It’s actually not, people. Staying on your side of the road is the greenest thing you can do. Because cars getting crushed and heaps of paperwork being made from Police, Paramedics, ER Docs, and Insurance companies is not green at all. And that’s without even mentioning all the plastic used in my lovely neck brace.
See that smug look? I look good in a neck brace and I know it.
(My ambulance selfies, however, did not fully show that. Angles, people. Watch your angles when taking selfies in the back of a careening ambulance while all your body parts are strapped down.)
Speaking of ambulances, they are the least comfortable, least safe feeling, least smooth rides since covered wagons. I commented as much to the paramedic in the back with us (us being me and the lady who hit me, apparently being guinea pigs in some sort of new Uber Ride-Sharing For Ambulances program), and the paramedic told me that our ride was actually much smoother than most.
So yeah. Don’t ride around in an ambulance, people.
(Although the irony of them strapping me down to immobilize my perhaps-broken neck and then knocking me to and fro and up and down was pretty entertaining.)
But I digress.
Let’s start from the beginning, shall we?
It was Wednesday morning, and the kids and I had a very busy day ahead. We had a Symphony field trip at 11, my Grandmother’s 89th birthday party at 12, and Awanas at 6. On top of that, my neighbor was imminently any-minute-now please-God-make-this-happen having a baby, and I was her designated driver and/or child watcher. So I had informed her of my schedule, and was planning on being The Most Evil Symphony-Goer and leaving my phone on for baby-having emergencies.
We also dropped by CVS on the way to pick up a couple of prescriptions. As we left, we were driving down Summit Parkway and I was uncertain which way I should go. Should I take the interstate to Vestavia, or should I go up Shades Crest?
I was in the left turn lane to get on the interstate, but the light was red. And that light takes forever. So I changed my mind and crossed to the right lane to take Shades Crest.
It’s funny, the little decisions in life. I thought that at most, taking the alternate route would have a five minute impact on my day…
I turned left onto Shades Crest Road. I drove by Vestavia Baptist Church and started around a curve.
Which is when I knew my day was about to be much more impacted by my route decision.
There was an SUV coming around the curve in the other direction, at least halfway in my lane, and going extremely fast without any sign of swerving back into her lane.
We were on a two lane road. The sidewalk had a high curb. There was nowhere to go. I knew she was going to hit me as soon as I saw her, so I just slammed on the brakes and braced for impact. (A rather unfortunate subconscious decision.)
During the two seconds of knowing I was about to have a head-on collision and actually colliding, it’s fascinating what goes through one’s brain.
I never wondered if the kids and I would be okay.
My thoughts were as follows:
We’re not going to make it to the symphony. And there was another mom looking for an extra ticket last night! I guess it’s too late to give her ours. I hate our seats won’t get used. Oh – and we’re not going to make it to Mammaw’s birthday party either! Oh gosh everyone’s going to be talking about me having a wreck and I’m going to totally Me-Monster her birthday party without even being there. Oh no what if Renee goes into labor? I better let her know I won’t be able to help her for a couple hours. I guess I should start shopping for a new car, too.
And then there was the crash.
It was significant, but neither the kids or I remember anything much about that particular second. We don’t remember our bodies hitting anything, although all of us ended up with various impact bruises and knots. We don’t remember how loud it was, although I assume it was. My memory picks up at being covered in iced coffee and that my airbag, deployed, was filling the car with a powdery haze that looked very much like smoke. The kids were both screaming and crying, and Ali was panickingly wailing “The car’s on fire! We have to get out! It’s on FIRE!!!!”
I tried to open my driver’s door, but it was completely jammed. My side got hit the worst, and my door would not be opening. I yelled over their crying for Ali to open the back door on the other side of the car. Just about that time, a guy from a yard crew at the house next door opened my front passenger door. The kids climbed out of their door, still crying, and the lawn guy helped me crawl out the front.
At that point, I distinctly remember thinking, This dress is too short for all this maneuvering. I most certainly just flashed the lawn guy. Good thing I’m wearing tights.
We all worked our way out of the car, and I picked up Noah and hugged Ali close to me as both of them cried. In the moment, I wasn’t hurting anywhere, so I didn’t even think to ask them if they were hurt – I was just worried about their emotional state. Until the lawn guy asked them if they were okay.
They said they were. (Their problems would come later. Kid adrenaline is a magical thing that we need to figure out how to bottle and sell as an essential oil.)
At the scene of the wreck, I never saw the impacted side of my car, but assumed that it was pretty bad.
It wasn’t until much later in the day that I saw this picture:
We sat on the retaining wall, which was wet with rain, and tried to figure out what came next. I saw other people on the phone so decided I wouldn’t call 911. The car that had hit me had its entire front panel shaved off, had left its wheel in front of our car, and was sitting perpendicular to our car about 20 feet behind it. It appeared that all of its airbags deployed, and there was a woman sitting in the front seat crying, being pushed on in every direction by airbags.
I texted Chris. He was in the middle of texting me about work stuff.
The sidewalk was flooded with people. Neighbors, the lawn guys, the guy that was driving behind me that had almost hit me, and all were coming by to tell me what they saw (“We heard someone going so fast that we all turned around to see what was going on – then we saw that car hit you!”). Someone brought shivering Ali a jacket, and then went to one of the houses and found an umbrella for the three of us to share. Everyone asked if we were okay. I told them all yes, we were perfectly fine.
Until very suddenly, my neck started hurting. Then my shoulders. And my back.
Adrenaline is a spiffy pain reliever – until it’s not.
As I rubbed my neck, the parade showed up.
Four police cars, two fire trucks, two paramedic trucks, a “fire car” according to Noah, and not long after, two ambulances. They were all surrounding the other car, so I assumed she must be hurt worse than us.
Then a steady stream of first responders walked over to us and asked if we were okay. The kids had finally calmed down and told everyone that they were fine and weren’t hurt. I told them my neck was hurting, but I thought I was okay. One of the people told me that I probably wasn’t – he thought he was fine after a wreck but had three vertebrae broken.
The paramedics, one by one, suggested that I go to the hospital. I finally agreed, but I told the paramedic, “My husband is on his way. I don’t want to leave until he gets here to take the kids.”
I called Chris to see where he was and tell him the update. As we were talking, the paramedics came back with an immobilization board and neck brace and told me they needed to strap me down right away. I hung up with Chris and they laid me back and covered me with straps. The kids, who were being quite mature, began to worry about me as they watched this process. I assured them that I was fine, it was fine, and Daddy was going to come get them before I left.
The paramedics loaded me into the ambulance on the left side. I looked over and the lady that hit me was on the right side.
The paramedics began taking all my vital signs and asking me questions, and then they said it.
“We’re going to have to go ahead and go. Your husband can get your kids when he gets here.”
Ali and Noah were sitting on the retaining wall with policemen. This paramedic was asking me to leave my kids, who had just been in their first wreck, literally on the curb.
I had been unusually calm the entire time, and somehow didn’t lose my calmness in that moment. I said, “I am not leaving without my kids.”
“Well, we need to go. Where is your husband?”
I pulled up Find My Friends and held it up, showing them his little blue dot. He was still a few miles away.
“He’s not going to be able to get up here anyway with the traffic. The kids are in good hands. It’s okay. We’ve got to go.” He started closing the door to the ambulance.
“NO. I will not leave my kids here. …It would really freak them out.”
(I was the one freaked out and they were the ones being mature but I assumed (correctly) that their potential emotional breakdown would persuade the paramedics more than mine.)
One of the other Paramedics said, “Give me your husband’s number. We’ll figure it out.”
A minute later he came back in. “Okay. We’re going to transport your kids in the other ambulance to the hospital. Your husband will meet us there.”
That seemed better for some reason, so I agreed.
Then came the extremely lurchy ride to the hospital. I stared at the ceiling and willed myself not to shake from side to side.
The lady next to me said, “Ma’am. I am SO sorry. It was totally my fault.” It was the first and last exchange she and I had, and I felt so bad for her and tried to share some comfort by awkwardly saying, “It will be okay. The kids are okay and that’s what matters.”
The rest of the ride included sirens punctuated by painful bumps and paramedic’s questions. The only thing that would have made the shared ride more uncomfortable is if, after apologizing, she had said, “And by the way, I love your blog.”
But she did not.
More of the story soon.