Nancy Parker — It has been ten years since my accident. Sometimes it merely seems as if I had a bad dream until I look down and realize from the scars that it was not. Those that have not experienced a serious accident of any kind can not truly understand what is involved in the healing process. There is not only the physical healing, but the emotional, spiritual, and sometimes the relational healing that needs to take place as well. I am very thankful that I have a loving family that was there for me, I can not imagine what it would be like to go through this alone. I have talked to others who have experienced accidents with who I am able to share the depth of the trauma I have experienced. I have also talked to those who have never been in an accident who think that I am giving in to something that I should have just shaken off as you would a stubbed toe. I do not know if I can fully explain to you what the healing experience is like but I would like to try.
I will start by telling you about my accident. The accident took place on a major freeway, an exit ramp to be exact. It was a dark and stormy night—sounds like the beginning of a bad novel—but it was. It was raining hard as I came off that exit ramp; I saw tail lights ahead of me but could not tell that they were stationary until I was very near. By this time it was too late. The combination of the rain and the oil slicked pavement were too much for the mini-van I was driving to come to a stop before ramming into the semi-truck that was half on and half off of the exit ramp. I tried to turn but the vehicle just kept sliding and when I hit the truck, it was like hitting a wall; I bounced off but the semi never even budged. I remember thinking, there is going to be a huge dent in my car… ha! Understatement. I did not remember air bags deploying; I just remember trying to open my door and not understanding why it would not open. My plan was to climb over the center console and try the other door but my legs would not move, I thought perhaps my purse had fallen and had my legs pinned down. (You would be surprised what you think under these circumstances.) I tried to look down and see but whatever I saw my mind could not deal with because I passed out. The next thing I remember is a fireman’s face in my window telling me to “hang on”. I thought, hang on to what? Then I was gone again. I came to, hearing the ripping of metal as the Jaws of Life ripped open my car and I wondered why they were tearing up my car. It was all so surreal that I actually could not tell the difference between what was really happening and what was going on in my mind. I recall waking in the ambulance and being extremely put out that they were cutting off my brand new sandals! For the first two or three days, my mother tells me that I kept asking her over and over if this was a bad dream. I’m sure the morphine didn’t help with my thinking process. It took me days to really understand where I was and what was going on.
There are many aspects of recovery one of which, initially for me at least, was guilt. I have two children and had a full time job. My husband had recently left us which I am sure, in part, contributed to my state of mind. My son was ten and my daughter was seventeen. I am very thankful to God that my mother was there to take over with my children. My daughter was a very capable young woman, just starting her senior year in high school, but it would have been even more overwhelming if she were to take on the total responsibility of my son, his transportation, schooling, care and feeding, etc. As it was, she had to take on paying the family bills and since her father left, there wasn’t enough to go around. I felt such guilt that I had hurt my family by being in this accident. My son and daughter, who were already dealing with the separation of their dad and me, now had to deal with a mother who had been seriously, but not fatally by God’s grace, hurt. I had crushed my right leg, broken my left leg in three clean breaks, and also broken my right arm. I was a train wreck but thankfully with no internal issues or brain damage.
I spent weeks in one of our city’s free hospitals because it had the best trauma center. With a team of doctors there, they managed to save my right leg. Since I had lost a muscle they had to move one from back to front. They had been telling my mother and children that they were probably going to have to amputate, to which my mother promptly said no and called out the prayer warriors. Praise God they found another way.
I then transferred to a rehab center so I could heal and they could teach me how to walk again. That was something to wrap my mind around. But after a few days in the rehab hospital and seeing the specialists there, the orthopedic doctor said that my bones were not joined together right. He told me that they had to go back in and redo the breaks. I felt as if it was happening all over again. I entered another hospital and we began again. I will not even begin to go into the hospital stays and all that happened in both hospitals, good and bad. There are so many wonderful doctors and nurses and yet equally so many bad. When you spend several weeks and months in these institutions, you find out about them all.
The guilt lingers for a very long time, even after going home because then you have family members sacrificing their time to wait on you and care for you. I was always a very active person; exercise was part of my life. I am thankful that it was because I only had the use of my left arm and stomach muscles to assist me in sitting up and moving around from wheel chair to bed, to baths, to couch, etc.
I remember when they were thinking about releasing me from the rehab center they made me take a test to see if I was doing alright mentally. I knew how to answer the questions, I wanted to go home because for the majority of time I was in the hospital, I was not allowed to see my son because he was too young. When he did see me, he was afraid to get too close; I didn’t understand why. I thought maybe he was afraid of hurting me. (I found out years later that he said I smelled funny.) Anyway, I realize they were trying to do all the right things for me by giving me this questionnaire, but I had not lost my ability to respond with the right answers even though I was not okay mentally. Again, I was just blessed to have a loving family to go home to because you do not even realize the emotional difficulties you have yet to face.
As I said before I was seriously into an exercise regime. I was forty five years old when I had my accident, wore size four and five clothing, and was very proud of the way I looked. I didn’t even realize how prideful I was until this happened. I was always extremely proud of my legs; I was always tanned and toned. I was shocked when I realized how important this was to my womanhood. One leg was scarred from ankle to above the knee cap from being cut open twice; the other leg was missing half a calf. It was just a big hole that looked like I had been bitten by a shark with a scrap of flesh from my upper thigh attached to an exposed muscle. I was devastated. I was so embarrassed that I was crying over the loss of the look of my legs when I had been spared losing one of them. But the emotions were real; it was something I had to come to grips with. So while dealing with guilt, I was also dealing with loss. I was also doing my best to mend my relationship to my children. I felt as if I had let them down and they were very confused. There were other emotional issues, the frustration and humiliation of not being able to care for yourself. You have to be pushed, carried, bathed, get help using the restroom, helped to do the most mundane everyday chores. It is quite a pill to swallow. We all take those things for granted and feel very self sufficient and even smug about it until something like this happens to us. It is a very humbling experience.
After becoming well enough to drive again, I started to experience panic attacks. If I was riding with someone else, I would close my eyes if there was a semi-truck next to or anywhere near us. I would hide my face if we were coming too close to the back of a car. I could not drive more than up to the corner grocers or drug store. It still happens to me today from time to time but I am so thankful for the healing of emotions that I have experienced. I was also dealing with anxiety disorders; I couldn’t talk to anyone except close family members without almost coming to tears. I could not go out by myself without having an anxiety attack, not even to the grocery store. I couldn’t even seem to form sentences and remember what word I wanted to use. It has taken me years and a lot of love from family and lots of prayers on my part to overcome the majority of these problems.
I had to look deeply at my spiritual life and I believe with all my heart that this accident turned out to be one of my greatest blessings. God used this experience to teach me so many things about myself that were so shallow and has shown me the depth of love, peace, hope, and an intimacy with Him that I would have never known.
There is so much time for introspection when you are in a serious accident. There are times when you just sit and weep in self pity but if you turn from yourself and search your heart you can use this time to learn more about yourself and what is really going on in the world outside of you it can be such a blessing. It is truly an opportunity for growth, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I am so thankful for what I have learned. It has given me a greater ability to reach out and help others than I ever had before.
About the Author
Nancy Parker was a professional nanny and she loves to write about wide range of subjects like health, parenting, child care, babysitting, nanny, www.enannysource.com/ etc. You can reach her @ email@example.com.