Fractured My L3 Vertebrae

Remember how excited I was about taking pictures of the youth’s local mission efforts, and being able to travel with them to D.C. at the end of the trip…well there is a reason that the Bible warns us about boasting about tomorrow and always phrasing future plans with “Lord willing”, because none of us ever knows what is ever going to happen. Sunday afternoon this was proven to me.

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It was a typical Sunday, going to our Sunday school class and meeting for lunch afterwards. The youth group was going to be hosting a VBS at a low income housing area. I decided to show up later, in order to grab lunch, knowing that there were a few more VBS days that I could vary which times I was there for different pictures.

Then, I needed to take a left hand turn from the highway I was on, to another highway, across several lanes. The problem was there were two vehicles on the shoulder blocking my view of oncoming traffic. I found out later that one vehicle was jumping the other. I did stop at the stop sign (despite the false video report), and decided to count the vehicles that disappeared, ensuring that they had driven past me. I don’t detail what I did as an example for others to do, and trust me I’ve questioned each move I’ve made since the incident, but what happened is what happened. My car was squarely t-boned on my side of the car, and was pushed about 15 feet away from our collision.

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I felt surprisingly cognizant in the moments after the crash, I never lost consciousness. I remember emitting a weird yell convulsively. My husband said this was a natural instinct to get other’s attention. After a few seconds I calmed down. One of the first things I did was turn the engine off, as the Christian radio station was still playing. I could hear the lady in the other car saying, “She just pulled out in front of me!” and that she was having trouble breathing (likely due to an air bag deployment).

Sitting in the car I assessed the situation around me. My prescription sunglasses were long gone. I was missing a flip flop. There were small cubes of glass around my legs. My other glasses were in the case that had been flung and pinched in between the door handle on the other side…too far out of reach. My cell phone was nearby and I tried to call the husband a few times. Surprisingly, my DSLR was sitting pretty on the seat, didn’t look like it had moved at all! (I hadn’t even transported it in a camera bag this time). Pain wise I felt discomfort, like I needed to move myself to find a better sitting angle. In beginning to move I realized that I did have pain in my lower spine, across from my belly button. I could move my arms and legs/toes, so I didn’t panic but understood the importance of refraining from future movement.

There was a random nurse who’d come out to see if she could help. At least I guessed she was a nurse based on her scrubs. At one point I asked her if she could get my glasses for me. She walked over to the passenger side door, and I realized it was locked. I turned to use the electronic unlock, only to discover that the panel was unattached loosely displaying its wires.

Looking at pictures later it is surprising that I didn’t feel cramped inside the car. The metal was pushed in at least a foot inward. My husband (later at the car impound) tried to sit in the seat and couldn’t. The pedals were pushed into the engine area, the seat was about a foot wide, and the bottom of the seat was level with the floor of the car.

Emergency crews showed up very quickly. The first thought on my mind was getting someone to call my husband. I hoped to be able to make that call myself so he’d know I wasn’t as bad as it all sounded.

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My second thought, as the EMT’s approached, was the importance of communicating that Jesus had specifically spared my life. I wasn’t sure how to do this and have it sound sincere…as I figured many people must make those kinds of statements afterwards. But I did get a few “Amens!” Other than that I tried to stay as positive and cheerful as possible. The situation sucked, but I was alive. I was in pain, but I was going to get checked out. I just needed to be calm and go with everything.

All of the EMT’s introduced themselves to me and kept asking me the same questions, like my name and birthday assessing my mental faculties. At one point one of them introduced themselves and asked how I was. I cheerily automatically responded, “I’m good, how are you?” They all laughed. I teased them that they were taking me to my chariot, as they were turning me to place me on the stretcher and pull me out of the passenger side door. I don’t remember many of their names or faces, as I was placed in a neck brace as a precaution. One thing I specifically remember is trying to be as pleasant as possible, telling everyone how much I appreciated what they were doing on my behalf.

Throughout the move from the car and ambulance I was filled with peace. They warned me that the stretcher would feel bumpy, but I felt completely secure.

My ride in the ambulance was quick and filled with entertaining conversation with the EMT named Jeremy. He began checking my vitals, which he warned me would involve removing my shirt. I began to protest saying “This is really silly and unimportant…but is there anyways that you could…nevermind, don’t worry about it.” He filled in, “This is a special shirt, and you’d like me to cut it along the seam?” I replied “yes please” and sighed as another one of my Xtreme Impact shirts would not be wearable. I don’t remember many specifics about our conversation, but I remember laughing…which was also painful.

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He later picked out my husband based on my description of him. He said, “You must be the infamous Mr.” Jeremy showed him a picture of the squashed car, and told him how lucky he was to have me with him still.

He covered me back up with a blanket as we were preparing to leave the ambulance. I laughed, realizing that modesty was the last thing I cared about right now. I said this, and that I normally did really care, so it was really sweet of him to care about it form me right now when I couldn’t.

He laughed with the other EMT staff as they rolled me into the building. I heard them teasing him as he wore my purse into the building. He joked that it was the new emergency gear. It really helped to be around such camaraderie. It was weird in the building staring at the ceiling as people were introduced to me.

At this point some of the order of what happened is kind of fuzzy. I remember being insistent that I call my husband. As far as I knew he didn’t know about the incident. Someone helped me use the phone attached to the bed and I left a message. I found out later I actually left a message on my own cell phone…fail. My other only weird mess up for the day was I kept telling everyone we’d be celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary in October instead of our 4th.

Suddenly, some of the emotional stress began to get to me. The nurse,  Kim was there still assessing me and getting me ready for all the tests they would run. I began to tear up. I said that it was really silly, but that I really missed my husband. She laughed and told me that was normal, and not silly at all. Its weird to explain, but in that moment I just needed to see him. Despite the fact that I was the one who’d be in the accident, I had this intense need to know he was okay. Kim explained this to me that, I needed to know he wasn’t freaking out due to the news.

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After all of my pestering, the Dr. finally told me that she’d left him a message (at 3pm one hour after the accident) as I was wheeled towards my first X-rays. She said he was on his way; I was elated. My first tests went pretty quickly. Being wheeled back I finally heard/saw my handsome husband. He began taking care of all of the information and contacting everyone who needed to be contacted.

A few of our guy friends were with him, as he’d been at their apartment when he’d received the call. These friends had driven him, so that way my husband didn’t have to drive in a frantic state. I was suddenly aware of the lack of clothes I didn’t have with my hospital supplied gown, and I pulled my blankets higher up. I was grateful for them being here to help support us.

My next step involved a blood test to ensure that I wasn’t pregnant before they could do a CT scan. The guys of course left the room, and in the end we used a catheter :-/. I told Kim that these kinds of things were why I could never be a nurse. She said that she was able to sort of zone it out, to do what they needed to do. I really enjoyed chatting with her off an on throughout the day. She’d started off at my school, then gone to another school, I think back home? I told her about my counseling internship, and she affirmed the need for mental health services, especially from what she could see in the hospital.

Once the blood work was assessed, I was wheeled to the CT machine by a young man named Chris. I didn’t know this at the time, but they told my husband that they’d found blood in my urine sample, which could indicate internal bleeding. The CT scans were used to determine if this was the case. I was most afraid of internal bleeding due to my sore abdomen, and my previous car accident injuries of a lacerated spleen and liver.

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I cannot recall what position Chris was, as I know the name of my technician was Jenna, but I know he worked with the CT and X Ray machines. He was really friendly. He asked me about my husband, and how long we’d been married. I found out that he was getting married in a month, and was so relieved because they’d just gotten out of debt. We talked about the fears of getting married young, and how the important thing was the couple talking it over with God.

Then, the waiting began, to be informed what the scans said. I was beginning to crack again. The morphine they’d originally given me was wearing off by this point. I felt agitated, impatient, and in pain. I was sick of being confined…I needed to move around. I alternated between being grumpy and feeling guilty for my bad attitude. I felt bad that our guy friends endured the worst of this grunting and complaining.

After a few hours those friends left only to be replaced by the mission trip TL’s whom I was supposed to meet to do photography for. They are also the former leaders of Xtreme Impact, and our current Sunday School leaders. It was sweet of them to stop by with their busy schedules, especially in the middle of the local trip! I’m so grateful they did though. When they first arrived my pain level had reached a 7.5 or an 8…I was just about ready to beg for another dose of morphine, because I couldn’t think about much else besides my physical situation.

However, they arrived and we talked for what felt like hours (I really had no sense of time). We talked about the mission trip team members, the team’s ministry, other aspects about the church, our counseling jobs, photography, former jobs, and many other things. Engaging in ministry discussions helped give me a purpose to think about, like I was still on the team doing the work. They also sweetly brought us a phone charger, and bags full of snacks! We hadn’t eaten anything the entire time we’d been there, and it was probably 6 or 7pm by this point. The bags were filled with fruit gummies, teddy grahams, granola bars, water bottles, and apples!

I wasn’t particularly hungry, but her 6 month future mom self encouraged me to go ahead and eat the soft gummies (which are my favorites anyways), as this would increase my blood sugar, and make me feel better. I ate two packages and one of teddy grahams. Eating the teddy grahams made me sad. I explained that my youth group back home had a tendency to eat them with cake icing on church retreats, and I’d been looking forward to doing that with my portion of the overnight trip in D.C. with the mission trip youth.

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They informed me that they hadn’t purchased the theme park tickets yet. We discussed the pros and cons of riding a 3.5 hour van ride, plus walking in D.C., then walking around a theme park, and that likely that would be too much for me.

While they were there we were finally told the results of the scans. The CT revealed a fractured and dislocated L3 Vertebrae in my lower spine. Surprisingly, this just meant that I would need to rest and heal naturally over the next 4-6 weeks. Though a back brace may later be suggested.

I told my friends that I still wanted to finish out some of the photography, that I felt fine enough to do it. I figured that I could at least do photography sitting in a chair. I’m pretty sure they new I was crazy, and got me to agree to at least rest one solid day, though I believe they knew I wouldn’t be able to help out at all anymore.

I discovered more of my pain when I was asked to get some standing up X Rays to give to the specialist I’m going to see tomorrow. However, I didn’t really realize how bad I was, how slow these next few weeks would be until leaving for home. We left the hospital around 9pm getting a ride from another friend. He was able to drive up the lawn to our front door…but this still painfully meant walking down the stairs. Those slow moves secured in my mind that I wasn’t leaving the apartment until I absolutely needed to.

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The past two days of slow rest and recovery have been a cycle of these things: more friends discovering and offering help, realizing things that I won’t be able to do again for a long time, and realizing how easily I could have died or been permanently crippled.

I keep having moments where I cry about not being able to finish with the youth group. I was just learning their names and personalities, I really wanted to be a part of it all. The Pastor made me feel better, saying that they would be planning more of these trips in the future.

Another sad fact is that I’ll have to post pone the rest of my couch to 5k plans…instead I’m working on a couch to pillow plan…really training on being a couch potato. My mom thinks that running may have helped me survive this better, as muscle supports bone better than fat does. Also, my awesome five fingers helped give my feet more balance.

Another interestingly timed thing, is that fact that my internship is sooo slow right now. This means that I’ll have less sessions to report to and more time for healing. God’s timing was really perfect.

Through all of these I’ve just felt such love and support from everyone. I process things verbally, so I keep repeating a lot of it to everyone, I apologize if that is annoying. For me I need to verbally say the scary things…like how my car’s tough steel bent so easily in the picture. Its incredible to stare at the picture and know the car was struck perfectly on the side beam to minimize damage to myself. It blows my mind, and I know it is because God graciously chose to not only save my life, but protect me from serious injury. And so far, it seems as long as I take this first week easy, I shouldn’t have any permanent damage.

Right now, I walk around moving my limbs in slow motion, as I tenderly transfer the weight from one segment of my foot to another, much like that of a timid grandmother. But, (Lord willing ;0)) I should be able to run again some day…I hope I never take that gift for granted again, but I know its a miracle that He ordained.

The thing that I am most grateful is for the wonderful godly husband God’s given me. I teased about how I didn’t like him the first time I met him. But, seriously, he’s so much better than I ever could have imagined. He’s been patiently walking me around to the restroom (even at 3 in the morning), carrying everything to me, being my secretary and telling everyone about the accident for me (so I didn’t have to worry about what to say), dealing with insurance and other details, let alone he’s the only one allowed to do chores because I can’t bend over.

He feels silly when I post my thanks about him publicly on my facebook, because he doesn’t want people to think he does those things for my boasting to them. Instead, he’s just a godly man who takes seriously his role as a husband to care for me in sickness and in health. :0)

Never Have I Ever felt so blessed in all of my life.

 

 

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