I can't sleep right now and I really wanted to write this all down before the memories start to mushify. I was in a pretty terrifying car accident yesterday afternoon. I am banged up, but mostly okay. Here's the story as I remember it.
McKenzie was in Olympia with the Hyundai (our much newer car) for a tournament, so I was driving the Honda. It's never given us any trouble, but it's an older car and Z was wary of taking it on long trips, so basically it only ever gets used when he's got the Hyundai out of town. I had intended to take transit downtown for the day, but after Body Pump, I was so tired that I came back and napped until it was too late to leave by transit and make it to the sports bar on time, so I drove. I met my fellow Hokies at Blitz Ladd in SE, watched most of a really satisfying game, and opted to leave with about 8 minutes to go in the 4th quarter. The satellite signal kept cutting out, the game was well in hand anyway, and I had shit to do, so I said goodbye to everyone and took off for home. Please note that while I was at a bar to watch the game, that was all -- I had nothing to eat or drink there.
The car seemed normal until I got to 26. Going west toward my house, there is a long hill, and once I got to said hill, I noticed the car didn't feel right. The tachometer was reading way too high, and I couldn't get any power into it. I put my hazard lights on and I got myself to the far right of the four lanes. I was about 20 yards shy of the next exit when the car just would not go another inch forward. There is no shoulder on this part of the road, but at least it is straight, so other cars could see me. I turned the car off and tried restarting it. I got it to turn on, none of the dashboard lights came on, so I figured that was a positive sign, but when I tried to hit the gas, it just rolled back. No power. So I pulled the emergency brake, turned off the car, and thought about whom to call. I took my seatbelt off, but then it occurred to me, no, I've seen a lot of accident claims from cars hitting disabled cars on the road, better leave this on. Best decision I made all day.
I dug around in the glove box looking for information about our insurance or any roadside assistance program. Couldn't find it, so I called McKenzie. He was at work and didn't get my call, so I hung up and googled towing in Beaverton. I called the number of a company we work with frequently at my office, and gave my details to the dispatcher. This call lasted several minutes, including a few-minute stretch where she put me on hold to contact a tow truck driver. Lots of cars honked at me as they drove by, some giving me the finger, as if I didn't know the freeway was a terrible place to stop a car. Nobody stopped to see if I needed help. This is not the Portland I know :( The dispatcher took me off hold and was just verifying my information when I saw the Jeep in my rear-view mirror. He was going way too fast. I knew he didn't see me stopped ahead of him. He was going to hit me. I screamed as his car approached mine at 60mph. There was nothing I could do. The impact was so hard. It felt like he pushed me forward, up that steep hill, forever. When the car came to rest, I was just screaming, in shock. I looked around me and all I saw were parts of my car that were supposed to be behind me, or over my head. Everything was crumpled. Glass everywhere. I couldn't get my door open. Luckily, the windshield didn't break, or I'm sure I'd have been cut far worse than I was. The Jeep driver got out and came to my car. "Are you OK?" he asked. I just shook my head, crying, "I don't know." "Are you OK?" he asked again -- I guess he hadn't heard my answer. My window was up, but all the other ones were broken. "I DON'T KNOW!" I wailed. He said "okay" and walked to the shoulder to wait for me. Some witnesses had stopped just ahead of us at the exit -- two different women each driving their own car. One came to my passenger side and asked if I was alright. I just shook and cried and said I didn't know. I was in pain, but I couldn't even describe the pain -- where it was coming from or how bad it was. I had so much adrenaline pumping through me that I just didn't have an answer for her question. My phone had flown out of my hand on impact, and I couldn't find it. I was looking around for it when the lady insisted I needed to get out of the car. It was too dangerous to stay in it on the freeway like that. She helped me crawl out the passenger side when I couldn't open my door. She had already called 911. The other guy had lost his phone in the impact, too. His Jeep was more or less fine -- my car had crumpled around it rather than fighting back. When I saw my car from the outside, I was horrified. The trunk was literally in the back seat. There was glass EVERYWHERE, including all over me. I can't believe I wasn't cut all over, but I guess the fact that the windshield lived is what saved me there. My airbags didn't deploy -- no idea why. Maybe because the engine was off when the impact happened? But thank heavens I'd decided to rebuckle my seatbelt, because the impact was HARD. I'd have been smashed like an egg if I didn't have a restraint on.
I just wanted my phone. I wanted to call McKenzie and tell him what happened. I wanted to call a friend who was local to give me a ride, since I clearly wouldn't be driving myself. One of the witness ladies handed me her phone to call McKenzie. It went to voice mail, so I left a rambly message describing what had happened, and saying I thought I was okay, but that I wasn't sure yet. The police showed up first. He asked what happened and told us to exchange information. I was like, wait, aren't you going to do a police report? In my job, they do police reports for every kind of accident they're called to. He said no, it was the city's policy that if there is no crime, there's no report. I didn't want to be a dick but I did wonder to myself why he wasn't at least going to write a citation for the guy who never applied his brakes as he charged up the hill and into my car. But I know how the claims process works. I know that when you get rear-ended, you have an ironclad case. It is NEVER the fault of the person who gets hit -- even when they cut off the other driver or slam on their brakes right in front of you. It's the responsibility of the other driver to be aware of their surroundings, and this guy wasn't. So I didn't get too upset about the lack of a police report. It was obvious who was at fault and anyway I had two witness phone numbers. I've processed a zillion claims just like this. I know how it's going to go. I also know that people who get rear-ended very often end up with chronic soft tissue pain issues. I was terrified that I would be somehow crippled, even though I was feeling reasonably well at the time. ODOT was next on the scene. They said the fire department was on the way, and had us fill out some paperwork so all the insurance information was available to both of us. I remember that my handwriting was barely legible on the forms, because I was shaking so badly. The ODOT guy asked if either of us needed medical attention. The other guy was fine. He said no. I thought I was fine and said I had some aches but that I didn't have any serious injuries. I didn't need medical. The truth is, I was terrified that I wasn't fine, but my refusal for care was a holdover from the days when I had no insurance. I was just terrified of how much it would cost me. I do have insurance now, and I also know that the other guy's insurance would cover any expenses I had, but I still had the cost fear. It's hard to think rationally in such a situation. They were arranging for a tow truck for my car, and I told the ODOT guy I just wanted my phone before they towed me. I needed to call for a ride home, and still hadn't reached my husband. He went back to my car to look for it for me, and he didn't find it, but he did insist that I was going to the hospital. He said hat judging from the damage to my car, I was going to need it, whether I felt it now or not. I agreed, and soon the fire department arrived and started taking my vitals. They put a temporary neck brace on me since I did complain of neck and upper back pain -- not severe, but enough to cause worry. My blood pressure and pulse were really high. They radioed for an ambulance to take me to St. Vincent's, which was just a few miles away.
One of the firemen found my phone and brought it to me. I called Mary, since she lives the closest to the hospital and I figured she could give me a ride. It went to her voice mail, and I left a rambly message for her. I then posted to Facebook asking if anyone local was free to give me a ride, since I wasn't having any luck calling people. I realized after I'd made the post and texted a few others that I had never hung up after leaving my message, so Mary had about a 3-minute voice mail at this point. Sorry, Mary. The ambulance arrived, and I didn't know what the procedure was here. I was perfectly mobile except for the neck brace, and they just sort of gestured to the back for me. One of the medics gave me a hand to stand up, but other than that there was no dramatic back board or anything. I climbed into the back of the ambulance by myself and sat in one of the seats. The medic crawled in after me and told me I had to ride in the stretcher. Why I had to get into a stretcher after I'd hoisted myself into the ambulance was unclear to me, but I let them strap me in, and I admit I was happy to lie down, anyway.
They didn't let me get out on my own, though. They wheeled me out of the back and into the ER. A nurse took my vitals at the door, and I told the story of what had happened for probably the sixth or seventh time that day -- far from the last. I can't recall how many nurses and doctors and officials I saw at the ER, but every single one of them asked for my medical history and the story of the accident all over again. After the first two nurses saw me, the EMT's unstrapped me from the gurney and brought a wheelchair for me. Again, no assistance -- I was just expected to move myself from one to the other. No big deal, I was perfectly capable of doing this, I just find it odd that for all the precautions they did take, they were so nonchalant about me moving around. (There was more of this later, too.)
Once in the wheelchair, a nurse rolled me to the waiting room and told me someone would come get me and take me to triage soon. I thought that was what I'd just done, but I guess not. I asked the nurse how long he thought I might be there -- I was considering whether or not to call my in-laws in Salem to come get me. At first I thought I'd be in and out quickly, but once at the hospital I realized it'd be a while. He said the longest wait was about 4 hours, and people were taken back based on the severity of their case. I figured mine wasn't severe at all, so I'd be there for a long time. I called Cindy and she agreed to come up from Salem. After that, another nurse came and took me to another station to take my vitals for the fourth? fifth? time and get my medical history and all that again. She finished up and wheeled me back to the waiting room and parked me facing the wall, with my back to everything. Weird, but whatever. I finally got in touch with Z while I was waiting there. I told him what had happened and what was going on, and he asked if I needed him to come home. I said I didn't think so, and he asked if he could call me back in a few minutes.
Once I hung up the phone, I heard them call my name. I raised my hand and said to the wall "that's me!," but they didn't seem to notice. They kept calling, and I kept shouting "over here!" until finally one of the other people in the waiting room was like "dude, she's over here," and another nurse came and got me. He wheeled me to a room that said "Rapid Care" or "Immediate Care" on the door -- something along those lines. I was shocked that I'd been called back so quickly and now to be in one of these rooms wigged me out a bit. Was this more serious than I'd realized? I texted Z that they'd taken me back, and he replied that he'd be here at 8. I started to cry. I hadn't realized how badly I wanted him to come until he said he'd be there. I was so relieved.
The nurse took some info that I'd already given at least three other nurses, then the hospital admin person came in and took the same info -- she said she'd passed my accident on her way into work. Once she was done, the nurse came back and said they were moving me to a room with a bed, and that the nurse practitioner would be in soon. He wheeled me to the next room, handed me a hospital gown, and told me to change into the gown and get in bed. He left the room before I could explain I didn't think I could get my shirt off on my own. I managed, though, and again moved myself from one hospital apparatus to another. The NP came in right away and started checking me for my pain symptoms. I was in pain, but nothing she did or nowhere she touched me made it worse. She decided I could come out of the collar, because I didn't have a broken neck, but she still wanted X-rays. An X-ray tech came in and wheeled me from the bed to the X-ray room. Once there, she had me get up and stand for the X-rays. All this wheeling around followed by "okay now you need to get up and move" seemed silly to me, but whatever.
She took pictures from a bunch of different angles, then put me back in the bed and wheeled me to my room again. Cindy showed up shortly after, and the NP was close behind her with the good news that nothing was broken. I was warned I'd feel worse tomorrow, but she said that I should take lots of painkillers and that I should be back to normal within a week. That was a relief to hear, but I still worry about the soft tissue issues lingering. I'm all too familiar with how these claims go. They gave me a giant ibuprofen pill and advised me to take 600mg every 6 hours, and sent me on my way.
As the adrenaline from the accident faded (it had been over two hours by this point), I realized I was in more and more pain, but it still didn't feel serious, and the ibuprofen helped a lot. Moving my head and left side hurt a lot, and my tailbone was really achy, too, but I felt okay. Cindy and I stopped for food on the way home, and Z met us there. We drove home, Cindy left, and I spent a few minutes talking to my neighbors about what had happened. One of them had driven by the accident, too, but she hadn't realized it was me until I put it on Facebook. I was fine as I told them my story, but once I got inside my house, I just fucking lost it. Couldn't stop crying. Not because I was in pain but because I was just so overwhelmed. I was also so happy that McKenzie was there to take care of me. I probably could've managed to care for myself, but I was very grateful for him. We'd had a big fight the day before, and even though we'd made up, things were still so tense, but this whole thing just brought out all the love I feel for him. I sobbed because I was happy he was there, and also scared that he wouldn't always be. Lots of emotions.
We hung out in bed for a while, and I got to sleep around 10 or 11 -- I woke up around 2, though, and decided I wanted to write out the story before I went back to sleep. I'm not that tired, actually.
I'm still pulling glass out of my hair, but I'm not in nearly as much pain as I expected to be. Who knows how I'll feel when I wake up in the morning, though.
I'll deal with insurance stuff in the morning, and we'll probably go to the tow yard to get our stuff from the Honda. I don't know if seeing it will be a huge trigger for me or for McKenzie -- I'm sure it will be a shock for him to see. I hope I don't have lasting driving fears. But that's not important right now. One thing at a time.