On October 18th I went straight through a car window because a driver pulled in front of me while I was training for a race. I vividly remember a red car pulling into my lane and immediately getting into my bull horns to brake. I braked so hard my hands were bruised a deep purple all the way through days later in the hospital. I braked so hard I recall my back wheel skidding out a bit. My skid marks were 52 feet long. Apparently I was awake the entire time but the only other detail I can supply you with that isn’t secondhand knowledge is what one ambulance EMT said to his co-worker, “Her face is peeled off”
That was a Saturday. Read Kennett’s blog if you want to hear how Saturday went for him and make sure you have a few tissues when you do. I woke up on Wednesday in a stupor caused by sedation medication, morphine, and pain. The first day was a blur and the evening was full of hallucinations. I got used to my schedule: leeches going on my lip every 4 hours to heal it, blood pressure measurements every hour, pain medications, and the list goes on. The staff at Longmont United were amazing. I was so happy to have met them all. They even let me go outside in the wheelchair and let me tell you, those mountains look extra amazing when you realize that you haven’t seen them for a week and that you came awfully close to never seeing them again. My family, Kennett, Kennett’s family, and friends were all bright parts of my day along with the notes that came in the mail.
Tuesday, a week and a half later, I left directly from ICU. I stood up that morning (probably around 5am because I barely slept at the hospital) and I took down all the photos on my wall myself. I wanted to prove to the doctors I was strong enough to do simple tasks. By that afternoon I was home to my apartment and its wonderful natural lighting. Once again, I was just so happy and thankful for where I was that the accident almost didn’t matter. I got to start seeing friends again slowly and walking down the street with our dog Maybellene.
Now I am closing in on 3 weeks since the accident and here’s how I am feeling:
I guess the most obvious reason is that I survived. It was a severe accident and from what I hear, the ambulance response time was fantastic but even they were worried they wouldn’t get me to the hospital in time. The hospital I was taken to had the best facial trauma surgeon in Colorado on staff that day. All of the surgeons I met are fantastic. I am lucky that people immediately stepped up to take care of Kennett, my family, and myself. Anything and everything helped. I was also extremely fortunate that I didn’t experience brain trauma, spinal injuries, or really any problems below my neck other than soft tissue issues in my one shoulder. Plus, I got engaged on that Thursday! As much as I wish that car hadn’t ever appeared, there is a lot to be thankful for and a lot more good that will come from it down the road. (Oh, and since Kennett is currently cooking soups in our kitchen, I am also very happy to have a great cook in the household!)
Angry and sorry for my situation
There is a lot in my life that has changed. I had plans to race this weekend and I was going to kick ass. It is going to be a while now before I can go back to my weekend plans of a Saturday long ride and Sunday run with Krista or Kim, let alone race. I have no idea when my shoulder will heal and how it will affect my swim stroke. I guess when you lose all those endorphins you rely on, you got to get creative. Some days I feel like I accomplished the little things and other days I look at what would have been on my schedule if I hadn’t gotten hurt; I wonder when I’ll ever get back to normal. The doctor says June. June though, is for my physical body to have full energy and be able to accomplish the tasks I used to. It isn’t when my scars will be healed, or my lip will be back to normal, and it sure as hell isn’t when my hair will grow back. Really in the scheme of it – none of this is important (except when you are trying to look at wedding stuff to take your mind off the day). Today, the facial surgeon told me my upper jaw was completely broken off during the accident. Tell me I can’t chew my food for 6 weeks and I can handle it. It is an improvement from having food pumped into your stomach. Explain how damaged my body was when you first met me? I don’t do so well with those details. Once, at the hospital Kennett started telling me that they went through my eye socket to fix my face and I made him stop. I want to focus on the improvements but there are times where I am asked to face the reality of it and quite honestly – I don’t want to. Luckily the doctor knew I wasn’t ready to see before and after pictures today. I really don’t think I ever want to see them.
Even while being a passenger in a vehicle, I am scared when cars pull out a tiny bit too far into the lane or when the bus driver lacks awareness and almost sideswipes us. It is not necessarily that my fear level is higher but I have become hypersensitive to how people drive. I heard a car horn honk behind us the other day and I started crying. Ironically, the idea of driving seems way worse to me than getting back on my bike. The bike is slower paced and in cars, things just happen faster. Maybe I’ll feel more capable once I get off my pain medication. In the meantime, I am not allowed to drive while I take the medication anyways. I made a choice last February that I didn’t want to own a car and I can’t wait to go back to that place where I can bike commute. And, of course, as I make that decision, I know I’ll have to get over the fear that it will happen again or that it will happen to someone else I am close too.
I stand by my initial emotion that I am lucky. I can’t tell you how awesome it is to have support from my community, my family’s community, Kennett’s community, and the cycling community at large. Not every day is better but every day is getting me closer to being better. I promise that on the good days I’ll come back kicking and screaming. I am going to do my best to pay all the support forward, to work with people on bicycle advocacy, and to train again for a triathlon.
5 thoughts on “Post October 18th emotions”
Like countless other people whom you have never met, I was incredibly touched by your story. I first heard about you through DC’s posting of Kennett’s blog. I am very happy to hear that you are home closer to friends and family. If your experience is anything like mine, time passes remarkably quickly when healing. I was attacked by a dog when I was a boy. Like you, I was lucky that a very skilled plastic surgeon happened to be on duty that day. You are a strong person and I admire your resolve to continue cycling.
Can’t tell you how happy I am to find out that your recovery is progressing as well as it is and that you are trying to return to your normal activities as quick as possible. Your story has definately moved me and I think you are a strong, very lucky woman in many ways. I wish you all the best in the future. Keep your head up and never give up on your drive to do what you want to do. Jay O. Hughes
We don’t know each other, but I’m fairly certain we have several friends in common. I heard about your accident on FB. I am reaching out because your circumstances are familiar to my own. I almost died in a climbing accident in 2010, age 52. That event has changed me forever. Like you, I feel lucky. I still feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude on a daily basis. Like you, I was an athlete. I survived because of my fitness. I have learned so much about dealing with PTSD, rebuilding my swim stroke and moving forward. I am also a swimming instructor by profession. My website is http://www.swimboulder.com. If you ever want some lessons, I am happy to offer them free of charge. Like you, I feel a need to pay forward the love and support that came my way in abundance. Your youth, determination and background will serve you well in your recovery. I am sorry this was the hand you were dealt. I hope you are able to embrace all the gifts along the way. Warmly, Beth Davis
Like the others, I learned of your tragic accident and recovery from Kennett’s story and fundraising dedicated to you (via the wonderful folks who create the RoadBikeRider.com site and newsletter). First, I’m glad you are making great progress in your recovery. You are fortunate to have so many caring supporters, especially Kennett and family.
Believe it or not, you will look back at this unexpected journey some day and it will somehow make sense. There will be some important life changes that come into play because of all this. I know because I too survived a serious accident by a neglectful driver on September 19, 1988. My injuries weren’t as bad as yours, but I’ll never be able remember that day. A few surgeries to put together my bones and I was up on crutches a few days later with stitches across my head.
But here’s why I’m writing to you. I want to share some of the psychological recovery process I learned on my own. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, any help. PTSD is to be expected and can be managed. With some help, your recovery will be much quicker and less painful than mine.
The most important single thing I learned was how to transform myself from a victim into a survivor. From a limited, broken patient into a functional, useful human being again. I made goals to get healthy. To become strong again. To endeavor in life with my second chance. By 6 weeks I was back on the bike again even though I still had a pin sticking out of one thumb and one leg was slightly longer than the other. 6 months later I rode my first MS 150 and continued to train. The racing bug took me to new heights of physical and emotional recovery and I even won a state track championship in 1990.
Over time, my PTSD shrunk into an occasional flash that quickly dissolved. Nothing in the world can hold us back once we take charge of our lives again. With determination and building confidence, you too will take charge of your life and conquer fears, inhibition, and anxiety that may have appeared due to the accident. You will be a survivor!
I learned about your story from a friend on Facebook who posted about it. I’m so happy to hear you are recovering. I was in a bad car accident this past July when another driver pulled out right in front of my car to make a left-hand turn. It was so close that I didn’t even have time to hit the brakes. My left wrist was totally crushed. I have undergone several surgeries with more to come. My injuries were not as bad as yours but your story resonates with me for so many reasons – feeling lucky but at the same time angry for how much this has impacted my life; feeling SO grateful for my medical providers; and that strange, subconscious fear that makes riding in a car so much more scary than it used to be. Also, I’m engaged too – although we got engaged just before the accident rather than just after. Ironically, we already had our wedding date set – July 18, 2015 – when we were in this terrible accident on July 18, 2014. But, I am hopeful that I will be fully recovered by our wedding date and hope that you will be fully recovered by your wedding too!