I’ve recently read a couple of blog posts that inspired me to write about my worst Christmas ever. That was the Christmas that showed me that miracles do happen; if they didn’t, I wouldn’t be here to write this post.
I can’t believe it’s been 4 years since my Christmas Day car accident. When I look at pictures from that day, I still can’t believe it was real, or that Michael and I walked away with relatively minor injuries. I still deal with back, neck and knee pain issues due to the injuries that were caused, but at least we’re alive.
At the time, I was still married to my first husband. We were at his parents in MN. Our Christmas Day tradition was to eat egg bake and open presents at his parents, then head over to his grandparent’s house. Michael was a little over 2 at the time, and still needed his naps. Grace and her dad headed over to his Grandma’s house with his parents, while I stayed back to let Michael get his nap in.
After his nap, Michael and I drove the couple miles to Grandma Great’s house. It was a typical day in December – a little snowy and windy, but nothing horrible by MN standards. We were just over a block away, when I noticed a truck sliding sideways towards me – FAST. I remember thinking there was nowhere I could go to avoid it. The next thing I knew the truck was on top of my car, and I could see flames coming from under the hood.
Never being inside a car on fire before, I assumed it would be like in the movies, where the car explodes. I knew I had to get us out ASAP. I tried to open my door, but couldn’t. I tried the passenger door, and couldn’t. By some miracle, I had been able to crawl to the back seat, but still no luck in getting out. The truck was on my car in such an angle that every door was blocked and couldn’t open. I couldn’t even kick the windows out. I look at the pictures, and wonder how I even got into the back seat. I think an angel was holding the roof up long enough for me to get back there.
It was then I heard a voice coming from outside telling me to get out. Luckily, the impact had pushed the rear window in. I hadn’t even noticed until I heard the voice. A stranger (who I later found out was in the car the truck was trying to pass when he lost control, hopped the median, and hit me), had stopped, and was trying to help me out. I told him I had to get my baby out first. I unbuckled Michael, and handed him through the back window to this man who then helped me out.
Things after that become a bit blurry. I remember watching my car, with a trunk full of presents, engulf in flames. I remember sitting in someone’s vehicle until the ambulance came. I watched, sort of, while they pulled the other guy from the truck which was still on top of my car. I remember there being a lot of blood on my hand and Michael’s jacket. I somehow called my husband at his grandma’s, and he and his dad were there right away. I remember that when I tried to walk to the ambulance, I realized my knee hurt – BAD! My husband carried Michael to the ambulance while I hobbled there. I think the paramedic hugged me. I know she said 2 things to me. First, “You are the best Christmas present I’ve had all day. I didn’t expect to find anyone alive when I pulled up.” The second, after examining the other driver, was “I guarantee you he’s on something.”
On a side note, the other driver was arrested and charged with reckless driving. They thought he was also going to have a drunk driving on his charges, but his tox-screen came up negative. He must have been in as much shock as I was, which mimicked being drunk/high.
I sat in the ambulance, and watched my car burn up. It seemed like forever before the fire trucks came, though I’m sure it wasn’t really that long. This was the 2nd time in my life that things all seemed to go in slow motion. The other? I may blog about that another time. Eventually, with about 5 lbs of ice on my knee, we were off to the hospital. Michael was surprisingly calm. At least, that’s the way I remember it. He was confused, and talked about when “the truck was on top of Mommy’s blue car on fire” for years afterwards. He still remembers it somewhat.At the hospital, they took neck x-rays on both of us, and took x-rays of my knee. My kneecap was dislocated, and the knee was badly sprained, but had no fractures. I had some bruises from the seat belt, and pretty bad whiplash, and could barely turn my head the next day. I also had a cut on my nose, and a piece of glass in my thumb which wasn’t discovered until later. It is still in there, and only bothers me once in a great while. Michael also had some bruising from the straps on his car seat. He went to the chiropractor for 6 months or so (or weeks?) and was released from care. His injuries were fairly minor. Thank goodness for the 5 point harness!
That accident affected me in so many ways. It feels a little cliche to say that it changed the way I look at life, but it did. I realized life could end at any time. Mine should have that day. Why should I live my life being unhappy? I started to re-prioritize some things, and ultimately ended up divorced. It also confirmed my theory that everything happens for a reason. That year, I was supposed to take a hip hop dance class and a ballet class. Both classes were canceled due to low enrollment. I think the injuries would have been even more emotionally difficult for me if I had been in dance, because there was no way I could have continued that year. The next year, I signed up for both again. Ballet was excruciating on my knee during the few classes we had. Most people dropped the class, which was a blessing in disguise, because it too was canceled. I still danced hip hop the next 2 years. I wore a knee brace to most classes. My neck also caused me difficulty in dance at times. Some days, my knee or neck (or both) hurt so bad, I wondered if I should even continue. I pushed through the pain without over-doing it, and danced in both recitals both years.
To this day, my knee flares up when a storm is rolling in, or it’s really humid, or the weather changes drastically in a 24 hour period. I can almost predict when it’s going to snow, just by how my knee feels. I continue to see a chiropractor and receive massage therapy when I am able to. Unfortunately, the insurance company quit covering those bills about a year (or more) ago, so I deal with back pain and neck stiffness more often than I should.
I have struggled with mild depression since the accident. I try to not worry about small things anymore. I pick my battles with my children, and try to show them love every day. I want to be a positive influence on everyone I meet. Some days are easier than others.
I mentioned at the beginning of this post that two other blog posts gave me the courage to write this. I will tell you, that I was shaking as I re-lived the details and wrote the whole story out. I’m sure Tim Mitchell knows the feeling, since his post about his worst Christmas was one of them. The other post that got me thinking about that day was from Lauren Long in her post about how much winter sucks.