10 years ago today, at about this time, I was swerving on an icy road, trying to decided if I should risk hitting the oncoming minivan or go in the ditch. I picked the ditch and we hit a tree, going about 60mph. It was like being punched with an I-beam. Pictures show that my chair, the driver's seat, actually broke loose. I probably hit the door frame but it could have been the steering wheel. (Later surgery showed four or five major facial fractures when most accidents have one.)
We (me, my brother and his new wife, Rachel) were obviously shaken up. She had been thrown from the back seat, spun 180 degrees and ended up facing backwards between the front seats. She'd hit the gear shift and broken one arm, some ribs and suffered a collapsed lung. Hans wrenched his shoulder. Me? Well, at first I thought that my left eye was swollen shut and I couldn't talk clearly.
Hans had me call 911. I could still reach my cell phone and I did. "We just had a car crash. We're on Hwy 218, just north of Pratt." Before the rescue crew reached us, at least one car stopped to try and help us, maybe more. The police couldn't open the doors so they used the jaws of life to cut the roof of the car off. Rachel looked the worst, so they airlifted her to Mayo. They put me in an ambulance to go to Rochester. Apparently the swelling was terrible so they had to put a tube in so I could breathe. I fought them so first we went to Owatonna so they could put me under.
I came to later that day with doctors and family around me. There was still a tube in my mouth so I had to write on a notepad. The first thing I asked about was the other passengers. Secondly, I asked how the football games came out. This was on a Sunday. The tubes would come out on Friday. All that time it was sign language and notepads.
I don't remember Monday. On Tuesday, Hans and Rachel came to visit me. I asked Hans how I looked. He took a quick picture to show me. Here it is:
For reference, here's a picture taken of me at my brother's wedding, six weeks earlier.
On Friday they helped me out of bed and we went somewhere to have the tubes out. I could finally talk but I found out why I couldn't talk clearly before. My jaw and teeth were all messed up. That day they moved me out of ICU and into a regular room. Finally I could have visitors! Tip to others, visitors in the hospital are life savers.
Surgery was scheduled for Thursday. Before they operated, they had to make sure I was no longer leaking spinal fluid so I had both a CAT scan and an MRI. We also found out that I was allergic to one of the drugs, which was making me nauseated. Sleep was still hard. We also talked about my left eye. It wasn't swollen shut, I simply couldn't see out of it. They said that swelling had most likely injured the optic nerve and I'd probably never see out of it again.
The Friday after the surgery was brutal. I was mostly out of it, the only thing I can remember was that I was always too hot or too cold. I got a personal morphine drip, so that helped. Late in the day I regained some sense and was able to walk for a short time. There were more than forty staples in my scalp. The guy I shared a room with thought I'd had brain surgery.
The next Monday they let me go home. Well, most of the way there. I spent two days at my brother's house. They helped me with soft food and movies. I repaid them with a late night combination nosebleed and vomiting session. The bathroom looked simply awful. Sorry!
On Wednesday I got back to my own apartment, the first time I'd had any real privacy in 17 days. I took a nice long shower, let me tell you! The next day Jodi got my cats back to me. I was back to work four weeks after the accident.
Being blind in one eye isn't that big of a deal. I can do just about everything that anyone else can. People have worked with me for years without knowing about it. Somewhere in there, I also lost my sense of smell, and that's been a little tougher.
A lot has happened since then. I've gotten married and had three kids. Relia knows about the accident and the eye but she forgets about it. My wife is well trained to sit and walk on my right hand side. I drive a little bit more cautiously and I'm more prone to cancel a trip if the roads are iffy.
This was ten years ago. I think I can finally start letting it go.