In July of 2008 I was in an auto accident. It was about 6:15 in the evening and I was driving home after exercising at Curves. I was almost at my turn-off from the main road when I saw a dog, looked to be a young Beagle, on the opposite side of the road heading down the hill and right into the path of cars. The speed limit there is 45 MPH.
I checked my rear view mirror to see how far back the truck behind me was, since it had been alternately tailgating and leaving space for about five miles. I started honking my horn to scare the dog back up the hill. The dog stopped on the hill, but kept looking, and I kept blowing my horn as I slowed to turn into the middle lane. It looked at me. Before I could enter the middle lane I had to pass an intersection where cars were turning. I again checked my rear view and saw the truck was going to hit me. An immediate, silent curse.
The impact was greater than I anticipated. It was very loud. I did see the dog flee back up the hill. I flew forward and then flew back, my seat breaking. I flew forward again and back, but since the back of the seat was no longer upright, I had to grab the wheel to right myself. At the same time, I realized my car was going very fast, but since the seat had also gone backward, my feet could no longer reach the petals. I had an idea where the petals should be, and pulled myself forward by grasping the steering wheel, but that make the car go right and left. I tried to steer away from the cars coming in the opposite direction while my foot searched to find the brake.
Knowing that I couldn’t continue to drive down the road, I aimed for the side of the road, hoping I’d find the brake before I reached the next intersection. If I couldn’t find the brake in time, I knew I had to either ram through a fence to slow my car or hit the trees that were ahead. I finally found the brake and it was petal to the metal until I stopped.
People stopped. Traffic slowed. The police chief was there in less than a minute. The man in the truck who hit me stopped, as did the couple in the car following him. The man apologized and said it was his fault. Information was exchanged, but I must have looked out of it because the couple who stopped helped me find my information and even allowed me to use their cell phone so I could call home and tell my family I had been in an accident.
I did not want to sit in my car as was suggested to me. I wanted to get out and walk. I wondered how long my car would be in the shop. It wasn’t until I was walking around my car that I realized the back window was shattered. So that’s why bits of glass are on my front seat. My car looked funny to be, but I couldn’t determine why that was. It was later when I realized my trunk was no longer where it had been
I was told I should go to the hospital to get checked out, and did I want an ambulance? I declined. Recalling my years working for a Chiropractor, and remembering all the auto accident patients and their stories, I knew I should go by ambulance so that any injury discovered would have come from the accident, and nothing I did to myself afterward.
I rode in the ambulance, signed some papers and immediately forgot what I was told about billing. I knew I wasn’t badly hurt. My knee hurt where it hit something, and my lower back began to ache. The ER doc didn’t appear concerned. Or interested. I guess I looked poor, dressed in baggy shorts, baggy T-shirt, sweating, flushed, still trying to come to grips with what had happened to my car, so I guess I was easy to dismiss. Very different from an earlier visit when I was dressed professionally. Up to x-rays for my low back. No fractures.
Left alone in my cubby, I saw my clothes on the bed, so I put them on. No one came so I thought I was supposed to leave. As I left the room a nurse approached, and asked if someone was picking me up. I remembered that my son-in-law said he’d take me home. She pointed the way to the waiting room, and that’s when my neck started to hurt and everything went PUFFY. SIL wasn’t in the waiting room, so I went outside and sat on the bench, waiting, while I marveled at how everything was PUFFY. I came reaching out to touch this PUFFY World. After a while I wondered how SIL would know I was ready to be picked up. I went back inside and used a courtesy phone to call home.
My car. Totaled.
Once home, I wasn’t in pain, just felt funny and enjoyed how PUFFY the world was. So soft and PUFFY. The next day I called the doc I used to work for to ask about this PUFFY world I was still in. He urged me to see my regular doctor, and said it sounded like a concussion. He also urged me to retain an attorney. Said it didn’t matter if the man admitted fault, a lawyer could get around that.
Saw my medical person, x-rays, no concussion. Eventually went for Physical Therapy for neck and low back. But only after I had a car to drive me there.
My car was totaled. It was an Elantra, and the first new car I’d ever bought/owned. Only four years old. So I had to buy another car. I was supposed to take my grandchildren to pre-school each morning beginning the end of August. I eventually bought a Rav-4, because that has a spare tire on the back door, and if I was hit again from behind, the other car would first have to go through the spare tire. Had it been up to me, I would have put that off for a very long time. I didn’t want to drive anywhere. When I did drive, I was that driver who looks left and right, and then left and right again, and then left and right one more time before deciding it was safe to pull out. I pulled over when someone got too close behind me. I really didn’t like to drive at that point.
I don’t remember when I knew something was wrong with me, but it wasn’t something I recognized, or could put into words. I didn’t remember any patients complaining about what I was going through. I knew I used to clear the cookies on my computer every day, and back-up everything once a week, but I forgot how I did that. I’d look and wonder why nothing looked familiar, or gave me no clue as to what I used to do.
More and more things weren’t right with me. I couldn’t talk noramlly; I’d stumble over words or mispronounce them. I started to think what I wanted to say before I said it, but many times it make no sense to me.
I couldn’t write. If there was an email that was too long, I just deleted it, because I could not read it. The words were gibberish. Sometimes I would begin reading, and my eyes just drifted off the screen. I couldn’t write. I could edit, but I could not create anything new. I used to make book videos for my stories, but that seemed impossible for me to even attempt since I couldn’t recall what it was I had to do first. Thinking about that just agitated me, so I didn’t even try.
I finally went back to my medical person and cried. I don’t cry in front of people. But here I was, crying because I couldn’t write, my thinking was off, I thought when I talked that I sounded as if I’d lost fifty I.Q. points. That’s how I sounded to myself. So I stopped talking unless I had to. She said I was depressed and referred me to a therapist. She also referred me to a neurologist. The therapist knew exactly what I was talking about and said it was perfectly normal. I felt so much better after seeing her. I wasn’t crazy!
The neurologist said I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. What? I had thought only soldiers suffered from that. He explained that the real possibility of dying from my car crash triggered it, and the one of the things I could do to help myself was talk about it to other people. So whenever someone asked how I was doing, I went into the drama of my car crash. I guess it helped.
It wasn’t until months later that my Cranial-Sacral training was recalled. Our brains are protected by a very thick skull. Our brain isn’t attached to any bone, but is further protected by floating in cerebral spinal fluid. However, a blow to the head, or a whiplash event like I had, sends the head forward. The brain and the liquid follow that motion, slams against the bone. Then it slams in the opposite direction. Forward again, back again. That bruises the brain. Swelling. Football players, boxers, soccer players all suffer from the effects of repeated head injuries.
I’m able to write again. I make a book video too, but it took a very long week to accomplish. I use to create one over a weekend. I enjoy driving again, although I still pull over if someone gets too close behind me.
I am not all better. I know there are things I can no longer do, or take me longer to figure out. Although I’ve always been quiet, I’m even more so now. People might think I’m conceited or proud, but I have a difficult time making conversation, always waiting for the odd words to pop out. And I still stumble over words. Makes me avoid speaking unless I feel very comfortable.
There are still times when my eyes drift off the computer screen, and I then realize I’m stressed. I turn computer off and watch a movie, or go for a walk.
My case was settled in September of 2011. The other side tried hard to win. No one was a winner.