Thursday, November 15, 2012

That summer day

I am writing this post mostly for myself and my kids. I stopped writing on this blog a long time ago but I started it in the beginning so that my kids and family would have somewhere to go in case they wanted to know more about me or had forgotten different moments that they wanted to remember. This story isn't something we want to sit and reminisce about necessarily but it is something we never ever want to forget. It changed things. It changed perspective and it changed our lives.

August 3rd 2012-

It was an average summer morning in our house. Not a lot planned for the day and we were good with that. As she did most summer mornings (or fall, winter or spring too) Allison suggested that we go to Starbucks. We have a small addiction to Java Chip Frappucinos. Not one to ever argue with the idea to go to Starbucks I grabbed my favorite Clemson ball cap (still in my pjs, my husbands Clemson shirt and some sleep shorts) and said "lets go". Starbucks is about 5 miles from our house. A straight shot. One road. We are regulars, it's a part of our daily routine and we go all. the. time. As we sat in the drive thru I snapped this picture of myself, thinking I would post it to insta know, I figure everyone needs to know that were out and about in or pjs.
Once we got our drinks Allison wanted a breakfast sandwich from Bojangles so instead of leaving out the back entrance we went a different way. We turned right. There was no one at Bojangles so we got in and out very quickly. It literally wasn't 20 minutes from the time I snapped this picture to the moment it happened. We were probably going 35 to 40 miles an hour heading eastbound on one of our busiest streets here in Greenville. I saw the truck, he was trying to turn left into the gas station that was on my right. I didn't even give him a second thought as we approached. There was nobody coming up behind me for quite a while so he would have had plenty of time to turn (which he was doing illegally btw, that lane was the left hand lane for people traveling east bound and he was traveling west bound). Literally like a bad movie I heard it before I felt it and he had hit us. Head on. In a 3/4 ton Chevy pick up truck. He hit us so hard and with such momentum that my car went up in the air a little and flipped on it's side. It all happened in slow motion. Being in that moment, as a mother, with your kids in the car is not something I would ever wish on another mother. As the car was flipping I kept looking at Allison next to me. She was so scared. She didn't say much, none of us did. We all were in shock and maybe grunting a little but not a lot of words. When the car landed and we were hanging there and the airbags were all around us I really thought we were going to die. I didn't know that when airbags deployed they got hot and they smoked. I was scared. I thought the car was going to catch on fire. I thought we were doomed. We also had our Yorkie with us. I had no doubt he was dead, I couldn't imagine in a million years how he could survive what we just did. From the backseat Gianna kept saying "is this a dream?" "mommy, am I having a nightmare" and then as the blood started to come, "Help me, I am broken, help me mommy, I am broken". I couldn't do anything. I was hanging by my seat belt begging the people standing around my car looking in to "please help us, please help us!". They did. They weren't supposed to but they did. They all got together and they slowly, gently pushed the car back on all four wheels.
I knew I was injured but I didn't know how bad. My wrist was very obviously broken but that was all I could see. I unlocked my door and jumped (well I say jump but it was more like a stagger) out of my car. By the time I got out of the car the ambulance was pulling up and there were three people at Allison's side and three people at Gianna's side and a woman was holding my dog. My dog that was alive. I was shocked. He was scared but he was alive. Gianna was bleeding from her mouth and in a lot of pain. Allison was yelling at the people asking her questions. She was frustrated because she couldn't see them. She had no center vision. She was scared. When I realized that they (my girls) were getting care from the EMS people I started trying to get a hold of my husband. He never answers his phone at work. Never. I had to call a friend who's wife is my friend that works with Chris. I was shaking and I was hurt but I was pretty calm. I was in shock. Calling Chris was awful. Saying to my husband that the girls and I were in an accident and I didn't know how bad the injuries were was so hard. My next phone call was not easy either. I had to call my in laws to come get my dog. Can you imagine? "Umm, Hi, both of your grandchildren were just in a horrible car accident, our car is totaled and it flipped on it's side, but what I need from you is to come to the accident site and get my dog from this sweet lady who has offered to stay here until you get here, because the girls and I are being rushed to the trauma center" and honestly, that is pretty much how it went. I felt awful but I was so glad they were here to call. So grateful that 3,000 miles from "home" we had family.
As I hung up the phone one of the EMS ladies came to me and said "your younger daughter is doing okay, we are worried about your older daughter. We are taking her priority one to the hospital and you and your other daughter will follow in the next ambulance". Holy cow. This was serious and scary. As I stood there holding my extremely broken, crooked wrist I realized that I couldn't stand on one of  my feet. I was balancing on my right foot. I was starting to feel my injuries. I was scared. The crowd that had gathered around was amazing. They were doing everything and anything to make me feel better. Southern people rock. They aren't rubber-neckers who drive by an accident to see the gore, they get out of their cars and help. They don't ask if they can help. They just do it. They all started to pray with me. That is what we do in the south, we pray. It touched my heart and changed my life in that moment. I have known from the day that we moved here that this was the place we were supposed to be. That morning standing there broken and scared to death I was so certain that God himself had put us there that I could feel him. I felt him all around us.
After they loaded Allison into the first ambulance and took her away a very rotund EMS man came to me and said (and I quote) "ma'am, we are taking your daughter to the hospital, are you going with us or are you getting a ride with someone else" uhh...what in the world was he talking about? so I said, "I AM BROKEN' and then, "I was driving that car, of course I am going with you". It was then that I realized that the whole time I was standing there on the side of the street not one paramedic or EMS had tended to me. Not a heart rate, not a 'here ma'am, sit down so we can check you'. I was irritated and offended by this guy. He told me to come on then, cause they were leaving. A paramedic looked at me and said "her wrist is broken, you need to splint that" Finally, someone noticed. They splint my arm an I climbed into the ambulance unassisted with a broken foot.
The drive to the hospital was long. It is about 20 minutes from where we were. Twenty minutes of me not knowing what was wrong with my kids. Twenty minutes of Gianna saying things like "mommy, I promise I am going to be ok" and "please help me, I am broken, it hurts". Oh my heart. It was breaking. My mind was racing. Where was Allison? Was she ok? Was she going to have brain damage?. The longest twenty minutes of my life.
We pulled up to the hospital (oh btw the guy in the back of the ambulance never checked me. not once.) They rushed Gianna off to pediatrics and put me in a wheel chair and took me to the ER. Waiting room. Like the same place you go if you have an ear ache or if you cut your finger real bad. I had just been in a head on collision with a giant pick up truck and my car flipped and they said "ok ma'am, I gave them your name, they will call you in a while" I am not kidding. The shock was wearing off, my adrenaline was slowing down and I knew I was hurt. I kept thinking 'huh, I don't think this is right, I might be bleeding internally' 'There could be so many things wrong with me and they might call that woman sitting across from me with a bandage wrapped around her finger first'. When they finally did call my name they took my heart rate and luckily for me it was so high that they rushed me back to a 'room' and had me hooked up to a heart monitor and an iv so fast your head would spin. Nothing like a heart attack looming to get you quick service.
I won't get into all the details as this story is going on and on and on. Chris got there and I sent him to pediatrics to find the kids. When he came back he told me that Gianna's intestine had been severed by the seat belt and she was going into emergency surgery. Allison was having a number of tests and being checked.

After several hours it was determined that I had a broken wrist, foot and fractured sternum. Gianna was in recovery and Allison was in her own room being observed at least overnight. I was taken to the heart floor in the ICU as my hear rate continued to climb and in spite of all the meds I was on and all the care that was being taken it wouldn't go down. My left wrist was broken and my right arm had two IVs in it. I had a catheter because I couldn't walk. How in the world was I going to text my kids or get to them. I didn't realize at the time but the girls and I were in different buildings completely. Poor Chris was running back and forth between the three of us. The staff at the hospital was amazing. They put my girls in rooms right next to each other. I found out later that Allison could hear Gianna crying and screaming in pain and was heartbroken and crying 'that's my sister, that's my sister!'. Ugh. I hate that. The fact that they had just been through something so scary and I couldn't be there and Chris was torn between all three of us. I didn't see them until 36 hours after the accident. Here is Gianna when her nurse wheeled her to me. Oh my baby...
Seeing this picture always makes me choke up. Oh she was so brave. All alone in her room. Scared to death. Wanting her mom. The nurses were amazing. They took such good care of my girl. Of both my girls. Oh, Allison stayed overnight for observation and tons of tests and then was released. Oddly enough, the one of us who was rushed priority one to the hospital was the first one out.
I stayed in ICU for 4 days and Gianna stayed in pediatrics recovering from her surgery for four days also. During that time we texted and talked on the phone and saw each other 3 times. Our nurses were won.der.ful.

My first trip out to the doctors. During this time I was reading the Hunger Games and I felt like Katniss took 3 people to get me ready
Our recovery at home was difficult. I felt that we weren't ready to be home. My bruises were so severe. So bad that I couldn't lift either of my arms. I couldn't move well. Gianna couldn't stand up straight because of her incisions in her belly. She wanted to go back to the hospital. She wanted those nurses to take care of her. I couldn't help her. I couldn't even pull up my own underwear. I was helpless. Chris had to shower me and Allison did everything else. I mean everything. This girl who was so sore and moving so slow herself was the nurse to her sister that I couldn't be...and she was caring for her mom too. Doing things that I had to do for my mom when she was sick (and dying). It was humbling. It was heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. There are so many moments from those first few weeks that are forever etched in my brain. The way people just showed up at night with dinner for us. Nobody said "if there is anything we can do let us know". They just did it. They fed us. They ordered housecleaning services (sweetest friend in California, did that one) for us. They were amazing. I was far from the place that I called home for 41 years but I was home. I was in a place that I never want to leave.
We are now 3 months out. The kids are doing great and for the most part have been released from their doctors. Gianna still has some physical therapy and Allison would like to see a counselor. She is traumatized a little and has a hard time driving. Loud noises scare her and she is very jumpy when she drives or actually when anyone drives. I am doing okay. I am older, my wounds were deeper and it will take me longer to heal. My fractured sternum is the worst. I also have so much scar tissue from the seat belt wounds. That hurts often. I am sore most of the time and at night or when it's cold I walk with a limp. It's okay though. I am alive. My kids are alive. My dog is alive. From the moment we checked out of the hospital, maybe even before that I have felt so lucky. So incredibly blessed. This could have been so much worse. We have talked to strangers (it's kind of a small town) who saw the accident and they assume someone died. It was bad y'all. It was not a fender bender. It was one of those accidents you see and immediately start praying for the people. We walked away from it (well kind of ). Not only could we have died but our injuries could have been so much worse.
One of my favorite things to have come from all of this is something Gianna said to me a few weeks ago. She is twelve years old. She has decided what she wants to be when she grows up. On our way home from school she said to me "mom, I know what I want to be when I grow up. I want to be a nurse who takes care of kids in the hospital. I want to make kids feel the way those nurses made me feel". Oh my gosh. I cry just typing that. Her heart. Her life was changed. I love that.


  1. Gave me chills reading this Nina! One of your worst days was just one day before one of our worst days! Can't believe all that our two families were going through that same weekend! Praising God for His protection and His mercy over both of our families!

  2. Great writing Nina. It amazes me how much we humans go through sometimes & generally we grow more thankful, more introspective, more aware of what really matters. I don't understand how some rare individuals stay exactly the same. I'm so glad you all weren't hurt worse or killed. I gotta say I'm a little pissed that you got what I consider very substandard ems care. Dangerous really how much they neglected you and got a lot wrong.
    My family has been through similar events & it has brought us much closer. On July 2 I had a grand mal seizure while driving & landed my car atop a telephone box in an empty field btwn a mobile home park & busy hardware store. We are so blessed to be alive & more aware of how precious life really is. Thanks again for sharing.


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