Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Car Crash and Aftermath

Many of you have been praying for us as we heal from our strains and bruises and figure out how to be a one-car family. I always said I wanted to be more minimalist...

Saturday was the last time we would hop in my husband's sporty Mazda 6 for a date. It was a mid-day date; we keep wanting to see more of our new town but ever weekend end up hunting down furniture or going back and forth between home and Home Depot. Our house is finally up and running, and while nothing is on the walls yet, there is at least a couch to sit on and no more boxes to trip over. So it was time to see some sights.

We went to the town history museum, our city being one of the oldest in the nation. It's crazy to live on the East Coast and have everything around you be so...old. In California, a house is old if it's 30 years old. We finished our guided tour and set out to find a good lunching restaurant. We were in a new part of town and decided to just drive and play it by ear. We stopped at one eatery that looked promising, but despite the "No Smoking" sign on the door, we could hardly breathe and we got out quickly.

We continued driving down one of the main highways, speed limit 40, approaching the intersection with another main highway. The light was green. We had music on. We crossed the intersection going straight. 

Someone from the intersecting highway didn't see their red light. There was a car in the right-hand lane who was stopped at the light, but this driver habitually changed lanes to go around him and sped into the intersection also going the 40 mph speed limit. Right in front of us.

I remember listening to the music and seeing a red car burst into the intersection from the right. I have a habit, whenever I'm the passenger and traffic gets stressful, of closing my eyes and focusing on relaxing my body. I was in an accident years ago and sometimes I get a little over-stressed. So when this guy suddenly appeared in front of us, I did what I always do: I closed my eyes.

I heard the music. I breathed and focused on relaxing. I vaguely remember the thump and a sensation of flying.

I opened my eyes. The music was gone. My ears were ringing. You know how in the movies after a car crash there's a high-pitched ringing and everything sounds very faint and faraway, and sound returns slowly? It was like that. Everything sounded distant and thin.

There was smoke. I think the first thing that went through my head was how tight my seatbelt was and the second thing was that there was smoke and smoke means fire, so we need to get out of the car right away. Then I remembered that we were in a car, on a road, and I need to look both ways before opening my car door. Wait--our car is stopped, but we're on a road: someone might hit us! Wait, someone did hit us. I remember now.

I hadn't moved my body yet. I think my subconscious faculties were determining that everything was okay. I heard my husband's voice as if through a long tube asking if I was okay. I wanted to say yes. I heard him ask again, a little closer. I told him I was okay. I wanted to tell him that there's smoke, there's a fire. I think I said, "we should to get out." He said, "good idea," as if we were picnicking and I had suggested playing frisbee. He can be very calm in a crisis.

I was surprisingly calm and collected. A different part of my brain had taken over and was going over the mental checklist, taking note of my injuries and laying out a step-by-step plan of what to do next. Unbuckle seatbelt. Pick up purse. Oh look, sunglasses--pick those up too. Open door. Get out. Walk to curb. Sit down.

I made sure hubby was there. He looked okay. There was something different about him--his glasses, I later realized; they'd been knocked off by the airbag but luckily were intact. He didn't look injured and it appeared that the calm-and-collected still had control over him. I glanced at our car quickly for signs of fire, but I saw that the smoke was dissipating from the interior and realized that it was a result of the mini-explosions that eject the airbags.

There were lots of people there. A man was getting pulled out of a red car. Once I was out of immediate danger, the calm and collected part went back into hibernation and shock took over and I started crying. I think the calm and collected me said something along the lines of, "Look, here are people who will take care of you. You can cry now."

I now assessed my injuries. I had a sharp pain on my hip that felt like an abrasion, probably from the seatbelt. My neck and shoulder hurt. My chest hurt. And my right-hand thumb and index finger were going numb. But I didn't appear to be dying or bleeding and none of the pain was insistently bad, so I sat down and waited for someone to tell me what to do.

The momentum of the two cars had spun us both so each car ended up facing the opposite direction it came from. We were in the left turn lane opposite where we had come from, perfectly aligned between the lines. We had scratched the front bumper of a BMW that was sitting there, but he was fine and his car damage was minor--especially compared to our front end, which was crumpled up into half its length.

The red car was up on the corner curb. Its trajectory had rammed it into the pedestrian walk sign, dislodging the apparatus and halting the car. His driver's side, where we had hit him, was pretty nasty. The side airbags had ejected, thankfully, but the front wheel was bent sideways and looked like it had been driven in towards the car by quite a few inches.

The paramedics arrived very quickly. Apparently we were quite close to the fire station. There were lots of witnesses, all being very helpful and making sure the three of us--hubby and me and the driver of the red car--were okay. The man from the red car looked okay, walking around and not bleeding, but like me he had suffered whiplash. They made him lie down and not move his neck. His pain was pretty severe, so they quickly wrapped him in a neck brace and took him to the hospital as soon as insurance information had been exchanged.

The accident had taken seconds, but it took over an hour for everything to be cleaned up, the tow trucks to come, us to get our stuff out of hubby's definitely-totaled car, etc. I had food in my purse to sustain us--remember, we hadn't had lunch--and I texted our family and best friends asking everyone for prayer. I put how well things turned out up to those prayers. Thank you to all.

Feeling returned to my right hand; I had my arm up when we crashed and my hand was punched pretty hard by the airbag, but there was no permanent damage. Adrenaline ebbed. My neck, back, and chest started to really hurt and hubby's knees started to swell. They had hit the dashboard from a combination of his own momentum and the dash being crunched towards us a few inches. We realized we should probably get ourselves to a hospital.

We called the three friends we have made here so far, but unfortunately neither picked up. We took a cab home, and when the cabby found out what had happened to us, he didn't charge us and gave us his blessing for good health.

We drove my car, now our only car, to the ER where they were, mercifully, the antithesis of busy. It was the best ER experience I've ever had. All the nurses and technicians were kind, understanding, and cheerful. I got my x-rays done within 30 minutes of walking in the door, with hubby's soon after.

The verdict was strained muscles in my back and neck and a bruised rib from the seatbelt. They seemed to expect the chest and hip injuries; I guess seatbelts usually cause some damage. Still, better that than death by windshield.

Hubby's knees were bruised and strained, but they were pretty sure they were fine. He's had knee surgery before, so the scar tissue made it hard to be sure, and they wanted him to follow up with an orthopedic doc just in case. For my neck and back, they prescribed three powerful drugs that have made me woozy and tired.

That was Saturday. The last few days have been a drugged blur, albeit a very long one. It feels like weeks have gone by. We have a thousand praises, most importantly that what could have been a fatal accident killed no one, and that hubs and I are not permanently injured. With the current government shutdown, hubby has been working at home, which is perfect for a man who isn't supposed to walk too much on his swollen knees. It also means he's been able to keep an eye on me. And last of all, if any car had to be totaled, we're glad it was the decade-old one and not my 2-year-old Fit that gets fantastic gas mileage.

I have been mostly tired, and thus sleeping around fifteen hours a day. I was glad I'd scheduled a post to come out over the weekend because I honestly haven't been able to write anything. I can't even read very much before nodding off. I tried to write the other day and came out with something nonsensical. Sometimes I'm lucid and sometimes I'm not. And don't ask me what movies we've watched, because I can't remember. I think one had monsters in it. But on the plus side, I'm not in pain!

Please continue to pray with us that the other driver is okay. Pray that hubby and I have a fast recovery and that we're lucid enough to deal with all the insurance issues. Praise God that since we're not at fault, medical expenses et cetera will be paid by the other guy's insurance--now, at a time where we wouldn't have had the money for it. Amen!

I hope you're not scared to go out and drive several tons of potentially lethal metal. I am so grateful for how well cars are made today, with so many safety features like seatbelts and airbags and crumple zones. It's just a reminder that we can do stuff to eliminate risk and make things safer for ourselves, and we would be wise to do so; but that, at the same time, we are not in control of our ultimate fate.