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Archive for March, 2016

It’s hard to believe that’s it has been eight years since that day; the day that God changed my life forever. I died. HE wasn’t ready for me and sent me back. The essay below placed 2nd at the DAR National Convention in Washington D.C. last year.

 

PT Wrecked 3

 I’m A Work In Progress

Ding! Ding! Ding!

The irritating alarm sounded. Time to leave my warm cocoon.

Ding! Ding! Ding!

I set the clock where I couldn’t reach out to hit the snooze button.

Okay. Okay. It’s done its job. My feet hit the floor and I’m up. March 8th was just another day. I took a shower, ate some oatmeal, fixed my lunch, and was ready for another day at work. Later, I would wonder what I had worn for underwear and had I shaved my legs.

My husband, Herb, walked me out to my car. He placed my small blue and white lunch cooler on the back seat of my PT Cruiser. He leaned in and gave me a goodbye kiss. We both wished each other a good day at work and went our separate ways.

He headed north on Highway 69 and I turned south. It was really cold and dark that morning. I remember I heard the radio announcer say there could be ice on bridges and overpasses. I slowed down from the posted speed of 70 m.p.h. to 50 m.p.h. In my only other memory of that morning, I existed in a black fog from which I heard someone ask, “Are you all right.” “Yes. I’m okay,” I answered.

But I wasn’t okay. My car had hit the ice and rolled. Two men approached to help me. Instead they had just enough time to jump out of the way as a pickup truck slammed into my Cruiser, leaving everything except the driver’s seat a tangled mass of metal.

The First Responders from the local volunteer fire department arrived within minutes. An E.M.T. peered into the wreck and observed a knife embedded in the headrest. The paring knife I had packed in my lunch to slice an apple appeared to have pierced my skull. He reached over and found no pulse. The first responders contacted the McAlester Fire Department and requested the jaws-of-life be sent to the site to remove a dead body. When the McAlester Fire Department arrived, they removed me from the wreckage and laid my body on the ground so another E.M.T. could confirm my death. He found a pulse. A helicopter was called and air lifted me to Tulsa.

Up north as my husband greeted a co-worker, his friend relayed the information that he’d seen six car wrecks near Crowder; three on each side of the highway. One was really bad. He’d seen a helicopter leaving with a victim.

Herb called my office phone to make sure I had made it to work. No answer. He tried several more times before someone answered it and transferred him to the manager. The manager gave him the news he dreaded. One of my co-workers thought he’d seen my car on the side of the road at the scene of a wreck. He suggested Herb call the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. The Highway Patrol confirmed that I had been taken to a hospital in Tulsa. He immediately drove there.

When my husband arrived at the ICU, he hardly recognized the body in the bed. Bruised and swollen, I barely resembled the wife that kissed him goodbye only hours before. I remained in a coma. There was nothing he could do but pray to our Heavenly Father.

McAlester is typical of a small town. It only took a couple of hours and word spread. A friend of mine and our pastor were soon at Herb’s side. His youngest son drove from Dallas and spent the first week comforting his father. My husband rented a room available in the hospital and vowed to stay at my side. Weeks became months. Many prayer groups added my name to their roster. I experienced their warmth even in my semi-conscience state. I felt loved.

My first recollections of being in the hospital were in mid-May. I woke to find I wore a stiff brace to heal my broken neck. It rubbed my chin raw. Like a child, I tugged on it constantly. Massive head injuries caused my left eye to have double vision. It soon became apparent that I had lost the use of my left arm and hand. Two nerves that controlled the arm had been torn out of my spinal cord. Even in my hazy state I knew it would take more than a Band-Aide to recover.

I was ready to let the rehab begin. It seemed odd to have someone ask you if you wanted to “try” to walk. Try? I’ve been walking since I was a year old. Within two days the physical therapist was satisfied that I would be able to get around in a satisfactory manner.

Things did not go smoothly with the second therapist. She sat me at a table with a 350 piece puzzle and requested that I put it together. I reminded her I had double vision and couldn’t see the pieces clearly. After several attempts, I felt I was being asked to accomplish something that I was sure to fail. What was I supposed to learn from this exercise? On the fourth day she took me to a kitchen to bake a cake. She explained that I would not be able to do the things I used to do and needed to recognize my limitations. Normally, I strive to be the best patient in the hospital, today was an exception. “You’re wasting my time. I won’t be back tomorrow.” And I wasn’t. I embraced our conversation and used it as a challenge.

Three months after being admitted, I was released. That October nerve reassignment surgery on my left arm resulted in only a minimal change.

My therapist, Valerie, recognized I needed more therapy then my insurance would allow. She showed Herb how to do simple exercises that would tone and strengthen my arm muscles. Valerie also forced my stiff fingers to bend to see if I could regain their use. This was very painful. I never complained, but I held my breath and sat straight up in the chair as each finger was bent. Herb continued to exercise my arm and hand every day for two years. After his manual manipulation he attached me to a TENS machine (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator) for electronic muscle stimulation or EMS. He never complained. I often teased him that he loved torturing me. Through his efforts I have regained the use of my left hand. Although at times that hand seems to type in some East European language that uses very few vowels.

A year after the accident I went back to work and resumed writing. My first novel was published and received four major awards. Along the way I was reminded that we can’t let other people set our goals, define who we are, or determine our future. I come from stock that sailed the Atlantic to settle a colony. My ancestors traversed the mountains and prairies in Conestoga wagons. I am the mistress of this battered vessel. God is the keel and the wind in my sails.

This year is the eighth anniversary of my accident. I would not change one day. I have received limitless love. I can never express how it has filled my heart and warmed my soul. HE told me it was not my time. HE had wonderful plans ahead for me that I could not have foreseen, and HE’s not done yet. I’m a work in progress.

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