Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Background:

It was the dawn of summer 2010. I was in Canada working with the Canadian Parliament for resume experience and to improve my study of French. I was in Ottawa, twelve hours from home, for the first five weeks of summer. In the middle of these five weeks was my birthday - my 21st birthday. Admittedly anticlimactic since in Canada I was already legally permitted to drink, my boyfriend and I planned a romantic weekend in Toronto to celebrate my birthday. I'd never been to Toronto before, and we had made reservations to eat dinner in the CN Tower. It would be a five hour drive for each of us; Toronto was the halfway point.

The Thursday before my birthday I packed up my things and set off for Toronto. I was driving really slowly and safely (my mom warned me that foreign cars are easy targets for tickets from cops), and in Ontario there's a law that you can't talk on the cell phone while driving, so I wasn't even using my phone at all. I was really excited to see my boyfriend and to celebrate my birthday. I was wearing really cute clothes.

Two hours into the drive, around 2:30 in the afternoon, my car drifted onto the shoulder, into the gravel. I swerved to get off the gravel and ended up in the other lane. I jerked the wheel back in an attempt to straighten out, but the cruise control over-corrected. I dove into the grassy, downward median, my car rolling four or five times until it reached the bottom. The front window was shattered; the driver's side window was gone; my left leg was sticking out of where the window had been; my right leg was bent up against the steering wheel. I wasn't hurt, at least I didn't feel hurt. I crashed my car. I felt it roll over. I was alone. I didn't try to move.

A woman came. She stood by the open window and called the police for me. By the time the police arrived I realized that I was hurt, not because my body was aching, but because my right ankle on the steering wheel had swollen up greatly. And because the police reached in to wipe the blood off of me. I begged them to call my boyfriend, call my family. It took them 45 minutes to get me out of the car.

I went to a hospital nearby. They looked at me, cut off my cute clothes, and took some preliminary x-rays. They determined my injuries were too great and I needed to be transferred to a hospital an hour away. Before I was moved, I was able to talk to my family on the phone. I apologized to my mom for crashing my car. This was several hours after the original incident.

After an hour-long hospital ride, I arrived at a teaching hospital elsewhere in Ontario. By the time I got there, I could tell my body was hurt. My left arm had ached throughout the ambulance ride. I was weak and shaking. I wanted water, but they said I would be in surgery later and refused. At the hospital they took an MRI of my entire body. It took them a few tries since my body was shaking so badly. After the MRI and some extra x-rays, the ER doctors informed me that I had a collapsed lung, that they needed to insert a chest tube into me immediately since my other lung was badly bruised and very weak. They helped me roll over and punctured my side. They drilled the tube into me, between my ribs and into my lung. It was painful and I didn't understand why I needed it done. The stitches afterward were too tight; they had to take them out and redo them on the table.

My boyfriend arrived at the hospital and was allowed to see me right after the lung procedure. It was after 9:00 pm. I was flat on the table, crying. It was so wonderful to see him, to have him with me. He kissed me and held my hand. He stayed by me until I was transferred for surgery soon afterward.

The surgeon set my bones. I had a shattered humerus in my left arm, a compound fracture of my fibula in my right leg (where the bone left the skin and popped back in), a shattered tibia in my right leg, and a completely destroyed right knee. I woke up from surgery hours later with large casts on my two injured limbs. I couldn't move. My dad was there when I woke up. Another relief.

The next few days were spent in a lethargic stupor. My limbs were too heavy and too hurtful to move. I was on a morphine pump. I had a catheter. I laid there until my birthday, which I spent on the surgery table for six hours. When I came out, my casts were filled with broken bones and metal plates attempting to hold them together.

I have four metal plates and countless pins and screws. The lower half of my right leg is now almost entirely metal. The metal was needed not only to hold the bones in place, but also to rebuild my knee, which they had to create out of bone graft and some type of medical cement. I spent the next two weeks in the hospital in Canada experiencing various phenomenon of my healing body: having my hair brushed for the first time since the accident (rocks and grass and leaves fell out), removing the chest tube from my side and being able to move without pain, sitting up for the first time, being in control of my bladder for the first time, getting out of bed and sitting in a chair for the first time, feeling the water from the shower for the first time...

After two weeks I was flown home on a medical plane. I spent a week in a rehab centre where my casts were replaced with braces, where I learned how to transfer and use a wheelchair, where I practiced stretching my arm until I was able to put my own hair in a pony tail.

It's been over three months since the accident. I spent the rest of the summer at my house with my family and my boyfriend, who helped me through this struggle and tragic time. I am expecting a full recovery from my car accident. In the meantime, I have this blog to track my progress.

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