A lot is going on today, of all days: my grandmother is celebrating her 82nd birthday today, my cousin gave birth to a healthy baby girl this morning that looks just like her, and an ice storm moved into the region, covering everything with a thick layer of frozen rain and making the world still and silent. It’s the kind of day that has me reflecting on just how lucky I am, as it is also 20 months exactly since that life-changing August morning.
As I’ve mentioned before, I remember bits and pieces from the scene. I remember being in agony, I remember the witnesses talking to me, trying to keep me calm, and I remember the driver standing outside his vehicle (after Clark, the off-duty paramedic, told him to move it forward so I had space) talking on his cell phone. I remember telling the arriving paramedics that my hips hurt. I remember them loading me onto the scoop stretcher and it hurting. And I remember them joking with one another about how Clark couldn’t even have a day off.
In the back of the ambulance, they gave me an IV. I’m sure it had some pretty strong drugs in it. I had to recite my name, address, age, the date, the place, etc., for Logan, one of the two stellar respondents I was blessed with. I don’t remember much else, except him holding on and saying how Jackie was a crazy driver.
In the ER I was whisked into a theatre, transferred to a bed, my clothes were cut off me, and I was wheeled in to have a lengthy visit with the MRI. Once I returned, they gave me more drugs, put in a catheter, and took my jewelry. Matt was there by then, and he took my promise ring and threaded it onto his chain around his neck for safe keeping. (It’s still there, hanging close to his heart every day.) The police CSI unit came and took photos of my injuries. I remember Matt talking to them. And I remember Matt pacing at the back of the room while he called my mum to break the news. By this point the doctors were already talking about sending me to Calgary; they just had to find a way to get me there. I remember Matt saying, “Your mother damaged my calm” as he held my hand gingerly. I also remember having to sign something so they could give me a blood transfusion; it would be my first of three. At some point, someone made a joke about losing my shoe, and how it was always just one shoe but not both.
Once they had secured transport, I was separated from Matt, who had make some arrangements before he joined me, and driven to the Medicine Hat airport by the same team who had picked me up. They would be making the trip to Calgary with me. This made me happy and relaxed for my trip. I dozed lightly on the 50-minute flight, and all that stands out is Logan saying to Jackie, “She told me she was lucky to be alive. She kept saying how lucky she was.” Jackie’s response is long forgotten. And though I don’t remember saying that to him, I can believe I did. I also remember Jackie taking the “shortcut” through a construction zone once we were on the ground in Calgary, and Logan just holding on and smiling in the back. I remember crying once they left me in the care of the Foothills Trauma Response Team because they had been so good to me.
They both said to me over and over that once I got to Foothills, it would be a very intense barrage of questioning and testing. It still didn’t prepare me for what came next. There were a dozen people at any given time poking, prodding, examining, asking me questions, talking to one another – I felt like a cow at a meat auction. I had to keep telling people who I was over and over, what day it was, where I was now, as though they didn’t believe my answers from 30 seconds before. I could wiggle my toes and apparently this was the greatest thing in the world. They rolled me onto my left side and I screamed loud and long. They found one of my ribs had chipped under my right arm but the ultrasound showed it harmlessly hanging out nearby so they didn’t have to worry about my lungs being punctured. I was sent for another round of MRI screening. I think there may have been a picture of cherry blossoms on the ceiling. They gave me another transfusion, and I was whisked upstairs to the Trauma Ward’s “major injuries” unit.
I was given a window spot, and I shared the four berths with a guy who had a total facial reconstruction after diving off a cliff, a guy who got drunk and drove his ATV into a tree, and another empty bed. It was awful. Finally, Matt arrived, befriended the nurses (as is his nature), and did everything he could to make me comfortable. And he wouldn’t leave my side except to sleep for the next 10 days.
There is more, but it is most feelings and emotions that I can’t describe and images that are fuzzy with shock. I think someone commented on my promise ring at the scene, but I don’t know if it was the blonde lady that called 911 or Jackie, or even someone else. Matt said that on his way up to Calgary he heard the story on the radio news, and it was a surreal experience to hear someone talking calmly and objectively about the events. I think it was even on the local television news, but that’s not really the way I had hoped to become a celebrity.
When I woke up this morning and realized there was a new baby and a long-lived great-grandmother to celebrate today as well as the 20-month anniversary of the accident, I knew it was the kind of day to be thankful for. I am truly lucky to be here.