Our 9/11: A car accident that led to a memorable Thanksgiving

Five weeks after my very first professional Adventures column appeared in the San Bernardino County Sun, I was trapped underneath my brand new car waiting for death to take me home to Jesus. Three near-death experiences, a nine-day induced coma, leg traction and five surgeries later, I was alive, crippled, different forever.

Though the Adventures column is intended to be a light few minutes for readers to enjoy our common often humorous human experiences, I have this chance - since we are getting to know one another - to share my life with you in a more intimate way.

Below is the story of my accident. It’s not an Adventures column per se, but certainly an adventure. It will explain why you immediately notice my disfigured leg when you meet me. Like all of us, this is one of many events that both textured, scarred and blessed our life together.

Since I’m married to the boss I do have this opportunity to tell you the entire adventures story through excerpts from a book I wrote several years ago. But I don’t want to be presumptuous about my presence here and will wait to see if anyone wants to hear it.

The first time I regained consciousness was two or three days later. I remember looking up to see my husband crying over my bedside in the emergency room and I remember a short man with blonde hair that wanted me to sign a paper that said I would pay $1,000 cash for my injuries and let the state take over the bills from there. But mostly, I remember sleeping with occasional waking up in pain and asking the nurse assigned to me for medication.

I was in ICU for nine days. My parents, my brother and my husband Vince were braced for impending death. It almost occurred three times already: Once in the helicopter when Mercy Air was flying me to the county hospital, once in the emergency room and once during surgery, I’m told.

I woke up in the emergency room and my husband was crying. My parents were in the background and my brother had been there.

My husband, this big burly man was hanging over me like a baby crying and I could not figure out why. He said something about everything being okay – that I was not going to die. I sort of laughed a little and remarked sarcastically “I’m not dying yet. I’m not done living. God has a plan for my life.”

Crushed. I was crushed under my car for 90 minutes before paramedics got to me. A man with a ponytail who worked at a garage close by held my hand for the longest time. My 11-year-old daughter was screaming behind me.

“Mommy! Mommy! I want my Mommy!” They tried to keep me from her, probably because they did not want me to see the ring of blood that dripped from her skull. She looked like she was wearing one of those crowns they show Jesus wearing in religious pictures. Only for Christian, my daughter, it was blood dripping from glass – and it was real.

The man with the ponytail held my hand, telling me “It’s going to be okay.” I knew that. As for my replay? For I know the plans God has for me, they are plans to prosper me, not to hurt me.” It was a two-sentence conversation we looped for 90 minutes.

I later learned that I was last of the six people involved in the accident to be treated – I was most likely to die. I didn’t know. I was just trying to be patient. My legs ached fiercely – a more subtle version of which I deal with today, right now, this minute. Despite my legs aching I never looked down, too afraid the car was going to catch fire while I was trapped. I reached out the window to grab Christian’s hand. And she reached long from the chair someone placed behind my window.

Funny, the things you do when your life is fading away. I called the elementary school where other parents and their kids waited for us to go on a weekend writing escape in the mountains. Then, I called my husband. Slow and low I talked to Vince. “I was in a minor accident. Don’t panic. Take care of the kids first, then head on over.” He had no idea he was driving into a Major Accident Injury Team zone.

I saw him once when emergency workers used the Jaws of Life to peel the front windshield of my car away from me like a can of tuna. He was draped over a police Chaplin crying. I lifted my left hand and curled my fingers into a wave. I was confused. Why would he cry? This is not God’s plan.

Two ambulances left, one with Christian. The first helicopter lifted off and then it was my turn. The slow, educated, careful hands of those firefighters and nurses saved my life. So here I am, 15 years later getting ready to see a Spokane specialist who might re-align that crippled disfigured leg, making it straight so I can more easily pursue two additional surgeries I’ll need for my legs eventually.

I’m not bitter. In fact, I’m thankful for that accident that filled every moment of my life with reminders of that horrific day. I love my life every day, regardless. I spent every moment joyful to be alive, joyful to embrace the challenge, to fight through the troubles and relish its experiences. I cherish my family and they cherish me. And, I believe, that is God’s plan.

Love one another as I’ve loved you. There is no greater love than this, than to lay down your life for a friend.

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