Ten years ago I had just finished my freshman year of college. The world was mine for the taking and I was ready for an adventure. I had great summer plans to move across the country and live with some relatives. I had several job possibilities lined up and was ready for a change of scenery.
My Dad and I packed up his little truck and started the cross-country drive. The plan was that he would drive me out and fly home so I would have a car over the summer. We made it about half way to Virginia when the accident happened.
I had driven the early morning shift. About 8am we stopped for some breakfast, called my mom and trading driving. I climbed into the make-shift bed in the back of the truck and went to sleep.
I woke up screaming, the only time in my life I've done so. I smelled burning rubber and I could tell we weren't moving. I climbed over boxes to the small window to the cab. When I slid open the window my dad was lying across the bench seat on his back. When I asked him if he was ok, he said "I don't know". That was enough to send me into a full blown panic. My dad, my rock, wasn't sure if he was ok. How could I possibly be ok if he wasn't? I pieced together that we had been in a accident asked if it was our fault. Dad told me no.
I made my way to the back of truck and opened the gate to let myself out. There was a woman there with a cordless phone, and I recall thinking that was odd. We were out in the middle of nowhere and she had a cordless phone, not a cell phone. I finally felt the pain in my body, my neck was screaming and I sat down. The women with the phone came over and started asking my questions about myself. She started rubbing my back, I'm sure as a comfort measure, but I couldn't handle anyone touching me. I yelled at her to stop.
An ambulance appeared and the paramedics asked me where I hurt. When I told them my neck hurt, I was strapped to a backboard and loading into the ambulance. Even though I don't remember it, I'm sure I cried. While in the ambulance, I wiggled my toes. I knew if I could feel my toes, I wasn't paralyzed.
We arrived at the hospital where I was treated by a very cute doctor. There are blanks spots in my memory, but I remember the cute doctor! I was taken for X-rays, which was the most painful part of the whole experience. The tech had to position my body and neck in what felt like torturous contortions for the right picture. Finally a spot of good news came when we discovered nothing was broken.
Dad also was doing fine, nothing broken, although he had compressed the vertebrae in his back and was in pain. Once I got some painkillers, I felt much better. We discovered that we were in a little hospital in Boone County, Missouri. The accident was caused my an elderly woman who was in the next curtained area. We listened as the police interviewed her. She had cut-off a semi to make a rest stop, slammed on her brakes, and started spinning. Rather than try and correct, she took her hands off the wheel and her legally blind passenger tried to control the vehicle. While spinning, she ricocheted off the semi and forced us off the road. It's a miracle we all survived.
We called my mom around 10 am. She knew immediately something was wrong. We didn't have cell phones and we were only calling at rest stops. It was too soon for us to be at our next stop. We explained what happened. I'm sure she felt helpless being a thousand miles away while her husband and child were in pain.
We were stranded in Podunk, Missouri without a car. We spent most of the day in the hospital, because there was nowhere else to go. I spent a lot of time in the chapel because it was quiet. My neck was too sore to stand for very long. I must have been quite the sight. A 19 year old laying on the floor of the hospital chapel in a neck brace.
After some time and many phone calls we were picked up by a local LDS family. They were either relatives or friends of someone in our home ward. I don't remember their name or even what they looked like, but I'm so grateful for their charity. On a minute's notice, they gave us a place to sleep, helped us retrieve all our belongings from the truck and arranged for transportation home. I think they even mailed home the rest of my stuff after we flew home.
Sleeping was not easy in a neck brace. As much as I hated the brace, I needed it. My head was too heavy for my injured neck to hold for any length of time. I was anxious getting into a car and onto the freeway. We went to the tow yard to see the truck and collect our belongings. It was crushed. There was a huge indent in the front where we had hit a light pole. The grass was long at the accident site and our path was easy to see. We found part of the bumper on the other side of the rest stop lawn. A concrete stucture had been narrowly missed. We took pictures of everything.
Flying was painful. Dad asked me if I wanted to fly home or fly to VA. I knew I needed to recover so I gave up my summer adventure in lieu of the comfort of home.
I was in and out of physical therapy for the next two years. My neck is still not the same, but is much better these days. I'm humbled looking back now. Ten years ago I could/should have died. Instead, I got to finished college, get married, have two kids and live a wonderful life.
6 days ago