Compact Mazda versus Lexus SUV
Cary, North Carolina
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Compact Mazda versus Lexus SUV, Cary, NC USA: On December 14th 2002 I was driving my wife Tara across town for an early Christmas dinner. Unbeknownst to me at the time a careless driver (in a construction truck) backed into a power line, knocking it down and causing a power outage across the street. So when we pulled up to the big, busy intersection we saw that the traffic light was dead. I had a very bad gut feeling. We stopped and waited for some cars on each side to go, and then took our turn. We had almost made it through the intersection when I looked to my right and there suddenly appeared a pair of headlights. There was a deafening sound, like a shotgun blast.
As I tried to control (what's left of) the car and get us out of the way of oncoming traffic I grunted "I'm hurt, I can't breathe" to Tara who was sitting in the passenger seat (at the exact spot of the impact). A Lexus SUV had barreled into us at 50mph without so much as a tap on the breaks. When I got the car stopped I simultaneously realized that she hadn't responded or made a sound. Her body was twisted and crumpled into the steel and broken glass. There was blood streaming from her head and leg. Blood was rising up into her mouth and she was completely motionless. I will never know if she saw the headlights that split second before the collision like I did.
I checked for breathing and a pulse. They were both faint but there. I clutched her bloody hand and kissed her face, softly telling her it was okay and I was there. Some folks had stopped and called 911 right after the impact. After what seemed like forever she opened her eyes and they became wide with panic, fear, and agony. Her lungs struggled to make these horrible sounds that will haunt my nightmares forever. But somehow she was alive, moaning crying and fearing frantically for her life.
Now a month later I have put "ordinary" life on hold to help her to regain her mobility and health. She suffered a punctured, collapsed and bruised lung, a lacerated liver, concussion, and spent 10 days in ICU after multiple surgeries. A ventilator breathed for her for the first week, a chest tube drained the pooling blood from her crushed ribcage, a filter implanted into a major vein stopped blood clots from causing an embolism and a neck brace stabilized her head while steel rods and screws held her leg and hip in place. I wondered if and when she would regain consciousness. I wondered if her mind would ever be the same.
After a long two weeks she awakened to tubes in nearly every orifice, hand restraints (keeping her from pulling out either IV's or the tube out that went from her nose down to her intestines) and confusion. Sometimes she spoke a quiet and tearful "Please get me out of here" or "is it safe here"? She pleaded for me to cut the restraints and take out the painful tubes, not understanding (or caring) that they kept her alive. Slowly she regained her personality and consciousness. Despite a compound fracture of the leg, a hip broken in two places, and every rib on her right side broken she will walk again one day. Most likely this will be around the summer. Until then there will be lots of physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy in addition to months of bed rest and the daily wheelchair ride around the apartment complex.
Take nothing for granted, drive cautiously, laugh, and mast important tell someone you love him or her: because it may be your last chance. And when you see someone putting their own convenience over the safety of your loved ones shoot them the finger for me!
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