It was a hot sunny afternoon on August 5th, I had just left summer classes and was on my way home. I tucked my feet into the same familiar steel toe clips and unlike most days forgot to wear my bike helmet. I had a 12 mile ride ahead of me. Long distance cycling was my talent and I was particularly careful to wear a helmet most days. But for some reason I forgot it.
I was almost two blocks from my destination; riding down a hill on a four lane road. There were no sidewalks but I was on the emergency lane on the side of the road. I wasn't alarmed, I didn't notice any danger until it was too late. I saw the metal bumper about six inches from my back tire. I don''t remember anything till I hit the ground.
Apparently I was hit by a drunk driver at 3 in the afternoon. He wasn't just drunk! He was point 52 (.52%)! That's over five times the legal limit folks. Three patrol cars were following him. They said they saw me and waited to turn on their lights till he passed me out of concern that he would have swerved to the right to get off the road in response to their signals. But this guy swerved to the right and hit me anyway; then tried to run for it.
Witnesses said that I almost went under the front right tire of the truck, but that I some how pulled myself off the speeding truck. When I hit the ground some 300 feet away; I hit with such force that the clothes ripped from my body! I don't recall this, but I did get to see those clothes later; they were pretty bloody and torn up.
I was lying face down on the ground unable to move. A police officer on the scene tried to talk to me to keep me awake. "Where do you live? Who is your next of kin?" he asked. I told him that my closest relative was my fiance. He recognized her last name and asked if she was related to a man he knew. (I won't reveal her family's name in this document.) It seemed we were there a while. The warm pavement started pooling with my salty blood.
The ambulance arrived. They had difficulty putting me on a stretcher. They said that they didn't know how to lay me due to so many fractures of my body. I heard them rattle off those injuries on the radio. Five multiple fractures of my left femur, three of my right hip, massive internal bleeding... it was at that point that I became aware of the fractures and the pain. I screamed in agony and passed out from the pain.
I woke up in Good Samaritan Hospital. I had tubes going down my throat and nose. I had all these machines connected to me. My arms had so many lines going into them it looked like spaghetti. I kept screaming inside my head that I was thirsty. But no one could hear me because they had me on a drug called "Pavulon". (For those who don't know; Pavulon is used to paralyze your body so you can't move.) I was only able to move my eyelids and fingertips. My fiance was in the room. I slipped in and out of consciousness. My fiance came up with an idea how to communicate with me. She would go through the alphabet and when she hit the right letter, I would blink. She would write that letter down on a pad. She then told the nurse that I was thirsty. The nurse told her that I could not have any water because the reason I was thirsty had to do with the internal bleeding and I would drown in my own liquid. My fiance spooned chips of ice to my lips. It felt so nice and quenched the pain somewhat, but I had difficulty swallowing it due to the tubes if I remember correctly.
Three days later, the doctor called my fiance and told her that I was not expected to make it through the night and that she better call my family and let them know of my accident. She had already done this but they told her to keep them posted of my condition since they lived many miles away. She notified my parents of my condition and they said they would try to make it that night. She also called my pastor and my most trusted friend to visit and give last rites.
My mother ran in the room screaming, "My baby! My baby!" Apparently she was specifically instructed to be self controlled because the staff did not want me to be tipped off about my condition. But, it was then that I knew something was wrong. My parents would never have made the trip here if they didn't think something was seriously wrong.
In the wee hours of the morning I woke from my slumber. I couldn't breathe! No one was in the room! I tried to push a button on my bed to alert them but my arms would not move! I saw a pool of blood flow from my chest to the bed to the floor! What was happening? Just before I passed out I saw the nurses rush in.
They told me months later that my body rejected the respirator tubes. They said that my lungs were 92% filled with pulmonary emboli. (Bone marrow was being captured in the small capillaries of my lungs from all the fractures) I was told that I was receiving the maximum amount of oxygen at the time and the tubes came up. They said that the reason they came into the room was that my heart had stopped and it set off an alarm at the nurses station. They could not understand how it was that I was able to "see" them after my heart had stopped. This was a mystery to me as well.
Outside in the waiting room, my fiance prayed... she saw all the commotion and wanted to know what was happening... but no one would tell her anything. A few minutes later a doctor came out and told her that I had died. She told me later that she bowed her head and gave me to God to do as he wished.
When I went under I dreamed a dream...only, it was real! I'll describe what death feels like. It feels like holding your breath underwater too long. You intensely struggle to surface to gasp for air. But the difference is that in death, your body doesn't move like your mind tells it to. You scream for help mentally but your lips do not move. I think the fear was the worse part. The few moments without oxygen feels like forever. But then you fade out and then it's like going to sleep.
I dreamed I was going through a large tunnel. It was miles wide and long with a misty white light at the end. I felt so at peace there, I didn't want to leave. I was not alone, someone was there with me. It was dark but I was not afraid. We spoke to each other. Not with lips and speech, it was like telepathy. We could understand what each was thinking and answer spontaneously. I was asked a question. "Are you ready to die now?" I hesitated. I was able to see my fiance crying in the waiting room. I immediately responded, "No! She needs me!" And then I woke up!
I was clinically dead three times while comatose per the docs. Clinical death is not the same as actual death. It's when the monitors are no longer able to detect brainwaves or heart activity. Yet brain waves came and went. The day before I woke up, I could hear muffled voices. I felt my fiance's hand on mine. I felt a cool liquid on my head.
I woke up the next day. A coma is like going to sleep at night real tired and then waking up the next morning wondering how time passed so quickly. I didn't believe at first I was out for so long. I wanted to get out of bed and go home. There is a twist in this story. That cool liquid I felt was my pastor anointing my head with oil for last rites. My fiance swears that I woke up shortly after they left. (There were four present.) It startled some of the staff and spooked my roommate; whom I had the privilege of getting to know later on.
A nurse was cleaning up the mess in my room. She saw my brainwaves start back up. She called for assistance. This time the staff revived me. The reason they failed the last time was that they had to clear all the blood from my lungs first and were not able to help me till this time... but this time they got me to breathe again. Gashes were sewn into my arms and more tubes were inserted. In my left wrist an arterial line was added. In my right, there was a tube which created a circuit by which blood passed through a machine to enrich it with oxygen outside of my lungs. The doctor told My fiance to never expect me to ever wake up because I have been deprived of oxygen for a long time. My fiance waited day after day at my bedside, praying and waiting. She said my body was rigid and my eyes would stare up at the ceiling. I was comatose for 22 days.
After I awoke, I was wheeled down a floor to get some tests and an ultrasound. Ultrasound is where they would use a probe and through vibrations, can make a picture inside your body. I learned that my fractures still had not been set yet. The staff was too afraid that I would die in surgery if they attempted it while comatose. I went into surgery; I was then told by my fiance that my surgery failed. My femur was so badly fractured that the pins would not hold. They were going to try a new technique and have a team of surgeons fly in and see if they can fix it. If not, they said they would take the leg.
My second surgery was a success. The docs inserted a rod from hip to knee through the center of my femur. They put a coil over the femur to hold the pieces together. The rod was barbed on both ends to firmly ground it into my joints. But it severely limited my range of motion. I was not out of the woods yet. They gave me a "local" and drilled a bit through both legs while a laid in bed watching the blood splatter. I could not feel the pain but I was sickened by the vibrations of the bit going through. Next they stuck a metal pin through each leg that protruded out from each side about a half an inch. They coated the ends with iodine and some sort of jelly. They connected cables to the rods and suspended my legs in traction for the next eight weeks. I can not describe the pain I felt during that period of time.
For the first few weeks I was on Demerol, Morphine, and Valium. I was in la, la land. I was receiving a shot every other hour for pain. The physical anguish came around noon. I had to have the sheets changed daily. About eight people lifted me up while others changed the sheets. I screamed 10 counts that could be heard way down the hall. "Thousand one, Thousand two..."
Then comes the emotional shame. I could not urinate in private anymore. I couldn't take a crap without some staff member taking a sample to test in a lab somewhere! I had to have someone help clean me up. I was so humiliated and ashamed. But what could I do? A person came into the room one day and started preaching from Psalms that God was chastising me by breaking both my legs. He showed me a verse somewhere about how some fool drew near the gates of death and had his legs broken for some reason. I lied on my back for weeks wondering if God was angry with me for sleeping with my fiance before we actually married. I thought if God was behind all this then surely he could have gotten my attention some other way? I pondered on this quite a while... what else could I do while laying in bed staring up at the ceiling with a respirator down your throat for the next two months?
In all, I spent four and a half months in ICU. By the time I was out of traction, I was so stiff, I could not move. It took six weeks just to bend my arms and legs. Six weeks of coughing all that bone marrow out of my lungs. During the stay at Good Samaritan Hospital, I had received over two hundred shots of Heparin in my stomach, not to mention all the transfusions. (I had 66 units of blood) I had pumped in through the iv line.
In the winter of 1984; I was finally released from the hospital. Mmy fiance wheeled me to a McDonalds and I had a Big Mac attack! Apparently, it never occurred to the staff to check for internal bleeding before releasing me! The burger caused a reaction that put me in cardiac arrest! Next thing you know, I'm in a different hospital! ICU for the next 30 days. And then they had more reconstructive surgeries... and more pain.
I spent three years in and out of hospitals. The amount of time gave me a deep understanding for those in wheelchairs. During those three years I often wept while sitting in a wheelchair staring up at the familiar steps to my apartment, unable to step up them without someone assisting me. I wondered if I could ever walk again; would I need a cane? Would I ever be able to run, ride my 10-speed again? And as I write this document... I tell you... the answer was no to most of those questions. I live daily with arthritis and bursitis of both hips and heel spurs in both feet now. I have been told that eventually my condition will degrade as I get older. Someday that wheelchair will guide me into the life here after.
The drunk driver was a five time offender. He was cited for four felonies and misdemeanor . He received 10 days and was in and out of jail long before I woke up from the meds I was on in ICU. After killing an eight year old girl, two years earlier; one would have thought he learned something? I was not as upset with his sentence as I was at the judge! My fiance attended the hearing. She asked for just one request and that was that he see what he did. His attorney stated it was against his constitutional rights to see me. The judge agreed. All four felonies were dropped on the grounds that he was too intoxicated to be consciously aware of his actions; so I was told.
For years I was bitter. I raised my fist at God and cursed him for allowing me to go through this trial. I wanted to kill the drunk driver. But I couldn't see going to jail the rest of my life for getting revenge against what he got away with. I even had offers from others to do him in. But I knew that if I killed him, I would still have to one day answer for my actions. One day he will have to give an accounting. It just was not my place to do it.