All Shook Up

July 1, 2006 at 11:35 am (Uncategorized)

I have decided that Jay and I must have inadvertently desecrated an ancient holy site when we were kayaking and camping on deserted islands in Palau.  Or perhaps we were naughty in a past life and are now reaping the karmic payback.  Or maybe there’s been a personal storm cloud perched above our heads for the past couple of years, reversing the ions in the air around us.  Who knows, but something is definitely going on.

Yesterday my Mom, Andrew and I were making the four hour drive from my house in Helena to my parents’ ranch.   Less than ten miles from our final destination, my Mom lost control of the pickup truck.  The vehicle flipped.  For the most part, we are fine.  Because Andrew’s car seat was hooked into the rear seatbelt, I was unbuckled in the back seat next to Andrew, who fared the best of us since he was snugly secured in his safety seat.  However, I got thrown all around the inside of the truck and am fairly banged and bruised, and my mom is covered with glass cuts and badly hurt her neck. 

It took us a while to figure out how to open one of the jammed doors to get out.  Andrew was crying hysterically and broken glass was scattered everywhere.  We couldn’t find our cell phones; I thought my arm was broken (which it’s not) and that Andrew was seriously hurt (he’s not).  We located a phone in the jumble of the car and called 911.  My parents live on a poorly maintained gravel road far outside a small town, so I was afraid we would be stuck for a while.  The sun was beating down on the crumpled truck.  One of the side mirrors was about twenty feet away from the truck.  The hot dogs we had just picked up at the store were even farther away, half buried in the dusty field.

It ended up only taking a few minutes for the ambulance to show up.  It was followed by the fire engine.  “Oh my Gooooood,” Andrew screamed in delight.  It’s not every day a boy gets to see a fire engine appear with its lights flashing and its siren blaring.  The medics strapped Andrew onto a trauma board.  He was so small lying there, and terrified too.  But once we were settled into the ambulance he started chattering to the medic, especially after she gave him a stuffed elephant, which he christened Skinny.  They wanted to strap me to a board along with my Mom and Andrew, but at that point, I felt no pain. I was fueled by adrenaline and fear and I desperately needed to be upright holding my son’s hand.  It wasn’t until we arrived at the hospital and the doctor said that Andrew was fine that I began to notice that I couldn’t move my neck, that my hips were aching, and my arm very swollen. Jay is in North Carolina attending his brother’s wedding.  Andrew and I had stayed behind in Montana because I was still feeling the effects of pneumonia and Andrew had caught a bug of his own.  Calling my husband to say that we were just in a fairly serious accident—“but, don’t worry, I think we’re alright”—was one of the more difficult tasks of the day.  I could hear him dissolving in panic three thousand miles away, helpless to do anything but worry and call. 

Although I like to joke about the rotten luck we’ve been having—my sarcoidosis with its attendant dramas, floods in our house, my frequent secondary illnesses, Jay’s car accident—the truth is that we are very lucky.  My mom had the presence of mind to strap my enormous suitcase down, so that it didn’t go tumbling on Andrew’s head when the truck was upside down.  Earlier in the drive, I had noticed that Andrew wasn’t strapped in properly and had fixed it, so that the seat did its job and held him in place. 

Part of living with a chronic illness means that Jay and I often feel like we are perched on the ledge of an abyss.  We deal with mundane unpleasantness on a fairly regular basis.  But we also lurch from health crisis to health crisis.  Both the daily grind of fatigue and illness, along with the surges of panic when my condition rears up and does something scary, saps our strength.  So when something terrible like yesterday’s accident happens, our initial response is to think, “Not again!  Enough already.”  It’s as if we have lost our resilience.  Something traumatic happens, and we feel as if we will snap instead of sway.  But the reality is that we are fairly flexible after all.  I was able to focus on keeping Andrew calm; I talked to Jay and convinced him not to hire a private helicopter to take him home.  My Mom and I took ibuprofen and played with Andrew.   Already I can feel my body mending. 

It’s odd that just in my last blog entry I was pondering the frightening fragility of our lives—how everything changes in one single moment jutting up from ordinary events.  The gravel caused my Mom’s tires to skitter—a tiny little shift from the routine—and that set into motion a series of occurrences that could have changed everything instantly.  We are fortunate that nothing has really changed, save for a wrecked truck and some bad bruises and wrenched ligaments.  We are lucky.  Shaken, but lucky. 

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