Tuesday, March 13, 2007

In Which We Find An Anniversary.. and a LONG story

They called it the Storm of the Century. It blew in on a mid-Saturday morning and when all was said and done it was the snow storm to beat all snow storms. It hammered the entire Eastern Seaboard. Highways shut down. Business's closed. People hunkered into their houses and stayed put. Or, they should have.

A friend (at the time) of mine was moving that weekend. I had just recently returned home after an extended absence and she asked if I could help her. Would I drive up to Concord, help her get her things and bring them to MA? What the hell I thought. My mother squawked on and on about this "big blizzard" and how I needed to stay home and blah blah blah. I wasn't in a good state of mind at the time, and like hell was I going to go back to doing what "mom and dad" said.

Turns out I should've listened. I should've stayed home. We left sometime in the morning. The deal was we'd be home by noon. Don't worry, I kept telling my mother. We'll beat the storm. In the end the storm beat us. We were driving up Interstate 93 when the heavy snow started. No biggie we thought.. we've driven in snow before. But the storm came on fast and strong. No one is exactly sure what happened next, but the car I was in (not driving) was struck in the drivers side bumper.. and forced off the road. We were in Bow, NH.. somewhere between exits.

Due to the overwhelming amount of snow already on the ground.. the car went up and over the guard rail and then rolled down the embankment. They estimate that the car rolled over at least 8 times. Unless you've been in a car that has rolled over down an embankment, there is no way for me to explain how that feels. It's a surreal, scary kind of thing. I closed my eyes (because I was scared, but in the end it kept the glass out) and thought we were going to die. You see this stuff on TV, but you never expect to live through it.

A small tree stopped the car from descending further down the embankment and into the woods. We landed on the passenger side, with the drivers side up in the air. If you've ever been outside in a snowstorm you know that it's eerily quiet. With my eyes still shut, I wondered if I was dead. I wasn't sure how I would know if I was dead or not. I was wet. I was covered in coffee, which I could smell... and I was in a lot of pain. I didn't know if you could feel pain if you were dead, having never been that way. After what seemed like an hour, but was most likely a minute.. my friend (who was near hysterical) pushed on my arm and called my name. I opened my eyes, looked at her and asked, "Are we dead?" (shock does funny things to you I'm told).

Some kind people pulled off the road to see if we were OK. One of them was a nurse on her way to the hospital (they don't get snow days).. who brought over blankets and made sure we knew our names and the date and all that. One of the gentlemen who was an EMT called the state police and got an ambulance. The nurse was talking to us crouched over next to my side of the car through the broken glass when the State Police showed up. As they walked down the hill I heard one say to the other, "There's no way anyone survived this ... " right as the nurse stood up and yelled at them for being insensitive and couldn't they hurry up.

They were able to get my friend out of the car OK. She had whiplash and a sore wrist and superficial wounds. In order to get me out of the car however they had to first turn the car upright.. which involved them using a chainsaw and cutting down that small tree.. and then they had to use the jaws of life to pry the side of the car off. I had back, hip and neck pain and they didn't want to risk causing more damage to me. It took 45 cold minutes and I was loaded into an ambulance on my way to Concord Hospital. My friend had gone on earlier. They asked me all kinds of things. I didn't know who the president was, Clinton had just been elected and it was too soon to be committed to my memory. They tried to give me oxygen but I refused. I could breathe fine I was just cold. And hurt.

After a million tests and x-rays, it was determined that: I had whiplash, I hurt my hip but it wasn't broken, my nose was a mess but it wasn't broken either... they took glass out of my face, head, arms .. one large piece from my wrist that required bandaging... I had a concussion and the last thing they told me was that no matter how much I hurt.. the next day would be worse. After I was "sprung"... I called my parents. My dad yelled and told me that my mom was very upset but she was walking the dog and to call back in 10 minutes. I bummed a smoke from the nurse and broke a 5 mos. smoke free streak and stood out in a blizzard on crutches and smoked what might have been one of the top 5 smokes of my life. My mom was mad. She was worried sick, and she was mad that I left and then I didn't call and I was hurt. She thought we were dead on the side of the highway. Almost mom. Almost. The highways were closed and we spent the night with a friend of the friend that I have vague memories of.

The next few years were hard. I had lots of trouble with my back, and my neck. I got headaches every day. I went to several doctors, a chiropractor and then ended up in a lawsuit with the insurance company because they didn't want to pay the chiropractor. Some days my back hurt so bad I would cry myself to sleep. A few times, after months and months of pain it got so bad I thought being dead would be better. One night I almost tried to find that out. Being pregnant was hard. Childbirth was hard. I couldn't bathe my babies in the bathtub. I couldn't pick my kids up on my worst days. I had a lot of bad days. I had a lot more really bad days... but slowly but surely things started to ease up. Not better.. but not so bad. Tolerable. Better than it was.

FFWD to the present. Last year I went and had a few more tests done on my back. They did more x-rays and referred me to physical therapy. Thought maybe a dozen MORE exercises might make things better. What we learned instead.. was that the problems relate to my hip. It seems that your hip can get jammed up in it's socket. It happens so easily that a misstep off the curb can cause it. They do some voodoo leg/knee pull-twist thing and pop it back out and send you on your way. Mine however... didn't get pulled out. No one knew. And after all these years.. my hip has fused itself up into the socket. I lost 3/4 of an inch of length on my left leg.

For 14 years I've walked around with a right leg that is 3/4 of an inch longer than the left. It has caused problems with my back, my knees, my hips and likely played a roll in my fall over the summer. I stand crooked, my clothes hang wrong and on days like yesterday when the pain radiates up through the bones from the bottom of my leg all the way to my back.. when my knee pain makes going up and down the stairs all day at school the most miserable kind of torture known to mankind.. I remember that day. I remember how horrible it was and how lucky I am to be here to tell my story.


KathyMarie said...

Wow. I'm sorry that happened (the accident and the long recovery period), and I'm glad you're here.

Thanks for sharing. Hugs!

tspwlv said...

Oh Bethy I hurt for you having to endure so much pain. I'm so happy, though, that you survived your ordeal. You are a strong, strong woman.

Lissa Ballard said...

OH my gosh Beth ... hwat a horrible horrible ordeal. I'm so sorry you have to endure such pain. Back and hip pain is so miserable. God bless you for your strength, your will to keep going and the emotional and physical strength you have. You're an inspiration!

Happy Anniversary - Happy because you're here for us to read all about your miraculous survival; here for us to call friend.


Sgt said...

Its amazing how all our medical technology they still miss the simpler things like...

"Hey, scrappychick seems to lean a little to one side. Maybe somethings wrong there"

You a tough cookie. I cry when I get a headache. OK.. not really...

Ok.. once in a while

Awesome Abby said...

I knew this story....or at least parts of it, but I just sat and read every word while Anna cried at me. Wow. You are right; it is surreal and it is very qiuet laying there in the snow, trying to figure out if you are indeed dead. I did lol at that part..."having never been that way before...." I'm glad you are here and wish you pain-free days the rest of your life.

Bec said...

Whoa. That's about all I can say... just whoa.

Glad you're here to retell this story!