Gerri Bowen and My Auto Accident

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

IMG_0042

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.

IMG_0043The seat has been pulled up.

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.

IMG_0047

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.

 

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33 Responses to Gerri Bowen and My Auto Accident

  1. bethtrissel says:

    Wow Gerri, what an amazing and scary life changing event. Deeply so. I am surprised more immediate follow up care wasn’t offered given the state of your car and the puffy world you had entered. I’m glad you are doing as well as you are now. Man, what an harrowing experience.

    • Gerri Bowen says:

      Thank you, Beth. If I had hit my head, I’m sure more may have been done. But I had my seat belt on, although I slammed into the steering wheel pretty hard. As soon as I said I didn’t hit my head, interest was gone.

  2. Gee Gerri, that’s a horrible story. I’m so glad that you’re much better now. I can so relate to your experience, and folks looking from the outside might never know, but we know we’re changed.

  3. I have been a a few accidents myself so know how it affects your mental and physical state. I’m glad you are continuing to recover and also glad that it was the back of the car not the front! Not sure you would have survived that….we would have lost your wonderful words.

  4. Thank you for sharing about your accident. I see dogs out in the street with cars coming and I do the same, thinking they are going to be hit by a car if they decide to go for it and cross the street. I sometimes panic for them. I have 3 dogs of my own and just cannot bare to think or even see a dog hit by a car. I just say, “Please God don’t let them get hit”. What can you do? Just what you did.. Thank you again and I will be more careful next time and try to control my emotions before I am in an accident too. I am glad you are better how. God was looking out for you that day.

    • Gerri Bowen says:

      Thank you, Sharon. In this area, it’s rare to see dogs running or walking loose, which was why I was alarmed when I saw the dog. He looked so oblivious to the coming traffic. God was looking out for me that day.

  5. Oh, Gerri, I’m glad God was looking out for you, but you don’t know how deeply I emphathize. When I was 17 I had a serious head injury and nobody could predict how I would function afterwards. Well, I functioned. But, like you, I had to learn my own coping mechanisms for the things I could no longer do and often retreated into my private sanctum when the world became too “busy” for me. That part has lasted. I will say tomorrow when I mean yesterday, etc., especially if I’m tired, and that accident was 46 years ago. The brain is a strange and wonderful treasure. I am so GLAD you are still with us to tell your story. (And glad the dog got away.)

    • Gerri Bowen says:

      I understand about coping mechanisms and retreating. Miriam. 🙂 I would guess the brain has had to evolve this way, considering how often heads got battered in battle and so on. I’m glad the dog got away, too. As soon as I saw him, it was an, Aw maaaan! moment. One of those times when you knew what the right action is, but you don’t want to do it, but you know you are anyway. I think the worst part was feeling “stupid”. I’m glad it’s behind me, with the occasional relapse. Thank you for sharing, Miriam.

  6. gerri. had no idea. hugs and please hang in there.

  7. My Gosh, that’s just so scary! But I don’t get why the doc though you had PTSD. If you were having nightmares and true behavior changes, maybe. It is true anyone can have PTSD, but I know the soldiers I work with never complained of speech problems and things not focusing correctly around them—unless it was from too much alcohol use. Glad you’re doing a lot better now!

  8. I knew you’d been in an accident but now I know why we never really knew what happened. I’m so glad you’re better able to communicate now, and that you’ve learned what you need to do to cope. I’ve had similar ill luck so know some of what you’re going through.

  9. I don’t know, your symptoms all sound exactly like I’ve heard post-concussive syndrome described. I’m sure PTSD compounded it. I know someone who was in an accident 25 years ago who still doesn’t like to ride in the passenger seat and avoids it whenever he can. But I think you were misdiagnosed. I’m SO glad you’ve improved, but it breaks my heart to know what you’ve been through and how it made you feel.

  10. Gerri, In reading your tale I went from sad to mad to glad a couple times. You may not have been a winner in a court of law, but you surely are a Winner in overcoming tremendous physical limitations and mental anxiety. I’m so happy for you that you’re again able to write, do something you love – and are very good at! – doing. I’m sending this with a hug!

  11. gerry trust says:

    Gerri,
    It’s not uncommon for ER docs not to take such injuries seriously enough. My son in law (before he was my son-in-law) was in a terrible accident caused by another person. His truck was totaled. The airbag reduced the amt and severity of his injuries but he did have wa concussion and broken nose. (later found broken bones in his hand where the airbag knocked his left hand against the window). The accident occurred at an intersection right outside my daughter’s work so she rode with him in the ambulance. The ER “checked” him out said he might have a concusison but not a cracked skull and said he could go home. His mom was on her way and when she arrived they told her to take him home. He got up out of bed (no one brought a wheel chair or anything) and immediately got dizzy, blacked out, and collapsed. So they decided he might be injured worse than they thought and let him stay awhile longer.
    It behooves you to be checked out by your family doctor ASAP after you’ve been released. Who knows what the ER missed. The broken bones in his hand were not found until weeks later. If you live in PA make sure you have full tort, he didn’t and he had trouble coming up with the money to buy another truck. All they wanted to give him was the wholesale auction value. Luckily, he had a rider on his car insurance policy for lost wages, otherwise he’d have been up a creek without a paddle.

    Gerry

    • Gerri Bowen says:

      Whoa, Gerry, that’s awful. I do have full tort, thank goodness. I’d never heard of it before I moved to PA. My auto insurance gave me a nice amount for my totaled car, about half of what the new car cost. Does or did your son-in-law suffer from any lingering effects from his accident?

      • gerry trust says:

        He was out of work for months because of headaches from the concussion. His job at work was to lift fifty pound blocks of steel to machine, so he had to wait for his hand to heal before going back to work. He continued to have headaches off and on, and he wasn’t the kind of person who suffered from many headaches prior to the accident, so that first month back to work was rough. Initially the ins co. didn’t even want to give him enough money for his vehicle to pay off the outstanding auto loan. They did not return his calls, etc. I think they would have been much more polite if they knew he could sue, but they knew he couldn’t. He was without a vehicle for a long time, and he still had to pay on the auto loan each month. I advised writing to the CEO, and they finally gave him enough to pay off the auto loan, but not enough to buy a comparable truck of the same age, milage, and accessories. He wound up with an older, used truck with alot more mileage, which immediately had problems that cost alot to fix. So he was in the hole for well over $5,000 thousand dollars. If he had not had that lost wages rider, he wouldn’t have been able to make his mortgage payments or continue to pay on the auto loan. Lost wages’ riders are very cheap; I advise everybody to make sure you have one.

        Gerry

  12. Gerri Bowen says:

    That’s awful, Gerry. I hope he is well and hearty at this point.

  13. Oh, Gerri. That sounds so traumatic, and to have the court case take so long too. I’m so glad that you’re back writing again. Hugs!

  14. Gerri Bowen says:

    Thank you, Shelley! Accidents are nasty.:(

  15. kittyb78 says:

    OMG! That back was totaled. Thank God you’re okay.

  16. Gerri Bowen says:

    Yes, truly! Thank you for stopping by, Kitty!

  17. Denise Hisey says:

    You are a true warrior, Gerri!
    The unseen injuries are often the worst…so glad you are continuing to improve.

    • Gerri Bowen says:

      Yes, the unseen injuries are difficult to deal with because there is no visual sign that something is wrong. Thank you for stopping by and commenting, Denise.

      • J. F says:

        Gerri, you will pull out of this. I had a friend suffer a double stroke..Yes double stroke and she’s back to normal but it was a longgggg haul. Be patient and forgiving. I also bet people could never see you as conceited or proud.

  18. Gerri Bowen says:

    I’m glad your friend is back to normal. I can imagine is was a long road to recovery from a double stroke, heavens! I’m better than I was, so yes, I’ll continue. Thank you for stopping by and commenting, J.F. 🙂

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