I think this is one of the posts I’ve been dreading writing about and dealing with the most, but I suppose it’s all about perspective. Right now I am making a daily choice to look at what I’ve accomplished and not what I’ve lost. There’s not much I can say about what I remember very early on after my accident because I remember very little in regards to what all actually happened so a lot of what I write about will be things that have been told to me by others. I may not remember every little thing that happened to me in the hospital, but I do remember a constant feeling of physical pain and mental anguish. I think I’m getting ahead of myself, though. I guess before I get into how I was feeling, I should probably tell you what all was wrong with me. As I’ve stated previously, here, my main injury was internal decapitation or AOD.
My neurosurgeon has mentioned time and time again that this is an “unsurvivable injury” (his words). When I asked for his professional opinion/explanation on how I am still alive (and neurologically intact!), he shrugged and literally said, “I have no idea.” So obviously, the AOD was the main, pressing injury and what will get talked about more than anything. That wasn’t my only injury, though. Are you ready? *deep breath*
- Injured both carotid arteries
- Injured both vetebral arteries
- Fractured C1 as well as the internal decapitation
- Hemorrhage in neck, both axilla, and left anterior chest
- Ligament damage in my neck
- Broken 2nd rib on the front
- Broken 3rd, 4th, and 5th ribs on the back
- Brachial plexus injury (major nerve branch in your arm)
- Major avulsion on my left arm
- Multiple bruises on both lungs
- Bleeding spleen, pancreas, and liver
- Bruising on both adrenal glands
- L3, L4, and L5 transverse process fractures
- Right tibial plateau fracture (broken leg in a very bad place)
As you can see I was just a little busted up, and it would get even worse than this over the next couple of weeks. It’s crazy for me to look at this list knowing how many of these injuries could have been fatal all on their own, but I somehow managed to survive all of them. I think it’s safe to say that if I was a cat then I’d be on my ninth life!
The only memory I have in the ER is I think right before I was intubated (had a breathing tube inserted). I remember a man behind my head giving out orders and I remember hearing people running around and the sound of supplies being strewn around. I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to chat with one of my ER nurses through Facebook to fill in some of what I can’t remember. Instead of re-typing what she said, I’ll just insert the image here because I think it’s incredibly sweet.
Apparently, I have a hidden talent, and that is talking over an ET tube 😅. My husband said that when he finally got to see me, I was already intubated and was saying “I’m sorry. I’m sorry” over and over. He also said that he made the nurses cry when they went to kick him out and he looked down at me and said “I’m not leaving until I see those pretty blue eyes one more time.” He and the nurses knew that this was probably the last time he would see me alive; I was about to have surgery and was not given very good odds of making it through.
My husband is usually very stoic, but it is gut-wrenching for me to listen to him recount the experiences he and my family had during the first couple of days. When I watch him talk about this, I can see the pain in his eyes and hear the emotional trauma in his voice. I know it’s the same for the rest of my family that was there as well. When I hear about my dad huddled up by himself crying, and my sister laying in her husband’s lap crying it is almost physically painful for me to think about. I thought what I went through was pretty traumatic and awful, but when I listen to their experiences, I have to wonder which side is worse. I can’t imagine seeing my spouse, or worse, my child in that state- hoping beyond hope they live, but knowing they’d probably die. The best they could hope for, really, was that I lived as a lifelong quadriplegic.
Sometime after Lee got to briefly see me in the ER, I was taken for surgery. They had already put me in a halo which is this horrible medieval device that is fixated with screws in your skull that keeps your head completely immobilized. I had the type of injury that just one slight wrong movement of my head would have killed me or paralyzed me from the neck down instantly. Dr. Godzik (my neurosurgeon) told Lee at some point that halos are extremely barbaric and not used much anymore and usually no longer than 48 hours at a time. I was in mine for six weeks and he was right! It was BARBARIC! But necessary, unfortunately. Back to the main story though- ha! The surgery I had to have was to basically fuse my head back to my spine. They did this with two titanium rods that are screwed into the base of my skull and the vertebrae in my neck below the injury. I can remember describing my neck for weeks afterwards as feeling like I had a tree trunk or a fence post shoved in the base of my skull- not fun! I have no idea how long I was in surgery for, but I was told it was quite difficult. Dr. Godzik said that when he would try to put everything back together, my vital signs would take a dive and it was too risky to continue, so he had to fuse me the best he could and rebuild my dura somehow. (I have no idea how that is done, but I will have to ask him about that one day!).
I definitely think it’s for the best that my memories are so fuzzy, but it does make writing about it difficult. I will have to consult with some people when I decide to write a book… I honestly don’t know if I’m being sarcastic or not when I say I’m going to write a book! *nervous laughter* I think a book written by my husband would be MUCH more entertaining though! Apparently, I could get a little wild and had a knack for cussing out surgeons. And nurse practitioners. And anyone that tried to suction me. Oops 😬. I could be quite the handful at times, but I’m glad I have this outlet to try to express how I was feeling because I wasn’t able to do it at the time. What you have to understand about my frustration early on was that I was completely immobilized with that halo that was super painful, and I was on a ventilator, but I was conscious a lot of the time. So I was aware of what was going on, in extreme pain, and unable to communicate. It’s really a perfect storm, isn’t it? I actually had a new memory the other night laying in the bed with my husband talking about things. I can remember getting SO frustrated that I wanted to scream, but I couldn’t even do that. Literally the only thing I had control over was my feet, and I remember pitching tantrums in my bed like a toddler. I would have all this frustration pent up, but was without an outlet to vocalize anything so in an act of sheer desperation I would just kick my feet in the bed as hard and fast as I could (with a badly broken leg, no less). I don’t remember this, but my husband said I threw a lot of things too; markers were a personal favorite. He said I threw one at him one time and gave him a nice, big black dot right between the eyes. Again… oops 😬
Despite me acting like a crazed lunatic at times, my prognosis was getting better since I was somehow neurologically intact. Unfortunately, though, I soon tried to die again, and for me, the events that followed were much more traumatic than the day of my wreck.