Yesterday (started writing it the day before) marked 4 years since my life changed. I know, I know – this is an out of the norm post and definitely not a 420 post. I don’t write much about my personal self since that is not really my goal. I figured it was time to tell you a little more about me and how this blog got started. It has been a bit more than two years that this little blog space kicked off with a few contributors here and there.
On April 19, 2008, a group of fellow Rotarians and I set out at dawn for a conference in McAllen. My friend and El Partner were in the front seat, my other friend and I were in the back seat – unbuckled since it was the time before laws required back seat buckling. A construction truck, accidentally released 50 tons of gravel onto the road. Our car spun out of control and I was ejected somehow, then the car rolled over and on top of me. My good friend and driver passed away almost immediately even though he was driving safely, buckled in and did all the right safe actions. There was no phone signal on any of our phones and there was almost no traffic on the rural road. El Partner’s past training kicked in when he ran towards what he thought was the road, then realized he was going further into the brush. He turned himself around and was able to flag an oil rig trucker with a radio to call the closest Border Patrol station in Hebbronville. They were the first on the scene.
I don’t remember how it happened. This was all told to me after the fact by the evidence collected and my partner, aka El Partner. What I remember:
I opened my eyes and could smell the dirt and saw only brush around me. I was face down in the desert with my friend crying by my side. I told her I was cold. I could feel that my shirt was either missing or pulled up but my back was exposed. It was April and the heat was intense as usual but I was just so cold so I asked her to cover me. I know she did but I was having a hard time breathing and simply passed out. I don’t know how long it took for help to come but I am sure that for the others, it was an eternity. I woke up again to hear bodies over me. They told me not to move, to be still. They were taking scissors and were cutting my pants. I clearly remember thinking, “No, don’t cut my brand new pants.” I know, weird, but nothing was really making sense and I couldn’t breathe. I am guessing that I must have been thinking of how hard it is to be a tall woman and find pants that actually fit long legs. Funny but not really. I passed out again. I didn’t wake up again for about three months.
They tell me I fell into a coma and then I think, but am not sure, that they kept me in an induced coma. I really don’t know because this time in my life is completely gone from my memory. It’s not like the months that followed are all that clear either. I am not sure of all of the injuries but from what I could gather, my front and back ribs were cracked, my left lung was damaged somehow, my scapula was broken, my pelvis was broken in multiple places, my spine was dislocated, my kidneys were somehow hurt and I had a chunk of hair missing on the back of my head (I mention it because some parts are still missing and there is now a dip in my skull).
It seems like the number one question I get is if I saw dead people or saw some sort of god but, honestly, I have no memories of my time asleep. I was an atheist before and I remain so. My values didn’t really change – I was a dedicated worker before and, well, still a dedicated worker. I was a grateful person before and still am now. But experiences do change you and I think, for me, I am still the same person as before except that my past conscious beliefs and decisions are now stronger. Because I have always been active and resourceful in whatever community I have lived in, that part of me has not lessened – except… I had to wake up to immobility and helplessness.
The plan had been to place a pin through my shattered pelvis but the doctors opted to just keep me immobile to allow my pelvis to heal. That just meant being confined to lying in bed and developing bed sores which I guess is better than risking surgery and the possibility of infection with a pin. So yes, I woke up one day and couldn’t make sense of anything. I worked with a speech therapist to be able to speak again and another therapist to try to tickle my memories. Obviously, I was successful at relearning. Unfortunately, I was restricted to a supine position after leaving the hospital for another 3 months. More X-rays were taken and the doctor ordered another 3 months of lying on my back and not letting my feet touch the ground. The pressure of any weight would re-shatter and move the pelvis bits around. Almost a year in bed really destroys your muscles. My first task when a physical therapist visited my home was to work on being able to lift my arms. It was unimaginably hard. Little by little, my arms became strong enough to lift my body into a wheelchair. Physical and occupational therapists worked my body several times a week for months and months so that I could gain the strength and relearn to walk – first in my wheelchair, then with a walker, then a quad-cane, then a regular cane until I could walk on my own. I still have problems with stairs and swelling but I am still working on it.
My rays of happiness came from my wonderful family and friends who would visit consistently. My family drove 24 hours straight after hearing that I had been in an accident and my brothers and parents stayed in a state they knew nothing about and whose only connection to it was me. My father and uncle took care of me for the first couple of months (we won’t talk about the hilarious adventures with very proper modest men trying to care for me – good thing El Partner would get home early) then my brother for some time while my mother worked out an early retirement plan with her school so she could care for me. They patiently bathed me, fed me, bandaged me and simply put up with me. Their lives changed for me and I am forever grateful.
I remember the sweet but painful moments like the time my friend, Bertha, coming to wash my hair for the first time after months and having to cut away at the matting. Or coming home to a room cleaned out and rearranged by my friends at Habitat for Humanity with fresh bedding for my hospital bed by Ed and Carol. I remember the visits every Sunday by Rick and Fernando and the plates of food that Sister Rosemary or my friend Gloria would bring to help out my family. I remember Mr. Kahn paying my first two visits to my internal medicine doctor after he came to visit me. So many people sent flowers and cards and came by to visit – and yes, some even prayed for me. It’s all good – well wishes were part of my recovery :).
But, the achiever in me was dying inside. Several friends up North suggested I write. I am not a very good diary keeper. I may have a masters in counseling but when it comes to my own emotions… it’s easier to write about other things (this post definitely is out of my comfort zone). My friend told me, “why do you want to remind yourself about such a painful time in your life” but it is an inescapable part of me that I have to own and accept. I decided to teach myself how to put together a blog – not about my personal day to day activities or “lifestyle” (sorry, just can’t write about make-up or fashion or jewelry – definitely not my strong points) blogging but about what I know. I know I am resourceful, I know I read and am aware of community activities, I know I am curious to a fault, I know I don’t have the answers and sometimes don’t even have an opinion on community flow but even my desire to question makes for blog material. There is nothing wrong with asking the question or spotlighting something for a closer look.
My goal was to share that inquisitive part of me with whomever would read. I never imagined I would have the number of readers I do. I never thought that writing about a world I could not reach from my wheelchair would create new friendships or teach me more than I expected. I blogged from my confined space in order to find my freedom.
Lucky (or maybe unlucky for some who have to put up with me – ha!) for me, I was one of the slim chance of people that actually survive being ejected from a vehicle, and then another slim chance of people who survive being crushed by a car (thank you semi-arid desert sand!), and then another slim chance of people whose head injuries do not impair intellectual function (well, that is still debatable), and one of the slim chance of people who are told they may not walk but end up retraining their muscles anyway (we won’t mention how one leg is slightly off), and one of the slim chance of people who are able to escape the depths of depression and vulnerability to say, “¿Quien chingados manda aqui?” (Ok, maybe not quite like that because I still grieve for my losses). Bottom line, I write because I care and I care deeply. I write because Laredo can do so much and be so much but it takes a few people to say “I can do that” or “this is not right”or “I matter to this community.” I write because in the same way that I accept responsibility for my own recovery, I hope that readers accept responsibility for their own actions and recognize that inaction is also theirs.
Idealistic, huh? Yeah, I am and I own it. I was before the accident and am more so now but I understand reality and plans and decisions and limitations. I only have one life to live. In my view, there is no afterlife and no coasting through the one life we have for a brief moment. I choose to seek happiness (not always successful but I sure do make the attempt) and I choose to try to make a positive difference in those around me. I hope I am because I owe so much. I am nothing without the hundreds of people who have been in my life and whose arms have cradled me during difficult moments. Thank you for reading, I do appreciate it :).
PS: Save any “poor you” or any “you are strong” comments. I really was not fishing for pity or compliments, this was just a long overdue post. It’s been four years and it was such a big event in my life that triggered the start of this blog that I felt the need to write it. What would be great to know is how you intend to take on the world around you or what you are curious about. ¡Andeles, fregados! Cuentenme algo interesante.