March 6 2002/2012
I was 22, I was living in New York City, working at a really fun job that I loved, and I was invincible. The year before (March 2001) I was hit by a car in the city (lame) and I was in the process of settling the lawsuit, I had a bunch of money and vacation time from work... so to mark the anniversary, I planned a two week roadtrip with the person I was dating at the time. We didn't have much of a plan... we thought we'd end up in Florida, maybe visit my grandparents. We left the last week of February, took a week driving south on I-95 and did visit my grandparents in Florida. I took lots of photos along the way and remember walking on the beach barefoot in March, when everyone else in New York was freezing. We were driving in my then-boyfriend's super retro van (from the 80's??) and sleeping in the van too. We washed up at roadstops; it was a total roughing it vacation, but it was fun. We had no where to be and the entire east coast to explore. Since we drove south along the coast, we decided to drive home a more wester route - through Alabama, Tennesee and the Appalachian Mountains. We had a road atlas and were taking small highways kinda figuring if we stay north, we'll eventually get home. Since it was his van, and too much car for a lady (apparently), he did all the driving and I was the navagator.
On maybe the seventh day of the trip, we stopped in some national park and hiked... then ate dinner at some crappy Chinese buffet in a KMart shopping center. We were somewhere in western Florida (about 45 minutes outside of Panama City), it was a little after 7PM and we were going to drive a little more before finding somewhere to camp out for the night. It was dark already and I remember calling my dad and leaving a message letting him know we were OK and I was having fun on the trip. We were on a very rural highway, and I saw a brown bunny run out in front of the car and felt the double thud of both the front and rear tires going over it. I, being both an animal lover and apparently a drama queen, was enraged at this. I started yelling about how humans kill animals and we don't even care... blah blah... and because I was young and invincible, I wasn't already wearing a seatbelt (stupid... I have never since rode in a car without wearing one), and I made a big dramatic show of putting it on to insult the driver. The Nine Inch Nails "And All That Could Have Been" (live) album was on.... it had just come out and I was addicted to it... the song playing was "Wish." We were driving fast... but not THAT fast (not more than 60, it was an old ass van and couldn't GO that fast.) And all of a sudden I saw a stop sign approach us at that speed... and then the double yellow arrow sign filled the windshield.
My bf called my father and told him we were in an accident and I broke my leg, but I was OK. Six hours later he got a call from my surgeon telling him I was out of my first surgery and that they better come down to Florida. That was a shocking call and much different than just a broken leg. My parents arrived first thing in the morning.
The next few days were a blur of painkillers, surgeries, pain beyond belief, and nightmares. As it turned out, I had broken 8 bones... including my L-1 vertebra in my spine, my tibia/fibula (both sides of my left ankle), 4 metatarsils in my left foot, and my right femur clear through. I was fitted for a body cast (a turtle shell) and was told that my burst fracture of my vertebra would heal on it's own, but a tiny piece had pieced the spinal column so I had to be completely immobile in my cast for 12 weeks so it wouldn't pierce further and risk paralyzation. I had a horrible DENIM printed turtle shell of a cast... and I cried when I saw it. My right femur had a titanium rod set into it (it is IN the bone, where the marrow goes) and it was screwed in at my hip and the side of my knee - this was done the very first night. My left foot though developed compartment syndrome (severe swelling) and I was at risk of losing the foot, so they had to perform a fasciotomy and they left the wounds open for 2 days, before they finally went back and fixed the bones with an assortment of plates and screws.
I was in that hospital for 10 days, moved to a rehab center for 10 days, and then my parents had me flown to New York on a medical jet... where I spent another 3(?) weeks in a different rehab hospital. Twelve weeks after the accident, I had to have another surgery to take out some of the pins/wires setting my foot/ankle before I could bear weight on it again... but to this day, the steel plates and screws remain (as well as the rod/screws in my femur). It was about 6 months before I would walk again. It was a long, really painful and difficult recovery.
I healed. I'm all in one piece now. But I carry a lot of scars (over 10), a lot of metal, and a residual limp that is only noticable sometimes. The vertebra healed, but is now about 50% the size/height of the rest. And when my femur healed, one leg ended up half inch longer than the other. The rod in my leg is a little too long, and rubs the underside of my kneecap and my hip joint. I'm all sorts of crooked and asymmetrical (not to the observer, but I can feel it. Try putting just one 1/2 inch insert in your shoe - you can feel it.) I was never an athlete, but I was an active New Yorker (walked miles everyday to and from work, etc.) and in one day, that all changed. For the past 10 years, I have lived with pain every - single - day. Retrospectively, I was "lucky"... i'm not paralyzed, my face wasn't injured, I healed. But really, if it hadn't happened at all... THAT would have been lucky.
This accident changed the course of my life in a lot of ways. I sometimes see it as the first day of the life I live now.
One year after the accident, I got a rabbit (running) tattooed on the injured ankle (see photo above) to memorilize the rabbit that saved my life. Had we not run over that bunny and I put on my seatbelt just 1-2 minutes before, I doubt I'd be alive at all. When I woke up from surgeries the first thing I remember saying was "the bunny saved my life." I'm sure my parents & the nurses thought I was nuts... but somehow the universe came together and sent me a sign. I do regret that the bunny had to die, but I owe my life to it.
People know that I've been in an accident and/or that I have some physical "handicaps", but I don't think anyone really has the nerve to ask "what the hell happened?" So today seemed like a good day to share...
|Right femur with rod & break.|
|Some of the scars I have today...|