I claim no responsibility for what I may say in the rest of this post.
I confess: I am writing under the influence of pain medication. Which, really, is quite a nice way to write. Fewer inhibitions. The dreaded internal editor is silenced. And creativity can flow directly from my drug-affected brain to my fingers, if only I can stay awake long enough to write whatever it was I was going to say.
Some of you may know why I haven’t blogged in a few weeks; most probably don’t. The reason is this: on December 14, 2005, my youngest son (2-1/2 years old) and I were stopped at a stoplight in our minivan when we were rear-ended by a Ford F-150 pickup truck going an estimated 30 miles per hour. The truck slammed into us, crushing the back end of the van, knocking the driver’s seat (MY seat) off it’s runners, and pushing us into the van in front of us. I still have flashbacks of looking in my rear-view mirror and seeing that truck coming at us, and knowing that it was not going to stop. Not in time. Not at all.
Thank G-d, my son was securely strapped in his car seat and I was wearing my seat belt (I am always a stickler for seat belts, no matter what!). Somehow, once I overcome my initial maternal panic and determined that my son was scared but not apparently hurt, a strange sort of calm came over me, allowing me to call 911, check on the other drivers, call my husband and have him pick up Oldest Son from preschool (I was on my way to pick him up when we were hit) exchange the requisite insurance information, and so forth.
It wasn’t until I arrived home that I began to pay any attention at all to myself. I had a massive headache, a back and neck ache, sore shoulders, a funny tingling in my arms and fingers, and I was trembling all over. I chalked much of it up to adrenaline and stress and called the insurance company.
In a way, the accident sent different aspects of my psyche into different directions. My mom part was grateful that Youngest Son was unharmed (a doctor later gave him a clean bill of health). My mom part was thankful that Oldest Son wasn’t in the van with us. My mom part was thankful that we all walked away.
My spiritual part wondered if this was somehow destined, if a congruence of my timing and the other driver’s timing and the weather (it had snowed heavily that morning) and every other decision and event came together and at some point ceased to be a mere possibility and became fate. My spiritual part wondered if we were protected by Someone or Something unseen. It wondered if the crash would have been worse without that protection.
My logical/pragmatic part began to assess the damage, both to the van and to me, and determined that most likely, had we been in our tiny Saturn, the car would have been totaled and we might not have walked away. There is something humbling when realizing that the van I hadn’t planned on buying last fall, the van I second-guessed buying for quite some time, the van I bought in part because of a dream in which my father (alav hashalom), who passed away 17 months earlier, told me to buy it, may very well have been the van that saved us severe physical injury, if not saved our lives.
And my writer part found an interesting story in all of this. The van I was pushed into after the truck slammed into my van had a baby in it. The driver determined that his van sustained no damage (he had a tow hitch on the back, too) but stuck around until police arrived to give his version of events, which matched mine, and thankfully, the at-fault driver’s, too (who claimed full responsibility). It turned out, after the cop asked each of us for our licences and insurance cards, that the van driver didn’t have anything. No ID, no license, no nothing.
But wait – it gets better.
It wasn’t his van. It wasn’t even his baby.
The story came out that his girlfriend asked him to babysit the baby (the father is AWOL) while she went to work. The baby had had a fever the night before, so the daycare provider wouldn’t take her, and the mom had no choice about going to work. The boyfriend walked over to her house, expecting to take care of the baby and hang out around the house all day. By late morning, the baby’s fever had returned, so he called the pediatrician, who said, “Bring her in right now.” He didn’t want to risk harm to the baby by taking her out in the cold while he walked home to get his wallet, he was smart enough to know not to leave her home alone while he went home, and he doesn’t own a vehicle, so he took the keys to his girlfriend’s father’s van and headed for the doctor’s office. He was on his way there when the accident happened.
The cop (Saint Paul Police are awesome, by the way) was understanding, checked on the baby, and sent the driver on to the doctor with a warning to drive very safely and to always carry his driver’s license with him, even when he walks to his girlfriend’s house. Just in case.
Fast forward a week.
My back is worse, and I have numbness and tingling down my right arm constantly. I can’t lift anything, can’t drive, and have debilitating headaches. X-rays showed nothing broken. I’m sent for an MRI scan. (As an aside, those machines make some very interesting noises!) I half want them to find something so I have an explanation for what I’m feeling, and half want them to find nothing because I don’t want anything wrong with me. I still manage to find humor in the incident, groaning, “I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. Oh wait… I was.”
Two radiologists confirm the findings: two herniated discs in my neck and a perforated disc in my mid-back. The good news is that none of them are bad enough to warrant immediate back/neck surgery. The bad news is that it will take 6 weeks to 6 months for me to feel anything close to “normal” again.
Anti-inflammatory medicine helps some of the pain and swelling. Chiropractic adjustments help realign my spine. Massage therapy helps loosen muscle spasms and sprained ligaments in my neck and shoulder. My days are filled with attempts at pain management, frequent doctor’s visits, and trying to deal with the auto body shop and insurance company. And what seems like hundreds of forms all asking for the exact same information.
Another week passes, and the symptoms have graduated from tingling and numbness to hot knife-points of pain running down my shoulder and arm. I swear I can feel warm blood trickling over my skin as the tip of the knife slices through my skin. The doctors all say it’s nerve pain.
Now I have Flexeril to speed the healing of my muscles, Percocet for acute pain that the NSAIDs don’t help, physical therapy to start stretching and strengthening my upper back to stabilize my spine, and, depending on the outcome of tomorrow’s meeting, a highly-recommended (by friends, not a TV ad) personal injury attorney to help sort out the insurance mess created by one driver’s decision to drive too fast for road conditions.
Update: we got our van back just minutes before Shabbat began. The auto shop had it for over two weeks. And while the body looks all better, they didn’t fix the driver’s seat, so I can’t adjust it to fit my less-than-tall stature and the knife-point pains down my arm. So I still can’t drive. Grf.
On the good side, if I take it slowly and give myself lots of breaks about every five minutes, I can manage to type. Which means I can write. Yay!
Please drive carefully (and not too fast for the conditions) this winter.