Sunday, March 21, 2010

From the Other Side of the Stretcher

I was visiting my sister, I had come up with my mother and we three were all going back to her house. It was late, dark, and the streets were virtually empty. We weren’t going fast, there was no hurry, just everyone getting home since we all had to be up early the next day.

I remember our lights suddenly reflecting off of a very solid car in front of us. The glow was rather eerie as I remember not even having enough time to say anything as they pulled out and kept pulling out in front of us from their stop sign like we weren’t there. It was a T intersection and we had the right of way. It still is mind boggling to me that they just kept pulling out as if we weren’t there.

The crash, the noise, the smell, the silence. I know I closed my eyes before we hit but after that all I remember was that my sternum hurt. It really, really hurt. Now, I can handle a lot of pain, but the sudden shock of this pain compounded with the fact that it now really hurt to breath scared me. I couldn’t take a deep breath.

The acrid smell of air bag is something I will never forget as my mother tried to get me out of the car, thinking it was on fire. I refused to move. I hurt and I didn’t know why, all of which screamed to me to hold still.

I really had been holding a plate of cupcakes and to this day I don’t know if the plate landed perfectly on the folded up seat next to me or if I had put it there in the first moments after the crash, I really don’t remember.

The police officer checked my pupils, making sure I was conscious, talking, and without the immediate signs of a head injury. Fire was next on the scene, apparently they had just gotten off of a call on the campus and were very close. The irony was that I had just watched that company hang lights on their fire house earlier that night from my hotel. They were really nice, though I do think the guy who took C-spine really did kneel in a cupcake. We found them all over the car the next day.

The medic was very nice, quickly assessing I was probably not as injured as dispatch had told him, though I don’t know what it was dispatched as, just that I had told my mother to tell dispatch that I had midline sternal pain. The EMT and the fire fighters got a good practice at a KED and backboard extrication thought while I learned that lowering the backs of seats can be very handy if they will move.

I felt so bad that I was shaking uncontrollably not because I was cold, perhaps something closer to the simple shock of being in an accident. The 12-lead must have looked horrendous, though somehow he was able to tell it was normal sinus. We really did have a good talk in the back and it helped in getting my nerves and adrenaline down enough to feel slightly more coherent. I wish I had gotten his name before he had handed me off so I could send him a thank you.

The hospital must have been having a slow night with the relatively short amount of time it took to get me off the board, out of the KED, and out of the collar. Surprisingly the thing that hurt the most was the KED against the back of my head.

Numerous questions, an X-ray, and a CAT scan later, it was determined that I had in fact not cracked my sternum like the X-ray was alluding to and I did not have a pneumo in the top left part of my chest. Though both would have been possible seeing as my lack of other seatbelt bruises indicate I took the full force of that crash across my sternum and only across my sternum. Also, I do remember holding my breath right before we hit, which is a paper bag lung in the making.

I count my lucky blessing that I was not hurt worse, that my family was fine, particularly my sister on her birthday, and that the other driver was surprisingly unscathed. My mother’s car may have been totaled, but no one was seriously injured.

Saratoga Springs Fire and EMS services, thank you for all that you did that night. It may not have required extrication and cutting up cars, but you made me feel well cared for and in good hands during a very rattling experience.

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