On Thursday, Andrew and I were headed back from a quick trip to Costco for some tortillas, shampoo and conditioner (we live a very exciting life). We were about two minutes away from home when a couple cars in front of us stopped at a flashing pedestrian light and we hit the brakes. About 10 seconds later, disaster struck.
All I remember is suddenly hearing a loud, metal-crunching groan that seemed never-ending and feeling the car (and my seat) being propelled forward as I arched my neck and back. I started screaming and crying at the same time from confusion and fear. I had never seen the car behind us coming and wasn't sure what had happened.
Then everything stopped and Andrew was holding my hand, asking if I was OK. He was outside the car, calling 911 and people were looking in the windows and asking questions. Two paramedics were there within a minute of the crash because an ambulance had just turned down the street when it happened. I kept trying to get out of the car, but they were holding my head and trying to get me to calm down so they could see if I had a neck or spine injury.
A few minutes later, fire trucks and another ambulance had arrived, and Andrew's parents, who only live about three minutes away, were also there. Firefighters lifted me out of the car on a board, despite my protests that I did not need to go to the hospital to be checked out, and took me to St. Mark's. Because I couldn't move my neck and was in shock, I couldn't look around to see that the entire section of road had been closed off and there were two fire trucks and two ambulances on the scene as well.
I learned later that the man who hit us, who was driving a Toyota Camry, was going 45-50 mph and hadn't been paying attention to the road at all. We're lucky he didn't have any injuries and that Andrew (who was driving) and I weren't hurt worse.
So here are 10 things I have learned from our car accident, mainly for me to remember later and to tell my future kids about the day we lost poor little Negrito (Andrew's Civic):
- You should always wear your seatbelt. Duh, right? But honestly, if Andrew and I hadn't been wearing our seatbelts, the accident could have been so much worse. We always put our seatbelts on, and I've never been more grateful that we do.
- People will ask you the same questions over and over. I can't tell you how many times I told people my birthday, my social security number, my medical history and what I remembered happening in the accident (which wasn't a lot). I think this is partly for paperwork and partly to keep you talking so you don't black out or start panicking.
- Firefighters are not very gentle. I know they're trying to get you out of the car as quickly as possible without causing you further injury, but they taped my hair to the board with thick masking tape — and when the ER nurse tried to roll me onto a stretcher from the board, I was stuck like a rodent in a mousetrap until they ripped the tape (and my hair) off. I still feel like big chunks of my hair are missing in the back.
- I have a really small neck. I actually already knew this, but the neck brace was so huge on me that it slid up and almost covered my mouth. Not exactly supportive for someone with a neck sprain.
- Your abs and ribcage will ache after a car accident. The second day after the accident was the worst. I'm still battling a cold and coughing a lot, and each cough hurts my abdomen and ribs. Andrew hurts in the same area, and he has no strength in his left arm. It's so strange to have pain in your abs; it feels like you just did 100 sit-ups (combined with neck and back pain).
- You will worry about stupid things when you're in shock. As I was lying in the car while the firefighters were attempting to pull me out, I kept telling Andrew over and over that I needed my purse, he needed to grab my purse, where was my purse? He finally had to tell me that they couldn't even get the passenger-side door open (though they were able to eventually pry it loose) and he would get my purse once I was safely out of the car.
- You will mourn the loss of your car. Once I knew that Andrew and I were both OK and that the driver of the other car was OK, all I could think about was poor Negrito. We have so many great memories of driving in that little car, and it was really part of the family. I am still sad that we will probably never see it again — and that we now have to start the awful process of searching for a new car.
- Driving again will be a bit scary at first. Fortunately, I have a very kind manager who allowed me to work from home the next day and then picked me up from home for a nearby team lunch so I didn't have to drive. I still feel a bit of apprehension in the car, especially when I see cars coming up behind me, but I know I have to conquer this fear; driving is a necessity.
- You will keep reliving the accident in your mind. I can't seem to stop thinking about the fear I felt as the car was quickly crunching up with Andrew and I inside it. I am so glad nobody was in the backseat and that we were fine, but I don't think I'll ever forget the experience.
- You will be more aware of your own mortality. Life is short, and it's so easy to not pay attention and put other people in danger. How many times have I driven somewhere on auto pilot and not paid close attention to what was going on? This car accident has made me more grateful for my life and more determined to be careful and to live it as fully as I can.
Phew! Thanks for making it through that post. Have you ever been in a car accident? I hope this is my last.