This was a layout that chronicled my accident and the associated emotions during and after recovery. The journaling reads:
In a blink of an eye. It takes just one action to change the rest of your life. This is one of those phrases I can hear my little voice inside my head replay, but I just never knew what it really meant…
It was Labor Day 2006. A weekend planned to be spent in West Virginia at my friends, Barbara & JC, mountainside cabin. We didn’t have specific plans – just time away from the every day – time spent with friends enjoying the solitude & a lazy schedule.
Monday brought the sun, & my friends planned to plant one more wildlife plot – in preparation for the barren winter. I chose to stay behind to watch the dog, Remi, & install new kitchen cabinet hardware. Once finished, I settled on the front porch with a book.
Remi was starting to get restless & after finishing a few chapters, I decided to go for a walk. We journeyed into the forest & walked a trail that surrounded the house & we ended at the top of the lane. We headed towards the cabin as Remi took the lead & aimed for the high grass that lined the gravel lane. It was amazing to watch Remi fling his body through the tall grass – running & jumping all the way to the bottom. How could I deny him such pleasure? We turned about & walked back to the top of the lane so he could enjoy another romp in the grass.
As we were nearing the bottom – it happened in a microsecond. I found myself twisting my left ankle & falling as the gravel beneath my feet gave way. I instinctively released the leash, setting a 12-week puppy free to roam the forest. I knew I broke something as I recall the sound, something that clouds my memory – a memory I would rather forget.
I started to scream. What else was there for me to do? I realized that Barbara & JC were in a meadow far below the house, not within sight of the cabin. Remi sensed my panic & began to bark. In between moments of sheer panic I chose to assess the damage. I will spare the gory details but my injury resembled a scene from ER. I could still wiggle my toes so I knew I was okay, relatively speaking. What seemed like forever – I looked up as I heard the approach of a 4-wheeler.
A quick assessment of the situation took JC to phone 911 & Barbara to sit by my side. I was braced on the side of the embankment clutching clumps of grass as not to slip any further – waiting for the ambulance. Barbara placed cold compresses upon my forehead as she chatted, trying desperately to keep me alert while keeping my focus off the severity of the situation.
The ambulance arrived & backed its way down to where I was positioned. The EMT’s immediately took action & placed me on a backboard to immobilize my leg. Before I knew it – arrangements were made for a helicopter to airlift me to a trauma unit. We arrived in an open field at an adjacent farm, waiting for the helicopter to take me to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, West Virginia.
My first helicopter ride revealed nothing more than an obstructed view & a pair of headphones. We landed & weaved through the hospital till we reached our final destination – the emergency room.
Waiting for me was a team of doctors & nurses, each having a specific task that together choreographed a complicated dance routine. There were those that captured my personal information & medical history all the while I was getting stuck & probed. The results were apparent, I had a compound fracture to my left ankle with a comminute fracture to my tibia. Ouch!
I chose to remain awake during surgery, accepting only a local anesthesia. I wanted to be aware of my surroundings. Due to the severity of the break, surgery lasted longer than anticipated by the surgeons but most importantly - it all went well.
Here I am – almost six months later & I still wear a boot to protect my ankle, a constant reminder of the journey my life has taken. I can sit here & think of all the things I missed, autumn in Philadelphia, holiday shopping with friends & my 40th birthday vacation to Provence, France – but no, I can’t wonder of things that were to be. I want to think of things that were, things I experienced during my recovery, insight that I may not otherwise have learned.
Due to the logistics of being single, I moved home for four months to allow my parents to once again be caretakers. This was a difficult task at first as I consider myself to be an extremely independent person, but due to my injury I had to learn to depend upon others. Living with my parents at this point of my life was not something planned, obviously – but we are all better for the experience. Yes, there were some tough moments – adjustments for all parties involved. My mom & dad were a constant presence through my recovery, taking care of me, showing me true, unconditional love. During one of my lower moments, I was dreaming of scrapping & longing for my supplies – my father was ready with the car to drive the eighty miles to my home to retrieve all that he could manage…what could I say? What love.
My career took a backseat for the first time in almost twenty years. My professional colleagues learned to make informed decisions without my consent & projects progressed successfully in my absence.
My ordeal was definitely a journey, a journey I will never forget. It has taught me that life is so very short, a series of moments captured to experience for just a brief instant. It is what I take from this journey that will forever change my life.