Thursday, October 9, 2014

the 5th Accident Day

I'd written out the story of accident day in great detail and posted it a while ago. Only then I went back months later and it felt jumbled and out of sorts, so I put it back in my drafts.

But the short of it is that:

5 years ago today my husband (we were actually just engaged at the time) was critically injured. In a motorcycle accident. Which bears a stigma, and brings certain stereotypes to mind, I know. Believe me, I know. He had a sportbike (insert more stereotypes!). But he was as safe and educated as a motorcyclist could be. He was in full gear, leather head to toe, and had a back protector. He and another European friend would ride a curvy (and yes, dangerous) road in the mountains. They rode the road technically, with precision, knowing every turn and rise.  They weren't the guys in t-shirts and jeans with a girl on the back, you know?

Excuses, excuses, right? I still didn't like the motorcycle, no matter how "safe" he was. But anyways.

There are so many details I could go into...but it would take pages. And pages. In short, a car ran him off the road and he hit several trees on his way down an embankment. At 50 miles an hour.

Once I got the call, I rushed to the hospital, but they were still a ways away.

When they finally arrived, I was in the ambulance bay. They pulled him out and gave me a second to look at him. He was wrapped up and strapped to a stretcher—all I could see was his face—but somehow, I knew that he was far, far from ok.

It was a few hours before we finally found out the extent of his injuries:

-the ER doctors had given him a 50/50 chance of survival when he came in

-both lungs were punctured and collapsed (he'd had trouble breathing in the ambulance and they'd had to STAB HIM WITH A NEEDLE to relieve the pressure in his chest)

-all ribs were broken (they couldn't even tell me how many that was, because apparently they stopped counting at 7?)

-broken pelvis

-broken lower back (in several places)

-ruptured bladder

-knee torn to bits (which we didn't find out the extent of til several weeks later, because that was low, low on the priority list)

To top it all off, he had a stroke resulting from a dissected (torn) vertebral (neck) artery 3 days later. It was (obviously) very traumatic and scary when that happened, but we didn't realize the full extent of the impact of that until much, much later.

It was 2 months in 2 different hospitals before he (we) came home.

Really, this could take about 20 different blog posts, how it all happened and how hard it all was. I could write posts on strokes, posts on physical/occupational/speech therapy. I could write about how to support someone in crisis and how to be a thoughtful hospital visitor and a friend for the long haul. How to be a patient advocate (which sort of translated into how to be a Type A you-know-what, at least that's what it felt like at the time. This luckily only resulted in one nurse and one resident banned from our room, though!). How to be a caregiver and how to remove a catheter (hint: pull without hesitation).

How to talk to a 3-year-old about how her dad got hurt and doesn't seem to be himself.

How to marry someone who's different than the person you got engaged to.

And I wasn't even going to post tonight, except that today's October 9, Accident Day, and something in me wouldn't let the calendar turn on this day, of all days, without saying something about it.

Accident Day, Years 1 and 2, were mostly grieving days. Mourning days. Reminder days. But also celebratory days—the could-have-died-but-lived day. But life wasn't normal: far from it. Physically, he'd made a miraculous recovery. Stroke-wise, though, we were a long, long way from ok.

October 9th of Year 3, 2012, was...transitional, I think? I mean, we weren't all the way back, but we weren't living in Days Since the Accident, either. By this point, we were going to a stroke support group (us and a bunch of 70-year-olds, ha), which was really helpful and healing.

And last year, the 4th accident day, we really didn't observe at all.  We mentioned it the day before, but Ingrid was just a few weeks old and we were in such a different, joyful place. So the 9th came and went without a real observation or fanfare. Which was nice. Looking back, Year 4 was the year that we kind of gave Accident Day the finger.

This year feels...I don't know. Big? 5 years. 5 years is a long time, and then not, you know? But here we are. Still here, still turning one day to the next. And I've been thinking about it a lot today: how in some ways we're totally past it and it doesn't define us anymore, but how in others, it's such a central and integral part of our story and always will be.

And with 5 of these under my belt now, I'm starting to realize: October 9 will always be a big day for us, and each one's probably going to look and feel different depending on where we are and what we're going through. Some Accident Days will feel heavy, some will feel just a blip on the radar. And then back again. Like I imagine grief or trauma of any kind, it's not always a steadily rising line of coming back. Of getting over it or moving on.

And so on some accident days we'll feel the loss, on some the gain. But on all, we'll feel the margin of that in between, and we'll respect the reminder of how it is, if nothing else, a big deal to see another 10/9 come, go, and be ours to remember.

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