Wednesday, December 17, 2008

17th of December, Part 2

Part 1 here...

Rollover on the Highway

I had a truck. A little Ford Ranger. Green. It had a crack in the windshield from a rock chip from the resealing of city streets the past summer.

I was tired. I'd been awake since sometime around 4am. I'd taken some form of over the counter sinus stuff the day before for allergies. (Did that play a role, hardly, but I've since gone homeopathic & don't touch the over-the-counter stuff at all.) I'd driven the six hours out to Austin, done the audition, and driven more than halfway back home. I wanted to be home.

But I was tired. And I couldn't tell that the street lights up ahead were for a different road that went one way while the road I was on curved the other.

And I swerved. And I panicked. And I over-corrected. And I tensed up every muscle in my body. And I said "Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit..." And I remember the track the CD was playing. I remember the song. I remember where in the song. I remember the lyrics at that point in the song. I remember being very, very unhappy at what was happening.

They tell me I rolled several times. My parents told me they unwrapped my dog tags from around my rear-view mirror three times. I went across the median. Into oncoming traffic. Rolling. Rolling across the median. The truck stopped on the passenger side on the other road. Where another car hit my truck and sent me spinning in it.

I was the scene people slow down for. To see what happened. But I couldn't see what they saw.

My view was a very different perspective.

My left eye was bloody and swollen shut. My right eye didn't want to open until the blood covering it dried. My right shoulder hurt. My left hand was excruciating. My feet were cold. And I was in the cab of that small truck looking at a swath of dark red blood across the ceiling above me.

The back window had popped out somewhere on that roller coaster. The front window was smashed. As were the driver and passenger windows. I had enough of my wits about me to turn off the engine. I released my seat belt which let me drop the last few inches so my feet were on the ground through the passenger side window. Good thing I'd waited till the truck wasn't moving anymore, because had my feet drooped through that window before the spinning, they would have been cut off at the ankle. I leaned back on the seat with seatbelt locks digging into my side as voices shouted and hollered outside.

They asked me where I was going. "Home. To Odessa." They asked me where I was coming from. "From Austin." That can't be, they said. I was on the wrong road, they said. I must have it backwards, they said. I must have been going to Austin from Odessa. "NO!" I said. I was hurt, not stupid. I hadn't lost my brain capacity. I was angry.

I offered to try and climb out. They told me to stay put. To wait for the police and ambulance. I told them, someone, anyone, to find my purse. Please. It had a cell phone in it, please find it and call my parents. Just let them know. I know now that no one did.

More questions. Asking what happened, what hurt. Eventually I was told they brought in the Jaws of Life. I figured it must be pretty bad to get that. They put a sheet over my head to protect me from the shards of glass and metal it would be cutting away. Someone placed the neck brace thing on my neck even though I told them my neck was fine. They slid in a back board and strapped me to it. They rolled me to the waiting helicopter and flew me into town to the hospital.

My first helicopter ride involved me being strapped to a backboard, not able to see anything, and was really cold because one door was still open and it felt like my feet were hanging out.

The wreck happened around 10pm. I was on the road into San Angelo, right around a tiny little area called Wall. They've since put up those big yellow arrow signs on that curve, because I apparently was not the only one to not realize the road curved. The sheriff or police officer, I don't even know which, told me I would be given several tickets. Failure to control vehicle. Failure to yield right-of-way or going into oncoming traffic or some such. And something else. I honestly don't remember what else.

It didn't matter to me. I was in pain. And the wreck was just the beginning... be continued...

1 Comment:

Anonymous said...

Crazy. You've told me bits of this story before, H. I'm eager to hear the rest.

I read this, and I think about what I'd do as an emergency responder. Blood in your eyes, pain in your shoulder, real pain in your hand, your feet cold. You probably don't remember them asking "What is your name?" "Do you know where you are?" "Do you know what time it is?" "Do you remember what happened?"

They saw the blood, they palpated your shoulder and hand and saw when you reacted in pain. "Possible hand fracture and shoulder/clavicle fracture." From the response, they probably splinted and immobilized your hand, at the least, and maybe your shoulder.

They felt for a pulse at the base of your feet, and asked you to press and to pull with them. I wonder what they found. Probably a weak response, and it worried them - why so weak? Does she have a lower spine fracture?

It was a car accident, so they'd long since gotten the backboard out, because they assume cervical spinal injuries in that situation. A rolling car whips the neck around like crazy. Even though there may be no pain, the neck may be completely broken. And the consequences of a misstep are dire: "Above C4, she breathes no more," goes the quaint little medical aphorism. C4 is right at the base of your neck. Break a C4 fracture and cut the spine there, and you have killed that person - and all it takes is turning their head. And they weren't going to risk paralyzing you for life.

So much blood.. a skull fracture. They looked behind your ears for signs of blood pooling internally, waved a light into your eyes to see if your pupils were equally responsive. Several times. In severe head trauma, pupils dialate oddly, even get blown. I wonder if they saw that.

A blood pressure cuff was permanently on your arm, and it was probably inflating every 5-15 minutes as they sought to understand what was wrong inside you, and to see where you were going, just as someone was always seemingly taking your pulse. You weren't in shock. Your brain was building pressure, and it was driving your vitals opposite to shock.

You were hurt, not stupid, and angry. You fought them, maybe. And they said: ah. Blood on her head. Combative. Disoriented. Diagnosis: Severe closed head injury, a major contusion to her brain. In simple terms, a massive concussion. In a few hours she'll be dead, they said to themselves, unless we can relieve the intercranial pressure. She needs to be at the hospital YESTERDAY - call the air support! And she may still have a fractured cervical spine, which we must avoid making worse by keeping her spine straight, all the way up to her head.

Strapped tightly on the backboard ("BREATHE IN FOR US, HEATHER! GOOD! NOW BREATHE IN AGAIN!" "OKAY, ONE MORE TIME!"), a plastic cervical mask on your neck and head, and plastic blocks on the sides of your head, you couldn't move. Your feet are cold, and they keep messing with your toes and your feet. Can she maintain feeling in her extremities? they were asking themselves. We need a pulse in these feet, they think, or we have lost her.

You are a lucky woman, Heather. Those emergency workers knew what they were doing.

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