the hospital. I had to learn how to do things with one arm and nothing else. That was fun. I have to tell you, it is quite humbling having to ask for help. Me being so stubborn and private, it was particularly hard. I've never been one for public displays of affection, or sharing information about personal habits. Trust me. Things got personal. That's all I'm saying. Sister L, who was job hunting at the time, stayed with me a good bit, alternating with Marv. I had a good many visitors including my cousin Nick (and cousin Sarah-A and their parents Little Ruth and "Shoulda Been My Brother" Scott) who said he never wanted to drive after visiting, my boss, my MIL Gwen. Aunt Sue and Uncle Wallace. Niece came by and brought me a home made bowl in UGA colors filled with treats because I missed Halloween. I know it pained her to make it. She's delusional sometimes and thinks Tech is better.
We had to figure out what we were going to do with me when I was released from the hospital. Where was I going to stay (our house couldn't accomdate a wheelchair), who was going to take care of me, who was going to take me to doctor appointments, etc. I had one more surgery, and then I could go. I had a filter put in to help prevent any blood clots going to my brain, which I thought was nice of them to give me. It looks like a littel upside down umbrella, just floating there in my artery. So special. But then I couldn't stop worrying about getting blood clots.
The first car ride home was traumatic. Not because Sister L was driving, as some might believe. It was just the first time I had been in or around a vehicle since the accident. I had my eyes closed the whole time, but was still panicked. Auto collision victim + ATL traffic = vomit inducing panic. But, I made it home (to Sister L, BIL Scott-dot and Dad's home). Then we began the "dance." How to get me out of the car, into the wheelchair and into the house. It helps to have pants with a slick butt and a board. We did it, finally and the "real" healing process began.
I won't go into all those details, but the days and nights ran together. Sister L became a nurse overnight (no long study hours needed!), Marv worked at night, taking care of the kids and came over during the day before starting all over again. Sister D was there, too, in between work. My first night home, Mom and Auntie BJ brought by supplies for the long haul. Movies, gowns and pj's that would go over all my bandages. Dad and BIL Scott-dot hooked up a t.v. Even though I was still drugged up and unable to concentrate, I was able to catch the Georgia game that day. I left a drunken birthday message for Auntie BJ. She still has it on her answering machine to this day. At least I remembered, right? After that, it was Food Network 24/7. We figured out how to get me from the wheelchair to the bed to the toilet (thanks for sharing, right?) and back to the bed. Our friends Brian, Trisha and Meghan-Meghan came by to visit. I was worried little Meghan was going to be upset, but she just came over to me like she always does and gave me a big hug. This is when I found out Brian had been on his way home from work that evening, saw the truck as he passed the accident scene and then realized it was ours. NOT the best way to find out your friend has been in an accident.
After a few days, I was finally able to give my statement to Officer Randy. Even though I see it every night when I close my eyes, it's still difficult reliving it. I remembered every detail. I couldn't forget it. The driver of the other vehicle was an 18 year old boy who claimed his throttle stuck. He was going between 60-70-mph on that 45-mph road. Notice, I said "claimed." Over the course of the investigation, investigators from the police department and my insurance company would have to spend a lot of time and money disproving this claim. All because this boy was over at a house he wasn't supposed to be visiting and his mother had caught him. The person he ws visiting even told him when he was leaving not to drive fast. This is the part I don't understand. If you're already caught, why are going to try and rush home? The case finally ended a few months ago with him pleading guilty to a felony charge of serious bodily injury (tell me about it). We decided instead of jail time he would perform a boatload of community service, but he would have to do this service with accident victims. I'm told he entered an "official apology" onto the record, but I wouldn't know. I was at home recovering from another surgery I had the previous day. To this day, I have not received any kind of apology. No call, no note, nothing. I MISSED MY DAUGHTER'S BIRTHDAY BECAUSE OF YOU, JERK! THAT is what angered me the most. I've NEVER missed one of my children's birthdays. NEVER.
I was hoping when this day came around, I would be "back to normal", whatever that may be. Unfortunately, that is not the case. After my last surgery in my arm when they removed one of the plates and the attached screws, it was discovered my radius had grown back in an hourglass shape (again, why can't the rest of me fall in line?) and was very weak. It will never grown back to the normal size. It was always be prone to breakage. My doctor's advice? "If you start to fall, fall to the right." As for my foot/leg combo, it too is as good as it's going to get, which sucks. After my last surgery, where they removed the bottom screws from my rod, removed a nerve from mid-calf to mid foot, shaved the top of my foot and inserted two more plates with screws on the top of my foot, I still walk with a limp and have constant pain. I have some circulation issues which causes my leg to go numb and my feet to feel like they're freezing. When they first inserted the rod in my leg, they had to go through the tendon in my knee. That now is filled with scar tissue, causing constant pain and weakness in the knee. I was told if they went in to attempt to remove the scar tissue it would just cause more damage. Oh, and my doctor said I would be having more problems in a few years with the plates in my foot and would most likely have to have more surgery. Yay! Again, no apology.
If you've made it this far, I know you're thinking this has been the longest post ever. But I just wanted to put it out there. Sometimes, you get asked politely, "How are you doing?" But most times, I've found, people just want you to say, "I'm doing okay." So most days that's what I say. But most days I'm not. I know there are people who are dealing with things much worse than my problems. I know that. But some days, I'm just not having a good day. I've only broken down twice. The first was a few days after I came home from the hospital. I was tired, hurting, frustated and angry (Turns out, the next moring at about 4am I woke up with a kidney stone). I waited until I was alone in my room with Marv and I just started bawling. I didn't want the kids to see me that way. I cried it out and let it go.
I am so thankful for all of our families, friends and co-workers. I am thankful for everyone I work with that donated time to me so I wouldn't have to worry about losing my job. I'm thankful for the friends I used to work with that tried to donate time, too. I received donations from people whom I've never met. Family members cooked meals, brought movies, helped with my Scootie and Sissy. My Auntie BJ who religiously took me to therapy and then on "field trips" so I wouldn't go stir crazy and o.d. on Food Network. My Sister D who took me to my office for a Thanksgiving meal. I would like to thank Ford Motor Company. Had I not been in the F150 that evening, I would not be here. How weird am I that I though about writing a thank you note to Ford? I just wish I had been able to get a new truck. Man, I liked that truck.
When I was wheeled into the family Thanksgiving, I just started bawling. I was so grateful I was there. I love my family. I don't know what I would do without them. I really don't know what I would have done if Marv's family hadn't been there to carry me, wheelchair and all, up the stairs. I know they were thankful at Christmas I was using a walker.
And my Scootie and Sissy. They were the best. I hated that they had to see me in the ICU with all the wires and tubes but you never know what will happen. They took it all in stride and did the best they could. They have done so much for me and still do. They only get mad when I tell them I don't want them "running up and down the roads." They've both had to wait to get their driver's permits. I just didn't feel they were ready. They don't agree. We battle. I usually win. I just want them to understand how hard it can be as a parent. I don't want one of my kids to cause something like this to happen. I know it's unreasonable. I know adults cause accidents, too. I'm just going to stay unreasonable.
If you've read through the whole thing, I thank you. I know I've left a lot out, but I could go on and on about all of the people who have helped me. You'd be here for days. In the end, I've made progress. I'll never be "as good as new." Not even close. But I'm lucky. I know that. Some days it just sucks though, especially when you can't wear cute shoes.
I know you're sitting there thinking, "I thought you said there were graphic photo's?" Well, there are. Here are some before and after shots. Oh, and one more thing. If you haven't ever seen my scars, the first time you do, please don't say, "Oh, man, your foot IS a mess. I know you were in an accident, but I've never seen the scars." Thanks. If you don't want to see them, quit here.
The black part? The INSIDE of my foot. Compartment Syndrome. Drainage tubes. Yay!
My foot in Saran Wrap to keep out germs.
I DO NOT remember this. The bruise is from being slammed into the console. The tubes in the side of my neck, you ask? A "pick" line going directly to MY HEART. Let's keep the germs out of there, too.
The inside of my forearm. After the 2nd surgery, it was extended in both directions. Yay!
A matching set! The outside of my forearm.
That lovely little device is what holds the middle of your foot together when it blows up...until it decides to sink into your foot.
Notice the pre-accident toenail polish
scars, scars for everyone!
*Turns out, my email server is down so I can't get to the photos of what my arm and foot look like today. Just imagine the scars above longer and more pronounced, especially on the foot. So lovely. The top of my foot looks like a map to nowhere when they had crappy equipment to make roads and no one cared if they were straight. Oh, and it looks like I'm smuggling two squares of a Hershey's bar under the skin on top of my foot. Nice image, huh?
** Finally got the pictures off my server.
Forearm. And yes, after two years and multiple surgeries it IS that swollen.
See the Hershey Bar hump? And THAT is an improvement.
One more quick note: I had received a roll of Christmas gift wrap THAT I BOUGHT FOR CHARITY earlier that day and it was in the back floorboard. When I asked about later, it was gone. MY CHARITY SANTA CLAUSE GIFT WRAP WAS STOLEN. I shall show you:
The next day? GONE. (Pay no attention to all the other crap)