A Grateful Heart

The past year off from blogging (and thus, switching over to a free wordpress.com blog) has been mostly good. I’ve been able to focus a bit more on my primary job as a homeschool mama of a now high school sophomore who would rather be playing piano than just about anything else and a 3rd grader who is struggling very much with reading skills.

But just over two weeks ago something major happened. Something that I’m still processing and dealing with. Something I’ve been wanting to write about for two weeks.

I was in a car accident.

Now let me just interject right here: NO ONE WAS HURT. Praise God! Though the accident was a bad one, there were no serious injuries. A reason to be grateful, indeed.

So let me tell you now what happened as I remember it–some details have gotten a tad fuzzy but this is my best account of the incident.

It was one week before Thanksgiving on the afternoon of Thursday, November 19th, just after 3pm. My hubby was out of town that day for a work-related meeting, but was heading home and was about an hour or more away still. The boys and I needed to go to town and run a few errands, so we got ourselves ready, and I auto-started the van to get it warmed up. It had snowed that day, so when we went out to get in the van, I needed to take my car brush and get the snow off the windshield, hood, headlights, etc.  But the snow had let up and visibility (for me, at least) was just fine. It should have been a normal, uneventful drive into town.

Then what happened?

We were just under a mile from our rural home (if you can picture it–our little Northern Minnesota town is a straight shot of just under 3 miles south from our house), when another driver coming the opposite direction (north) attempted to turn west (the road he was trying to turn onto was on his left, my right) directly in the path of my oncoming van.

I had probably a second to react. If that.

As I was driving, I could–and did–see his van coming. I remember taking my foot off my gas pedal when I saw him slowing just before the intersection we were both nearing because I knew the roads were slick in spots from the day’s snow and I wanted to be sure that he was going to yield to me as he should.

When I saw him stop, I assumed he saw me and would wait. But then his front wheels turned and I knew…I knew!…he wasn’t watching or looking or something and he didn’t see me. He was going to turn. Right in front of me. It was the scariest experience of my life. Once the thought “he’s turning!” hit my brain, I slammed on my brakes. Of course, that just caused me to skid on the icy road, and so I immediately steered my van (my beautiful dark grey “Granite” 2014 30th edition Chrysler Town and Country Touring, Greta–yes, we name our vehicles!, which had less than 30,000 miles!) towards the ditch on my side in hopes of avoiding hitting him if he would just see me in time and brake. He did not and we hit. Hard.

My poor Greta was totaled.

I was aware throughout the whole incident. The airbags in the front and on the driver’s side deployed immediately upon impact, so once that happened, I couldn’t really see where we were or anything. My van had ended up going straight into the ditch facing mostly westward. The other van had deflected off of ours and was also in the ditch but facing almost the opposite direction. It was nearly a head-on collision.

Once we stopped moving and I knew I wasn’t at all seriously injured, my first thoughts were on my kiddos…”Is everyone okay?” I asked. My younger son, who was riding in the second row passenger-side seat, started to cry and exclaimed, “I don’t want to die!” Poor buddy. I remember trying to look back at him and having the seat belt holding me so tight I barely could move, but I could see him well enough to know he was alright and told him he was going to be okay. I then looked over to my older son who had been riding “shotgun” and asked him if he was okay. He looked at me with eyes full of shock and horror and quietly replied, “I think so.”

So we were all alive. Thank you, Jesus! My next thought was whether the other driver and any passengers he might have in his vehicle were alright.

Fumblingly, I unbuckled my seat belt. I then struggled with and finally shoved open my door. Do you know how hard it is to open a mini-van door once the side airbag is in the way? It’s really quite difficult! I believe I stepped out (my memory is a bit fuzzy about when I got out) and I think I started walking toward the other van, but I only got a step or two when I heard a man asking if 911 had been called yet–someone had already stopped to help! The other driver must’ve answered no and I heard him reply, “Okay, I’ll call it in.” So I went back to sit in my van and then tried to call my hubby to let him know what had happened and that we were okay.

Can I just say at this point cell phones are both a blessing and a curse?

A blessing, because within a few short minutes we had emergency personnel on the scene taking care of things.

A curse, because they don’t always work right!

On my first attempt, I got through enough to say, “We’ve been in a car accident.” And then the connection dropped! ACK!  My poor husband. I just about gave him a heart attack. He was at that moment in an area with low cell coverage so had to wait a few minutes until he had a better signal to try and call me back.

Since I couldn’t get through to my man, and I knew my boys and I were not at all seriously injured, I told the boys we were going to get out. My younger son tried to open his door–most likely with the power door button, but it wouldn’t open. I remember pressing the unlock button thinking perhaps the van was still locked. Having about a foot of icy ditch water to walk through (in my favorite pair of Mary Janes, no less!) wasn’t at all what I wanted to be doing, but I slogged around to the other side of my van and opened up the van’s backseat door without a problem. Because the right side airbags didn’t need to deploy, it was much easier getting the boys out. Despite a few minor injuries, my older son was able to get out and walk on his own. I had him grab my purse and then carry it for me so I could carry his brother. We headed up towards the road. With his added weight pushing me into the ice-cold, water-covered, soggy ground, one of my shoes got stuck in the muck and came off. So after setting him down on dry land, I went back to retrieve it while the boys continued up and out of the ditch.

The first person on the scene, the man who called in the accident, just happened to be an off-duty US Customs and Border Patrol. God is so good! He had sent us someone right away who could and would be a real help! As my boys were heading up out of the ditch, he asked if they wanted to sit in his car to stay warm. He got them settled: older son in his front passenger seat, younger son in the backseat behind the driver’s seat. He cranked up the heat and even allowed my younger son to hold onto his badge. Pretty cool! When I came up to the car after retrieving my shoe, I at first just huddled by my younger son with the backseat door open, comforting him with words of love, of how we were all okay, and checking with both boys about any injuries they may have gotten. I was and am so grateful that our injuries were minor. It could have been so. much. worse.  By this time, I was getting pretty cold with my pants wet up to the knees (and my knee-high socks wet and cold too). So when the Customs officer came back over and asked if I wanted to sit in the front seat to warm up, I surely did.

While we sat there waiting, I tried to call my hubby again (and he was trying to call me back) several times to no avail. Part of the problem was that my phone was still connected to our van’s UConnect System. If I had been thinking clearly, I would have turned off the Bluetooth on my phone, thus disconnecting the Bluetooth connection. But I was in shock and my brain wasn’t at all thinking clearly. I can only imagine how my poor husband must have felt as the fire trucks and ambulance came on the scene and that’s all he could hear! Uffda! He tried calling my mom, who of course, knew nothing because I thought my phone wasn’t working for me so I didn’t even try to call her. Poor Mom. She went into “figure out what’s going on mode” and went to the police station, then to the hospital, all while we were still hanging out at the accident scene. (She did find us still there a little while later.)

Two of the volunteer firemen that responded to the call that day just happen to be guys that work with my husband. It was such a blessing for me to have guys I sort of know show up in their fireman’s gear after having just been through something traumatic. A third guy from hubby’s workplace is also a fireman and had responded to the call, but hadn’t gotten to the station fast enough to be on the truck, so he was at the fire station when my husband decided to call him in hopes of finding out what was going on. Thankfully, he was able to tell hubby who the guys on the fire truck were and hubby was then, finally!, able to get through to one of them and learn that we were okay. And I was (finally!) able to talk with hubby too. Phew!

While we were waiting, my older son put his head down by his knees. Of course, I asked him if he was alright, and he said he was feeling queasy (or did he say nauseated? I don’t remember.) He had his head down in an attempt to quell it. Shortly after he had sat back up, an EMT came over to check on us. She noticed how pale he was and we talked about his symptoms. Although he answered all her questions without any difficulty, she ultimately recommended he go to the ER to get checked over. Just in case. I agreed.

We had to wait a bit for a second ambulance to arrive. The other driver was already headed in to the ER in the first ambulance.  (But as I’ve already mentioned, no one was seriously injured.)

I was in shock. As I talked with the wonderful EMT while we waited, my jaw was shaking uncontrollably. It’s been nearly 16 years, but I have a vague memory of my jaw doing the same shaky thing during my labor transition. Weird.

Anyways, the local sheriff had also arrived on the scene. I think he’d been there a while taking photos and whatever else he is supposed to do at an accident scene. At some point in all the chaos, he came over to the car we were in and asked for our full names and who was driving, stuff like that. He said he needed to get my full statement right about the time the second ambulance arrived.

It was also about this time that my mom showed up. She saw how badly damaged both vans were and just about had a panic attack, I think. I calmly told her, “we’re alright…everyone’s okay” and she took a couple deep breaths and was a tad better. Since my younger son wasn’t complaining of any pains at all (yet), Mom and I decided the best thing for him would be to go with Grandma to her house while I went with my teenager in the ambulance to the ER.

Because the EMTs were already getting my older son onto the gurney and strapping him onto it for the ambulance ride, I ended up just giving the sheriff my phone number so he could contact me for my statement. Later, he showed up at the ER and got my statement as well as giving me his contact number so we could call him with our insurance info. I had forgotten I had a card for our car insurance in my wallet or I could have given it to him right then and there. Oh well. I was in shock. And have never had need of that insurance card before this.

So I got my first ride in an ambulance (as a passenger in the back) with my teenage son. On the way to the hospital, the EMT said his oxygen looked low so she gave him an oxygen mask which seemed to help his color come back a bit. His hands were so cold and the ER nurse (another familiar face and someone I know pretty well from church) said that being so cold was most likely why his oxygen was registering low. Once he was settled in a room in the ER, our nurse-friend got him some warm blankets to wrap up in and his O2 readings normalized. I took off both my son’s and my shoes and socks and she gave us a towel to dry off with. And she had an extra blanket there that she allowed me to wrap my feet in too.

They took an x-ray of his right wrist and hand because he was complaining of some sharp pain in the hand near the wrist. The ER doctor on staff that day was fabulous! She had a great sense of humor and kept things lighthearted and yet was able to skillfully check my son for injuries. He did have a couple of small lacerations on his hands. One even had a couple small pieces of glass in it (we still have no idea where it came from since there was no evidence of shattered glass in the vehicle–our best guess is it was from the airbag, but we really don’t know what it was) that she discovered and took out. Since that boy doesn’t handle the sight of blood well, I believe that seeing his slightly bloody cuts combined with the pain in his hand added to the shock of having been in a crash was what caused his earlier light-headedness and nausea. His hand didn’t show any fractures. She even double-checked the x-ray.  (She also did a cursory check of me and made sure I didn’t have any serious injuries too despite the fact that I wasn’t her patient). He was sent home with some pain meds and told to rest his hand.

Our injuries have been minor, but all three of us have had some pain, which we manage with OTC pain relievers, related to the accident.

My younger son didn’t have any pain until right before bed or maybe the next morning. He had a bruise from his seat belt and some neck and shoulder pain. We saw our chiropractor on Wednesday the 25th. He was able to adjust my baby boy’s shoulder and neck after which the kiddo said he felt much better. He still had a little neck pain when we went back to the chiropractor on Monday the 30th, but he didn’t need an adjustment and now says his neck feels fine.

My older son’s hand still hurts after two weeks of babying it. The chiropractor adjusted his wrist, but the pain he complains of is either a bruised bone or possibly a hairline fracture. We’re hoping the pain will lessen and that it’s not fractured. He’s determined to play the piano piece he had been working on for our church’s Sunday School Christmas program on December 13th. Thankfully, his hand was his only injury. He didn’t even get a seat belt bruise!

As for my own injuries, I had a very sore sternum from either my seat belt or the airbag, a slightly swollen and bruised nose bridge (for which I was recommended to sleep in a recliner a few nights to prevent the bruising and swelling from getting ugly), a little jaw pain, and various other bruises and/or scrapes on my left arm, legs and feet immediately after the accident. My nose and chest hurt the most at first.  After a few days, my neck began to hurt and my upper-mid back too. I’ve been “out” enough times over the years that I knew my back needed adjusting. My left thumb and up the arm from it was also hurting. So my chiropractor adjusted my back, my right hip, my neck, and my thumb. He told me the thumb was sprained. I asked him if that meant I shouldn’t be knitting. His response was, “I wouldn’t recommend knitting for a while.” BUMMER!!! And since this is my knitting blog, I’m sure you can imagine how hard that is for an avid knitter! I’ve managed to carefully sneak a few knit stitches in anyways, but am trying my best to rest it and let it heal.  By my second visit to the chiropractor, I also had noticed pain in my left foot by my big toe so he adjusted that along with my back, hips and neck again. He said we’ll watch the neck pain, that I have whiplash, and if it gets bad enough he’ll give me a neck brace to give my muscles and tendons a break. I had forgotten to have him check my jaw during the first visit, so he checked it on the second and found the muscles were also very knotted, but the jaw wasn’t out.

So then. On Monday, I was eating one of my favorite snacks–hummus and pita chips–before we headed out the door for an over-nighter in the nearest Big City where I had already had an appointment scheduled before the accident happened to talk with a surgeon regarding removal of my gall bladder. While chewing, a piece of a tooth on the upper left side of my mouth broke off! SERIOUSLY?! What next?! Being gone Tuesday, not having a rental vehicle until Wednesday, I waited until Thursday morning to have my dentist take a look at it. THANKFULLY, it was an easy fix with just a simple white filling! However, the night before I went to the dentist I started feeling more pain on the right side of my mouth. I have a sensitive tooth over there so was concerned something had happened to it too. So I asked my dentist to please check it out while I was there and explained how I’d been in a car accident two weeks prior. He checked my teeth and didn’t find anything, so checked my jaw by having me open it and close it while he put gentle pressure on each hinge. Ouch. It was obviously pain in the right side hinge. He told me to try and baby it, keep taking Advil, etc. but that it’s much harder for the jaw to heal since we use our jaws so much for eating and talking. I’m sure it doesn’t help that I have bruxism and tend to clench my jaw in my sleep. Off and on over the years I’ve worn different types of mouth guards while I sleep. Because of my already sensitive tooth, I’d been using my night guard faithfully for several months, but although it protects my teeth, I can still clench my jaw. 😦

So right now, my jaw is my worst pain. It’s a hard pain to pinpoint too. One moment it feels like a toothache, the next like a charlie horse in my jaw. Sometimes it radiates from the hinge along both upper and lower jaws. Ugh. I’ve been icing it, using my Deep Relief essential oil roll-on on it, and taking Advil or Tylenol to help with the inflammation. But it still hurts.

This jaw pain is what woke me up this morning at 3:30 and, since I couldn’t sleep, I decided to write a blog post about all that we’ve been through. It seems as though I’ve already written a book.

I’m sure there are more details that I’ll wish I had added to this journal entry. Like how the night after it happened, I didn’t sleep a wink. Couldn’t shut my brain off. And how many times I’ve woke up with one pain or another and had to take medicine and haven’t been able to fall back asleep. But I’ve been writing (and editing) this for several hours and it’s time I spend some quality time with my family.

Through it all, the one thing I keep repeating is how grateful I am. To be alive. That no one was hospitalized. That our injuries are relatively minor. Although I’m sad my van is totaled, we are so thankful for the safety features it had. Vans can be replaced. People cannot.

Hence the title of this post is A Grateful Heart.

Am hoping to be knitting again soon. If you’re on Ravelry, find me and friend me there–I’m perfectioKnits, of course! Check out the projects I’ve been working on–no new designs of my own, sadly, just haven’t had time for it. Maybe someday soon I’ll get inspired and just *have* to design something!

One final note: I’ve become a Yarnbox junkie this past year too. So if you’re a Yarnbox subscriber like myself or just interested in learning about their yarn subscriptions, you can join the Yarnbox community on Ravelry where you’ll frequently find me adding to the discussions. I love that community as much–maybe more!–than the yarn sub itself! 🙂

Happy knitting, y’all!

And God Bless!