Oh I’m Gonna Be An Optomist About This

I’ve had a setback.

I’m back in Arkansas, but not permanently.

August 12th, I was driving in the rain to Walmart in Berea, Kentucky.  The speed limit dropped to 35mph so I slowed down.  I was still on the brakes as I rounded a curve.  My car started to fish-tail and I couldn’t regain control.  The car flew into a ditch, rolled, and came to rest on its side.

Immediately I had a sharp pain in my back.  My belongings were piled all around me as I rested against the door, hanging by my seatbelt.  For about 3 minutes, everything was quiet.  I didn’t have my phone.  I couldn’t call for help.  I hung there praying that someone had seen the crash and would stop.  I got lucky, two people saw the crash.  One was a driver that had been in the oncoming lane and the other was the owner of the property my car had came to rest on.  They called 9-1-1 and stayed with me until the firemen got there.

The firemen were very nice.  They made sure that I was conscious and assured me that more help was coming.  I could hear them discussing how they were going to get me out of the car.  At first they wanted to flip the car back on its wheels.  The idea was abandoned because they didn’t want to injure me further.  They told me not to move my neck or back and that the rescue squad was about 10 minutes away.  They told me that as soon as they could, someone would get in the car with me to help me.

The rescue squad arrived and got to work on getting me out of the car.  First, they cut the rear windshield out.  A fireman climbed through the opening and but a neck brace on me.  He then covered me with a blanket so that they could cut the front windshield out.  He then lay on top of me as they began to cut the roof off.  It was loud.  And scary.  They had to cut right next to my head.  The fireman lifted my head and shoulders away from the side of the car as the side window broke and the roof came off.  They were then able to slide me out of the car onto a back brace and into the ambulance.

In the ambulance, one of the paramedics began cutting my pants off.  Wiggle your toes..  Good…they wiggled.  Wiggle my fingers.  Good, those are working also.  What hurts?  My back.  Can I breathe?  Sorta.  Did I lose consciousness?  No.  What year is it?  2013.  Who is the President?  Obama.  Where am I?  In an ambulance.

They decided to take me to the University of Kentucky Medical Hospital in Lexington…30 minutes away.  As the siren turned on and the ambulance began speeding down the road, I prayed that it wouldn’t lose control like my car had.

They put me on oxygen and started an IV.  I’d never had an IV put in without Lidocaine first.  Now I know why…those things hurt!  They strapped my head down and put padded things around it to keep it from moving.  One of them left a voicemail for my mom to let her know what happened, where I was going, and that I was okay.

They told me that when we got to the hospital it would be very confusing.  Lots of people would do lots of things and ask me lots of questions.  I thought back to when I was a kid watching “Trauma: Life in the ER.”  I’d never wanted to be one of those patients and now I was.

We got to the hospital and dozen people swarmed on me.  They asked me the same orienting questions the paramedic had asked.  They flipped me on my side and examined my back, vertebrae by vertebrae.  They did x-rays.  They cut the rest of my clothes off.  Finally, the swarm of people became just 1 or 2.

A nurse shot morphine into my IV and my entire body tingled into a warm cocoon of pain relief.

I waited hours in the ER room, hoping someone could get in contact with my mom.  I couldn’t remember the phone numbers of my friends so they had no way of knowing where I was or what had happened.  I wanted someone to be with me.  I didn’t want to go through this alone.

Finally my mom called and they gave me the phone.  I apologized for wrecking the car…I just knew it was totaled.  My mom said that didn’t matter.  All that mattered is that I was going to be okay.  She told me that she had contacted my friends and that they would visit once they got off work.

Around 7pm my friends arrived.  My mom had been too scared to ask me if I was paralyzed so they called her and reassured her that I could move everything and seemed to be in good spirits.  They sat with me for a few hours.  We thought I would be released that night.  I had a CAT scan and then more x-rays.

The doctor finally came in to tell me what was wrong.  I had 3 compression fractures in my back.  I didn’t know if that was good or bad.  I forgot to ask.  She said that I would need a back brace and then I could go home.

We waited a couple more hours until a nurse came in and said that a brace wouldn’t be available until the next day.  I would be admitted to the hospital.  My friends had to work in the morning so they went home.  I was given foam cubes on popsicle sticks to suck on.  I could dip them in a cup of water and suck the water out of the foam but I could not drink from the cup.  I did this for a while, pretending the foam was a cheeseburger or a hotdog.  I was so hungry.

At 1am they came and gave me the medications I take at home.

At 4am a nurse came in with a sandwich.  I could finally eat!  She fed me pieces of the sandwich and sips of water because I had to lay flat on my back.

At 7am a couple nurses came to transfer me onto a more comfortable bed and move me to my room.  They rolled me onto the bed and my back burned in pain.

I couldn’t have morphine anymore.  I could have Percocet.   It didn’t help.  I was in so much pain that I cried for 4 hours…waiting for my next dose of pain meds.

At lunch a nurse came in to help me eat.  She spooned macaroni and cheese into my mouth and I tried not to choke as I ate laying down.  The pain started to subside as I enjoyed the meal.  Shortly after I was given more pain meds.

My mom called to tell me that she was driving to Kentucky to be with me.  She would arrive around 8 or 9pm.

A Law and Order: SVU marathon was on.  I couldn’t see the television but I was able to hear the dialogue.  I kept time by how many hour long episodes I watched.  I drifted in and out of sleep for most of the afternoon.

Eventually the man that would make my brace came in to measure me for it.  He said it would take him another day to make the brace and that I would have to stay in the hospital.

My mom arrived that night and one of my friends came back to visit.  My mom stayed until midnight with me.  I was so glad to see her.

The next day I had to use the restroom.  It had been over 36 hours since I last peed.  They gave me a bedpan but that was too awkward.  Sweet relief came when the x-ray techs came to take more x-rays.  I had to stand for these and since I proved I could walk and stay balanced, I begged them to let me use a toilet.  They said they weren’t supposed to but they would make an exception.

After a couple more hours the man came back to fit me in my brace.  I was told that I would have to wear if for 3-6 months.  It went from my neck to my waist and was made of hard, white plastic.  Finally, with the brace on, I could sit up and walk.  Assured that I could move around in the brace, I was discharged.

My mom took me to my friend’s house and removed the brace so that I could change out of the hospital gown and into my own clothes.  We quickly realized that this was no easy task.  My mom ended up spraining her back as she tried to get the brace back on me.  This wasn’t going to work.

I could not dress or bathe myself.  I had to be in the brace unless I was sleeping.  We decided that I needed to go back home until I recovered.

So that is where I am today.  At home in Arkansas, almost a month after the accident.  I have a home health aide that comes 3 times a week to give me a sponge bath and change my clothes.  I’m not in much pain, I just get sore sometimes.  We are trying to get me an appointment with a neurosurgeon so that we can see what kind of progress my back is making.  My nickname right now is Turtle because this brace is basically a turtle shell right now.

Overall, I am okay.  I’m in good spirits…just a bit bored.  Some people from church have brought dinner a few times.  I’ve gotten a few get well cards in the mail.  I’m doing okay.

Category: General Topics
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11 Responses
  1. Chelsie Davis says:

    Hope your doing well, sorry to hear about your back. Im chelsie i work with Sarah, if u have facebook find me! Your an awesome girl!!

  2. Lisa says:

    Katherine,
    So sorry to hear about your accident. I am writing a story on mental health service dogs and would like to interview you. Can you please email me back?
    Lisa

  3. Birdies says:

    Your accident sounds like something out of a nightmare. I know this is going to sound odd, but you’re actually lucky they took your back pain seriously. So many people I have known never had further testing, never had screening, and walked out of the hospital simply because they were not bleeding. You got proper care, which is amazing, all things considered. I am glad you get the aid to help you out. I live alone and have often wondered what the heck would happen to me if I needed health care. I’m sorry you’ve got this whole long time to recover, but I am glad because maybe you will be spared a life of terrible back pain. Perhaps if you can get on the computer you can read about Freida Kahlo. She was Diego Rivera’s wife, and her life was a misery because of an accident (even worse than yours). She did interesting things like paint pictures on her cast/brace. Maybe this is a time in your life where you could listen to books, or take up meditation or something. I wish you a speedy recovery. Maybe you will be lucky and it will “just” be 3 months instead of 6 in the brace. Birdies from servicedogforum.

    • Katherine says:

      I received great medical care…I think I got lucky because I was at a teaching hospital. But who knows.
      Right now I am using this time to read a lot and work on an idea for a novel I want to write. I’m making the best of it I think. Thanks for the well wishes and I’ll see you on the forum!

  4. Bonnie says:

    I am so sorry to hear about your accident. I am glad you are in good spirits and are doing fine inspite of all your current hardships. I have been reading your blog after finding it by accident for about 2 years now. If you get bored you are welcome to email me and we can become friends.

  5. Kaura says:

    Hi Katherine!

    I am sooo sorry to hear about your accident. I left you a message on a forum and was kinda worried when you didn’t get back to me because of your previous post about the hospitalization. I am also training my own Psychiatric Service Dog and wanted to make contact with you. Do you know how long you are going to be in a back brace? It sounds like a really frightening experience. I am glad you have friends and family around. Take care and get well soon.

    • Katherine says:

      I’m sorry I didn’t reply to your message. What forum did you post on? I’d like to reply to it. I have to wear the brace for 3-6 months. I’ve warn it for 1 month so far.

      • Kaura says:

        I sent you a PM on the schizophrenia.com forum. Please don’t stress about it! I am not going anywhere so take care of yourself first! :D

  6. Jen says:

    Wow!! I’m so glad you are not more hurt than you are! That must have been very scary! I hope you heal quickly. Take care and God Bless!

    Jen

  7. Betty Blair says:

    I am so glad you are ok! I’m Patrick’s birth mom. They were so upset when you had your accident. I know they will be happy when you come back. I look forward to meeting you some day. I am Bipolar and have a hard time getting on a plane. I am 74 and have a hard time getting on a plane. AND I do it anyway when I get brave enough!!! hahaha.
    I send you wishes for a speedy recovery and a quick trip back to Helena’s. By the way, where was your dog??

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