Friday, January 23, 2015

Blessing in Disguise: My Own Near Death and Trauma PART 2

Blessings in Disguise: My Own Near Death and Trauma PART 1

I left off at the first hospital.  Trinity West in Steubenville, OH.

Before I talk about the transport in the ambulance to Pittsburgh...

Never give up on the goals you set for yourself.  If you give up on them, who will help you succeed if you don't help yourself?

My car accident happened the day before classes started for the semester.  I was a student at Franciscan University at the time.  I was determined to get my bachelor's degree and become a teacher.  It ended up taking me another semester, but I stayed and I did it.  The doctors strongly suggested I leave college in order to heal and recuperate since I had no family in Ohio.  I knew if I left, I would never go back.  Here I am 25 years old and I am still in college.  I will never finish if I leave now.

But my injuries demanded  I receive full time, around the clock care.  I couldn't walk.  I couldn't take care of myself.  I couldn't drive.  I was in pain.  I needed help.

What an amazing group of support I had.  Roommates, teachers from the University, friends from near and far, family and many other members of church and community.  One of my professors even came to my house and worked with me so I could at least get a few credits that semester.

Ambulance ride from Steubenville to Pittsburgh...

It took an hour, at least, to get there.  It took so long because remember the accident happened in a snowstorm, so the roads were still bad that evening when they were transporting me.

I have to say that I had it easy.  Over the years, I have thought about my friends and family who received the word that I was in a serious car accident.  All they knew initially was that I had a head injury and I was being transported to a bigger hospital in Pittsburgh.  It took so many hours for them to find anything out.  I remember that a doctor friend in Staunton was able to get through to ICU and find out more information about my condition so he could tell everyone back in Staunton.  (A bit of background information about me... I had a wonderful community of support and love in Staunton.  Before I went to Steubenville, I was one of the first teachers at Guardian Angel Academy.  Guardian Angel Academy is the reason I moved to Staunton in the first place.  It was so I could teach at the new school Catholic school that was starting up.)

Also, my friend who was in the accident with me had to stand by and watch for that whole time they were cutting my car with the jaws of life to get me out.  My friends and family had to wait and pray until they found out more details about my injuries.  I have often thought how upsetting that would be to get news about someone you love and not know all the details.

One of the biggest impressions on me from that ambulance ride was the paramedic touched my leg when he was talking to me and explaining things to me.  I was still strapped to that backboard and my head was locked down at that thing so I was a little scared to say the least.  Just that reassuring touch was enough for me to remember it so vividly all these years later and to tell about it now.  There is so much power in the purest and kindest touch from another person.  I often think of my friend in prison so long and children who don't get that closeness and touch from their parents that they need so much to thrive.  Just a single touch on my leg meant so much to me.  It was almost as if to say, "You are not alone.  You have help.  It will be ok."

So in the ambulance was the paramedic, but I have always thought he was my guardian angel, too.  I will never forget the comfort he gave me while we were en route to Allegheny General in Pittsburgh.  He explained to me that upon arrival, it would be one of two scenarios.  The first scenario would be low key.  A few people would meet us at the ambulance, check me over and that would be that.  The second scenario would be a bit different.  Upon arrival in the second scenario, the doors of the ambulance would open and there would be much commotion, jarring around, many more doctors and hospital workers and a flurry of activity.  The second scenario described a trauma case.

When we arrived at the hospital and the doors of the ambulance swung open, the paramedic looked at me and, "It is the worst case scenario."

Time at the hospital...

And it began....the hustle and bustle, the jarring around of my body, the pain and the confusion of what in the world is going on?!  So many people talking and noises from all directions, all the while I am staring at the ceiling.  Once the initial assessment was over, I just lay there and it was still.  It took so long to be transported to my ICU room.  Oh, that was so miserable, I just wanted to get off of that back board.

My injuries:

  • lacerated spleen
  • 3 broken ribs
  • fractured sacrum
  • fractured L5 (fifth lumbar)
  • fractured pelvis in 2 places  (when your pelvis breaks, it usually breaks in two places like a pretzel) 
  • laceration on my eye from where my head hit the windshield requiring 12 stitches
  • concussion
The lacerated spleen is what put me in the ICU for 3 days.  Apparently, if your spleen ruptures or bleeds to much that is extremely bad.  They had to keep checking my blood or my bladder or something to make sure it didn't get any worse. I can tell you a little fun fact, bladder is shaped like a heart.  They had to fill my bladder up with fluid so the nurse told me it was shaped like a heart. 

While I was in ICU I was in so much pain.  In all honesty, the male nurse I had was a complete jerk.  At one point, he was so inconsiderate of my broken bones that he tried to move me for one of the tests even though he didn't have to.  He was so flippant about everything and did not have the best bedside manner.  He did allow 3 of  my friends to come in the room after that.  When I saw them I just broke down.  I thought I would die.  I could hardly move and I remember that crying would make it worse because of my ribs being broken. It is so amazing what emotions can flood into you when you see loved ones and familiar faces during such a hard time.  

After three days, I was able to leave ICU, bid good riddance to my male nurse and go to a regular floor.  It was interesting because one doctor that they talked to thought I should be in traction, have surgery to put pins in my hip and everything.  Then that doctor left for vacation and another doctor took over and he said the opposite.  He said all my injuries needed time to heal and that I would have no surgeries.  I would just wait and heal.  I remember being so shocked by the difference of opinion and always wondered if that was the best decision for my care.  It all worked out well, anyway!

I was so broken in a split second during the accident.  Then all those months to heal.  It always amazes me out our brains take trauma.  It happens so fast sometimes.  In an instant.  And then the healing process begins.   The healing is so much slower.  Sometimes the healing from a traumatic event just continues and really has not definite end.

As far as physically recovering, the doctors told me I would have degenerative arthritis at a young age.  The scar on my eye is the only physical mark on me from that day.  I love what my brother, Brad, said about it once.  He told me he liked my scar because it looks like a tear coming out of my eye, but that is not like me because I am always happy.  I thought that was sweet.  

The patient :)  

Amy, my roommate helping me eat.

Amy and Maria, my roommates, washing my hair for me.  We always joked that they looked like hospital employees because of their matching clothes.  They were amazing!  

My my scar on my eye.  I also wanted to show off my black eye.  


My friend, Leanne, and her girls visited me in the hospital! Leanne is from Pittsburgh so she was able to come visit and see her family, too.  Annie and Sophia are her daughters (back when she only had 2, now she has 6 and these 2 girls have daughters of their own, now!)  I taught Annie Kindergarten at Guardian Angel Academy in Staunton, VA, where I lived and worked when not in school. 
I was in the hospital for 10 days.  I recovered at home in Steubenville for 4 months before I was totally free from my walker and crutches.  

I was renting a house with two roommates and they didn't blink an eye at the thought of me recovering right there in Steubenville.  They worked together and set up a schedule of friends to "babysit" me around the clock once I got home from the hospital.  They moved my bedroom to the first floor of our house (which had no bathroom on the first floor and you can figure out that that meant).
My homecoming.  I had to walk around the back of the house because I could not do steps. 

My home for 4 months.  
It was a gruelling winter, but I had my own little "resurrection" of sorts when I was able to walk up to communion without crutches at the Easter Vigil.  That was the first time in almost 4 months that I walked on my own. I was so grateful.

So in the beginning of this post, I said...

Never give up on the goals you set for yourself.  If you give up on them, who will help you succeed if you don't help yourself?

I said this because I didn't give up on myself.  With friends and family and support from my college, I stayed in Steubenville and I finished.  I became a teacher and received my degree.  If you don't convict yourself of achieving something then all the support in the world won't mean a thing.  It has to come from inside.  I am so proud that I was able to finish college with so many setbacks along the way.

I learned about prayer most of all.  I learned about friendship, kindness and patience.  I learned that for SOME reason, which I didn't know at the time, I was meant to survive and move on.  I felt so guilty that I made it and that my friends' friend lost her life in the same type of accident.  I wondered for years what I was meant to do since I was given a gift of living longer than I thought would that day.

I became a TEACHER and then I truly had my answer when I became a MOM.

About becoming a mom, when the doctor came out and told me that the good news was that I would be able to bear children, I don't even remember if he told me the bad news.  Fast forward to 2007 when I gave birth to my firstborn, Emmett.  I had a beautiful homebirth.  My midwives prompted me to request my hospital records from the car accident since I fractured my pelvis.  They were concerned that the accident may have interfered with my ability to have a natural birth.  Turns out it was QUITE the opposite and I was able to give birth to all three of my children at home with absolutely no interventions.  I'm so grateful for that!

So whatever hardships or trauma you have had in your life...whether it be only the trip through the birth canal or even more hardship after that rocky beginning...I hope you are able to find joy and purpose through life's most troubling of circumstances.  After all, if God allowed His own Son to have the most burdensome and dire of circumstances, why should we expect any less?  We can't have Easter Sunday without Good Friday, right?

Here's to all of our own "good fridays" turning into our own little "resurrections" in this crazy, confusing life.

Thanks for stopping by From Teacher to Mom.

Oh, and I promise my next post will be a little lighter!

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