Sunday, March 6, 2011

Anniversary: Trying to Remember the Day that Changed My Life

Good Sunday everyone!  I warn you this is a very long entry.  I hope you will read it anyway.

Today is a peculiar anniversary for me.  It is the sixth anniversary of what I call "My Big Accident."  It was indeed a big accident. It changed my life.

March 6, 2005 seems to have been a cosmic kick off day for the beginning of a new phase of  life.  From that day to this day, it's never been the same.  I had no idea I was about to be in for so much radical change in such a short period of time.  It's still pretty mind boggling.

On Sunday, March 6, 2005, I drove to the boarding barn where I had Tar.  I groomed him to ride.  He was being a really pushy bugger that day.  He gave me a hard time in the barn.

I vaguely remember riding him out of the barn.  I vaguely remember him being fussy. I know I was planning to take him trail riding on their massive grounds. I don't remember anything else from that afternoon.

I don't remember getting on the trail.  I don't remember the accident.  I don't remember being found.  I don't remember being taken to the local hospital's urgent care center.

I don't remember the names or faces of the young ladies who found me and took me for medical help.  I am so grateful for them. They are among the people who saved my life that day. If I'd passed out unnoticed in the field, where they found me stumbling out of the woods with my head bleeding, it's safe to say things would have turned out differently for me.

As to my injuries, I had a Level 3 Concussion, a dislocated jaw, a hematoma the size on my hand on the back of my head, a broken rib, a crushed cranial nerve which caused permanent nerve damage to the right side of my face, and nerve damage to my right hip, that thankfully, did not turn out to be permanent. The crushed cranial nerve caused my eyes to blink separately for months. The back of my right arm was black in one continuous bruise.  I must have thrown it over my mouth and chin because that part of my face escaped damage.

From the scar tissue, it seems my point of impact, with what was likely a tree, was about 1/4 inch below my right temple at the top of my cheek bone.  Had I hit a 1/4 inch higher, on my temple, I would have been dead.

My mother said when she first saw me at the urgent care, half of my face was covered in dirt, the other half in blood.  What I didn't know, until I saw myself in a mirror later, is the right side of my face looked like I'd been drug across asphalt and my right eye was nearly swollen shut.

I have a few flashes of memory from the urgent care center, but not much. I have an extremely vague memory of telling the urgent care staff-- while I was laid out in some sort of treatment room on what seemed like an operating table-- to call a long time family friend, Will. I said he would know my parents' new phone number.  Apparently I couldn't remember it. Will happens to be Chief of Surgery for our local hospital. That got their attention!

What about my husband?  Why didn't they call him?  They did.  He could not be found that afternoon. What I found out a year later, almost to the day, made his MIA status that afternoon make sense.

I know from being told later, that Will was paged by the hospital.  He and his wife, Diane, were at their daughter's school concert.  The high school was not far away.  Apparently Diane came immediately to the urgent care.

My parents met her as they were all coming in the door.  I have no idea who finally found my parents' number and called them.  I have no idea what my parents and Diane said to each other when they got there.  I have no idea who finally found my husband or when he arrived.  I only remember him being at the hospital later that night. He did not stay with me in the hospital, my mother did.

I remember being on an x-ray table.  I remember hearing someone tell the x-ray tech there was someone to see me.  He used an expletive.  I was in and out of consciousness.  I'm sure he thought I never heard him swear.  I have an image of my parents' and Diane's faces over me.  I don't know what they said.  I don't remember anything else from x-ray.

I remember being back in the room that seemed like an operating room.  The couple who owned the boarding barn  and my parents were there.  I'd been cut out of my clothes.  I remember a sense of embarrassment that these virtual strangers were there to see me in such a vulnerable position.  I don't remember having on a hospital gown.  I think I was just covered with a sheet, though I am not sure.  I just remember not wanting the barn owners there.

According to my mother, I woke-up saying Tar was a good horse and it wasn't his fault.  I imagine the barn owners were telling my parents I needed to get rid of him.  They, nor their trainer, liked Tar.  I must have been protesting as best as I could in my state.

My mother told me later I kept saying I was sorry, over and over again. I must have been sorry for scaring them, for causing so much trouble. I don't remember any of it.

I remember being put in the CT Scanner, back out into a hallway, an IV needle painfully inserted in my right arm.  It felt like a big dull steel straw going in. It hurt.

I don't remember being loaded into the ambulance or taken to the hospital or being wheeled on a gurney to my hospital room or being lifted into the bed.

My next flash of memory is Will being at the hospital and examining me.  He talked to me.  He asked me to squeeze his hands with both of my hands. When I did he said, "Good grip." That's all I remember.  Our long time family friend had become my attending physician.  I could not have asked for a better one.  Thank you, Will.

There are a few less dramatic memories from the hospital.  I know I didn't want to see anyone.  I know I wanted my parents and my husband to tell everyone I was fine.  That was probably a dumb idea.

But, dumb ideas are what you get from someone with a Level 3 concussion!  I never received a get well card or flowers from anyone.  Why? Because I had insisted that everyone be told I was fine. 

When I finally returned to work, it seems my colleagues all believed I had been just fine, but had chosen to take two months off from work.  Of course, my eyes were still blinking separately.  That probably should have been a clue to my true condition.

I went home after three days in the hospital for eight weeks of bed rest. Spot met me at the door.  I'd only had him for three weeks.

He never left my side.  He guarded me for those eight weeks.  Then, he never stopped guarding me.  That was the beginning of Spot going from a loving dog, to my totally devoted, constant companion and guardian.  Thank God for Spot.  I had no idea how much I was going to need him over the next year and the years to follow.

My husband did not stay home with me, my mother did.  She took time off from being Chief Operating Officer for a large health care company to take care of me. My husband continued to go to work.

In fact, I remember him telling me, when I was having trouble taking medication the first or second morning I was home, "I don't have time for this shit." Yes, folks, that's what he said to me.  Turns out his mistress was at the office.

I found out a year later, almost to the day of my accident.  No wonder he was so anxious to get back to work.  No wonder no one could find him the afternoon of the accident.  He had probably been with her.  He knew I'd gone riding.  I'd be gone for hours.  I was almost gone forever.

After two months of bed rest, I slowly went back to work a few hours a day.  The rest of the story I told you in Tale of a Mischievous Horse.  Remember, it was about moving Tar to this shabby little farm and how my mother talked me into buying it.  That's how I ended-up with my farm, which is no longer shabby, but completely renovated.

As I said in the beginning of this entry, my life was never the same after March 6, 2005.  In the year that followed I went through some of the most dramatic changes only a year.  I quit my job.  I bought the farm with my mother.

Two weeks after the purchase, my endocrinologist, who'd finally figured out how to make my body work properly, died of an anurism.  That was the beginning of a roller coaster ride through physical hell. I am finally on the upswing again.

In the interim, five well meaning physicians changed my endocrine treatment regimen five different times.  There was no reason.  It had been working.  But, their decisions reduced me to one very ill person. In the meantime, I was trying to start a new business with a body that was simply not up to it.  I did it anyway.

Five weeks after the purchase of the farm and ten months post-accident, my husband walked out.  Two months later, one year almost to the day of the first anniversary of the accident, I found out about his mistress at work.  I began divorce proceedings to end our 20 year relationship and 17 year marriage.

During the same year, I almost lost Tar to a severe colic which displaced his colon.  He was at the nearest veterinary school of medicine for 11 days. Without my parents' support, I would not have been able to afford the treatment and surgery that saved Tar's life.

It had been less than three months since the accident when Tar got sick.  I don't think my parents could bear to tell me to put Tar to sleep. It was too close to the time they almost lost me.  So, they paid to save him instead.

As we were hauling Tar to the vet school, Doc's office called to tell me Spot had heart worms.  I told them to do whatever they had to do to save him.  I'd only had Spot a short while at the time.  So, he likely had heart worms when he was given to me.

Of course, my life not being simple, Spot had a negative reaction to the treatment and developed an embolism in his lung.  He had to go through more treatment.  He survived, as you know, from all of the stories about him.

March 6, 2005 to March 6, 2006 was at once, the best and worst year of my life.  The dramatic events of that year freed me from circumstances that had needed to change for a long time.  I had just been too involved to see how badly things needed to change.  Looking back six years, I see what needed to happen.  Looking back six years, I see I was being pointed in this very new direction, into a very different life.

I have never believed it was an accident that I survived, was found and taken to medical care.  I absolutely believe there was Divine intervention.  There's simply no other explanation. Even Will, my physician, looks at me and says,"There was an angel on your shoulder that day."

Once I was in the hospital, I couldn't walk three feet from the bed to the bathroom alone.  It was too painful because of my hip and rib injuries.  But, the afternoon of March 6, 2005, I walked, or stumbled as I was told later, over 100 yards to the field where those young ladies found me.  I don't believe I did that under my own power.

I am not a religious person. I am deeply spiritual, but not religious.  But, I believe with my whole heart that God or an angel or by whatever means, a force larger than me, picked me up and escorted me out of those woods.  It was not my destiny to die that day.

It was my destiny that day to end up here. It was meant for me to have a new life.  It was meant for me to have a very different life.  Perhaps God had to hit me in the head with a tree to wake me up so I could see it?  I don't know.

I do know that there hasn't been a dull moment since March 6, 2005.  There has been sadness, illness, change, happiness, relief and every thing in between, but it has never been dull.  It is a peculiar anniversary for me, as I said in the beginning.

It is an odd gaze back at all that I've told you and everything I don't remember. It is gazing into the depths of what is not there and trying to remember what does not exist. I am trying to remember what amnesia has hidden away. That is an impossible task. Yet, I do it. 

I do it every year.  Then, I am thankful I am alive.  I am thankful I am relatively unscathed, as unbelievable as it is, from my injuries that day.

I still have those clothes I was cut out of.  The blood stains are still on the tee shirt.  It is blood that ran down from my head on to my shoulder.  There's a lot of it.  I remember none of how it got there.  It is strange to see it and not remember it.

I keep those clothes and the hospital bracelet in a drawer close by.  It helps me to have some tangible proof that it all happened--this massive event that sent my life spinning out of control and back again.

Now, I'm going to do what I do every year on this peculiar anniversary.  I drink champagne with someone who matters to me.  It's been different people over these six years, but today it will be with Bart.  I drink champagne to celebrate that I am, indeed, alive, although deeply changed.  I drink champagne with someone who is glad I am alive, too.  It's sweeter that way.

Have a beautiful Sunday.  You never know where life will take you.  But, in my case, life brought me here to this farm.  It brought me to many stories. It brought me to tell you of my journey.  I hope you enjoy hearing about it as we go along.  Thank you for reading.

P.S. Yes, I did ride Tar again.  In fact, I rode him on the day Will medically cleared me to ride.  I was determined not to be afraid to ride.  It's been my life long passion.  I wasn't willing to give it up.  I didn't.

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