I don’t think I will ever get over the nervousness and fear and intense anxiety I have when in a vehicle. Not with driving one cuz I don’t drive anymore. I’m always the passenger as I surrendered my license after the accident a couple of years ago (I didn’t really drive then either, when I DID have my license. David was always driving).
For those of you who don’t know much about me, I will tell you what happened. Once you know, then you’ll better understand the cause of my anxiety.
I was in a car accident a few years ago, with David. He was driving and we were on our way out of town for a doctor’s appointment. It was in January, on the 12th, and we’d recently had a storm. The roads were still a bit sloppy and messy but nothing too serious that made us feel the need to reschedule the appointment. Things were after melting the previous day but during the night temperatures dropped and by noon that day, we had reached the coldest temperature of the season.
We were driving along, chatting, about what I don’t remember. Next thing I know the car was sliding and David couldn’t regain control. He threw his arm across me in an attempt to protect me, his fiancé of 2 months. And his words were “Hold on baby, this is gonna be bad” ….. And he cut the wheel.
We crossed over 2 lanes and nose dived down over a cliff. My forehead hit my door frame when I snapped foreword and my glasses were crushed, slicing open my eye socket. I was instantly knocked out.
I floated in and out of consciousness for the next 3 hours as police, paramedics, firemen and volunteers worked frantically to get me out. I remember David screaming my name over and over and over but I couldn’t open my mouth. My nose, chin, and cheekbones had all been fractured.
I don’t remember any pain. All I felt was the blood running from my eye and down into my ear. They got David out and put him into an ambulance while they pried crushed metal off my body. Most of the car’s damage was on my side, so I took the brunt of it all.
All the while this was happening a paramedic was holding my head in his hands. He calmed me. He talked. I focused on his voice. His job was to ensure I stayed still. I later found out that this man was later taken off work for a while with an injury he had sustained because he wouldn’t let go of my head and upper body as the jaws of life shredded the metal and glass. They had to break the windshield to get to me and I remember him shielding me with his own body.
I remember them talking really fast and as I fought to stay awake I could hear them discussing how they were going to get me on the back board. Next thing I know there were men all around me. They each were positioned around me so that they could carefully lift me enough to slide the board in under me. I felt someone taking hold of the belt loops on the hips of my jeans. My new jeans. The jeans that had become my favorite piece of clothing. They counted, 1 … 2 … 3 … Lift. I felt them slide the backboard under the top half if my body. But, when they lifted me I also felt the most excruciating pain I had ever felt in my entire life. I screamed ……
…… 10 days later I opened my eyes. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t see clearly.
I was intubated, tubes down my throat, up my nose, and everywhere else a tube could go there was one. I groaned and my mom who was sitting next to me started talking and crying. I remember starting to panic and the doctor and nurses talking and telling me to calm down. That I was going to be ok. But I wouldn’t be able to talk because of the breathing tubes.
I was unable to move any part of my body other then to open and close my eyes. I was also wearing a neck collar. My mom was standing over me, stroking my hair and forehead. She started talking and telling me I had been in a really bad car accident … 10 days ago. I had been hurt really bad and was going to have to stay in the hospital for a while until I started to heal. Tears had been streaming down her face but then she started to sob. The nurse and doctor that were also there moved in closer to my bed. The nurse put her arm around mom’s shoulder and the doctor cleared his throat. It’s funny how I can remember every detail about that moment. I looked at them all with the one eye that wasn’t bandaged up and then mom spoke.
“Baby, you were hurt really bad. You’ve got some broken bones and cuts and bruises but …” She sobbed so much that the doctor spoke up. “Danielle honey, you were in a really bad car accident … and you lost your arm.”
2 days later I woke again. And so began the road to recovery.
• A complete arm amputation, along with the partial loss of my shoulder bone and half of my breast. The upper side part of my body had literally been torn off. My arm was basically shredded.
• Broken nose, cheeks and chin
• Sliced eye socket, which was stitched together and I later had plastic surgery done to repair it
• The back of my head was cut open, which left me with a bald circle shaped patch about the size slightly larger than a toonie. No hair has grown back and I have a very distinct scar that I keep covered with my long hair.
• 5 bones were broken in my back, which resulted in the loss of my ability to walk.
• A boob that was basically torn off. One if my breasts is now just an empty shell of scar tissue. All muscle was lost. They did a good job repairing it. From the outside I appear to have a normal chest. But in fact I am terribly disfigured.
• A crushed knee.
• Severe frost bite on both feet. In pictures that were taken, my feet were both black. I lost all if the entire outer layer of skin on both feet, up to my ankles. Eventually they healed up and my feet are perfectly normal now.
• The walking. I was told I may not ever regain full use of my legs. Due to my back injury, I had lost all function in both legs.
After a full year of regular intense physiotherapy, a team of fantastic medical professionals, and a lot of shed tears, I have now regained full use of my legs again! I can walk without any aid whatsoever. I was determined to not be a 29 year old stuck in a wheelchair if it was at all possible. And with God, ANYTHING is possible!!!
I do unfortunately live with chronic pain on a daily basis as well as a lot of phantom pain in my shoulder. It has often become debilitating on days, like today. But I don’t focus on that. I focus on the fact that I survived this!! I worked my ass off to be where I am right now. I proved all of the doctors’ prognosis to be wrong. I proved my family and friends wrong.
I proved to the world that I am a survivor!!! That God has a purpose for my life. I came out of that coma for a reason.
But I’m still afraid. I am a nervous wreck when I’m in a car. I have frequent flashbacks and have had many emotional breakdowns in the passenger seat of our (new) car. And I think I will always have it. The memories are engraved in my memory of that crash, those sounds, the pain … But I guess it’s a small price to pay in return for my life.