With 26 Comments, Posted under Health & Well Being, Pondering Life
Over time I’ve shared some of my health issues, and the journey to find answers, with you – the readers. I have received several e-mails asking if the doctors know what causes my chronic pain, TMJ, and the other symptoms I experience. Thought there is no defined cause of fibromyalgia, it is believed, in some cases, to be the result of physical trauma. In the early hours of August 26th, 2001 I was in a serious car accident. My Doctors and I believe this incident contributed to todays health issues.
I choose to see the glass half full because I’ve experienced a lot in my thus far short time on earth. Some of it terrible — much of it miraculous. I will share with you one experience that I draw on to remember the blessing it is to be alive.
The day began with a dream. Music was playing note for note; all of the instruments laired perfectly as Tori Amos sang “Northern Lad”. The dampness of early morning seeped into my bones; I was waking up. Images faded into sound, music overtaking the dream. The cold was intense but my subconscious agreed to wakeup after the song ended. The final notes swam through my mind then I opened my eyes into a nightmare.
There were no sounds, so smells, just blackness. I had feeling in my limbs but I was immobilized. My head was cloudy and my eyes wouldn’t focus. There was no fear, just a strange dizziness, like waking from surgery. I realized I was still dreaming, a dream within a dream. My eyes started to focus slightly. I saw the outline of a dashboard. I was sitting in a car, seatbelt holding me firmly in place. Attempting to reach across and unbuckle the belt with my left hand I couldn’t move my shoulder. My hand scraped against a wall of dirt, which had replaced the driver’s side window. I could feel clammy earth embedding under my nails. My vision remained blurry; it was impossible to see my surroundings. “I have to wakeup,” I said aloud. Using my right hand I unbuckled the seatbelt. This was the moment where nightmare became reality.
My body fell straight down. My head smashed against the roof while the weight of my legs fell forward, my bare knees grinding into the broken windshield; which had folded in on the roof. A pain shot through me like a dagger into my brain stem, I let out a loud gasp. I was definitely awake. This was not a dream nor had it been from the moment Tori stopped singing. A wave of disbelief washed over me, this was real but what happened? Where was I? Then the most horrifying question entered my mind: Who am I?
Rational thoughts kicked in. I took inventory of the situation: I’d been in an accident. I was alone. It was night. It was cold. I was wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and my shoes were gone. There was a lot of blood, but no major visible wounds. I had to figure out my name, where I was, and I had to get help. I crawled across glass pebbles into the back where there was more headroom. There was so much glass. Every window broken except the rear passenger. As I tried to brush the glass away to clear a place to sit small bits sliced my hands. A few slivers stabbed the palms of my hands and remained there until I clumsily pulled them out. At first my fingers stung as I tried to pull the slivers from my hands. Then all I could feel was the dizziness in my head.
“I have a name. I have to remember my name.” Reciting the letters of the alphabet aloud, for each letter I listed all the names I could think of, sure that when I got to my name my memory would return. After twenty minutes I reached the letter “P,” my name was Pamela. Yes. This was right. My name was Pamela. The next hurtle began with: “I’m from…” I listed places until I triumphed: I was from Toronto. I couldn’t see my surroundings from inside the overturned car but the absence of light, and deafening silence assured me this was not Toronto.
Remembering I had a cell phone, I felt around to find it. The green screen illuminated, there was power but no signal. I knew I had to get out of the car. The rear passenger door was the only one not blocked with dirt. I attempted to open it, pain shot through my left arm. I didn’t have the strength to push it open. Lying across the glass-carpeted roof I couldn’t feel the glass digging into me; shock was setting in. With all the strength I could muster I kicked the door with both feet, then crawled through the two-foot opening. I was in a ditch, twelve feet deep, still no signal on my phone; it was a slow climb up the embankment. Reaching the dirt road I saw miles of marshland in every direction.
I dialed 911. I told the operator my name, and that I was in a ditch. But I didn’t know where the ditch was. I told him I was from Toronto and I didn’t know how I got into the marsh, He told me I was somewhere in New Brunswick. Only calls from New Brunswick were routed to him. I had no idea why I would be alone in New Brunswick. I lived in Toronto. He asked me the last thing I remembered, a road sign – anything. I had a flash of memory: 12:01am, I went over the embankment. I heard crushing steel and shattering glass; the left front tire went in first, the roof caved in on the first rollover, I hit my head. Then I woke up. That’s all I remembered.
The operator was concerned, it was 4:18am; I had been unconscious for more than four hours. He continued to ask me questions: What’s your last name? Do you have family in New Brunswick? Are you on business? Do you know what direction you were headed? Among other things; all of which I couldn’t answer. My brain felt ten times larger than my skull, I was dizzy and nauseous. Then something else flashed: a sign. There was a sign. “Goose Lake,” my memory was returning. “I left the highway for gas, the sign said: Open 24 Hours, but the station was closed. The sign pointing back to the highway was wrong; it led into the marsh. A small animal ran in front of the car, I tried to avoid it, hitting gravel the shoulder I lost control, the car rolled.”
There were hundreds of miles of marshland; the operator said an ambulance had been dispatched but he wasn’t sure how long it would take to find me. I felt I was close to loosing consciousness. I told him there was a radio tower directly north of me, probably ten miles, and in the far distance to the east I saw the haze of city lights, maybe twenty-five miles away. Those were the only landmarks. I felt my knees buckling and told him I had to go back to the car, I was going to pass out and needed shelter. He pleaded with me to stay on the line. He said I shouldn’t go to sleep after a major head trauma. Covered in blood, I didn’t want to be on the side of the road for a bobcat to stumble upon. The car was safer and warmer; I was freezing. I said goodbye and slid down the embankment.
I dug through the glass, found my keys, and turned on the headlights; hoping they would be visible from the road. Leaning against the back of the drivers seat I was picking shards of glass form my legs and feet. I knew I had to stay awake but it was difficult. Pulling my denim jacket over my knees I sat tucked in a ball shivering, unable to get warm. At least a half-hour passed, finally the sound of an engine, relief, they’d found me, everything would be ok. Then to my horror the vehicle drove away. I hadn’t given up, but crossed over into a state of indifference, they will find me or they wont. I’ll start walking at sunrise. I knew I had done all I could.
After twenty minutes more the engine sound returned. A young man on his way home saw headlights and a demolished car. He drove to the nearest farmhouse for help. An old man’s voice was calling: hello. I answered. The man asked where the driver was. I explained I was alone. He asked again thinking this was impossible, the driver couldn’t have survived. I asked if they knew exactly where I was. The old man said he did, I tossed him the cell phone and told him to call 911 and give them directions. He looked at the phone like it was from outer space. He tossed it to the young man and said, “Do you know how it works?” He did not.
Are you kidding me? I thought.
“Just dial 911 and press send. They know I’m here. They’ve been looking for almost an hour.”
“They’re almost here,” he said. “The ambulance is only five minutes away.”
When the ambulance arrived the attendant asked where the driver was. I insisted I was alone. They loaded me onto a stretcher as the second ambulance attendant searched around the car for a second victim. By now I was shivering uncontrollably. I felt like I was having some sort of seizure. They covered me in warm blankets but I couldn’t stop shaking.
The attendant asked me lots of questions as he checked my vitals. I started to remember more. I was on my way to PEI to see my family. My mothers name was ________ (not for public consumption). They asked her phone number. I knew there was a 7 in it. That was all.
I was taken to Shediac Hospital in New Brunswick. I lay on a gurney in the hospital ER. Under the florescent lights my eyes burned. My head felt as if it would split in two. I had a massive concussion and level three whiplash: whatever that meant. I didn’t imagine a level one whiplash would feel any better. I was able to remember my mother’s last name. The RCMP found her number and called her. My family was on their way from PEI to retrieve me.
“Clinch your teeth and hold perfectly still.” The x-ray technician said as she lined up the blue laser-light cross hairs on my face. “Remember not to move.” She said as she left the room. The skull x-ray’s seemed to take forever. I had the sensation that my eyes might be launched out of their sockets each time I clenched my teeth. The white room, filled with stainless steel apparatus, glared into my retina under the blinding lights. The sterile medical smell was making me sick to my stomach. I was relieved to be wheeled back to my room in the ER.
I waited there, covered in a mixture of clay and dried blood. There was no one available to clean me up. Around 8:30am a doctor came in to read my x-rays. He was a tall confident man. “Rough night.” He stated. “Well, you’re lucky. Though there’s been significant head trauma there’s no skull fracture. It will probably take six months to a year for your brain to heal completely. Cuts and bruises are minor. You will be released into your families care when they arrive.”
“Thanks,” was all I could manage. I felt a combination of sick and stupid.
“Good thing you used to be local.” He said.
“Huh?” I said.
“They might not have found you for a long time if you hadn’t known you were
looking at a radio tower. Most big city people aren’t familiar with them.”
My sister arrived with her husband, my mom, and my three nephews. The boys were upset to see all of the blood. It was a bad scene. My mother looked like she might faint. I just wanted drugs for the pain and sleep. The doctor told my mother I had to be woken every hour for the next 24. After all the instructions were given I was released.
We drove to the wreckers to get what was left of my belongings from what was left of my car. With one look at the mangled car I knew why everyone was looking for a body. My worst day turned out to be my most blessed. I knew I had been granted a miracle.