I WAS a victim. I am a statistic. More importantly, I am a survivor and an advocate.
March 18, 2017 will be a date that I will never forget. It was such a beautiful day. I spent most of it, with my daughter Ansley, shopping for her eighth grade banquet dress. We were on our way, to meet my husband and son, for an early dinner. It was around 4pm and I was stopped at a red light. I could see the truck behind me coming up quickly. His phone was on top of his steering wheel. I prayed he would look up and see us. There was no place for me to move. I looked over at Ansley and we got hit. It was like slow motion, watching her smile turn to terror. I saw her body move forward and back. The adrenaline kicked in and all I needed to know was if my baby girl was ok. Thankfully she wasn’t harmed.
The driver was cited for following too close. I was furious! I mentioned to the police officer about the driver and his phone. The police officer just shrugged. The driver had a suspended license, no insurance, and wasn’t the owner of the vehicle. He was free to go. I was left with $8,000 in just damages to my vehicle and little did I know the worse part wasn’t even over…
In the days following the accident, the adrenaline wore off, the pain set in. Headaches, burning sensation in my left arm and hand, and the only way I could get sleep or relief was to lie over a medicine ball. I couldn’t feel my left arm and hand and it just hung to my side like dead painful weight. My husband took me to the emergency room and the ER doctor was astounded I was even walking. The ER doctor immediately called Dr. Snyder at UT Med center and set me up an appointment. Basically, the areas C-6 through T-1 looked like firecrackers had went off. If I didn’t have surgery soon, I would lose the use of my left arm. Dr. Snyder told my husband and me that it was the worst injury he had operated on, as he and his team picked out bone fragments and particles from the injury site.
I was in a neck brace for six weeks. Confined to the makeshift bedroom, in our basement, alone, for months, I was defeated. I couldn’t walk without assistance. I couldn’t shower/bathe, eat, use the restroom, and dry my hair, by myself. I have permanent muscle loss and nerve damage that is a daily struggle. The nerve damage caused bowel and bladder issues. I was unable to do any type of weight lifting and only walk for a year. I had been extremely active prior. I was a professional hair dresser, a collegiate cheer and dance coach, and a personal trainer. In an instant, that was almost all taken away from me. Months of physical therapy, nerve testing, occupational therapy, water therapy, music therapy, and medication were taking a huge toll on me and my family. The medical bills are still piling up. I was finishing up my bachelor’s degree and had to take a medical leave for a semester. I couldn’t focus and I couldn’t even type my papers. I had to completely retire from my first love, hairdressing. Fitness was no longer in my future, until therapy got me back on track. I was fortunate to still be able to coach, but was extremely limited in my abilities. I wasn’t able to be near a stunt group and do any “hands on” work, for fear of being hit and possibility of snapping my neck near the surgery site.
I didn’t drive for a very long time. Even short 30 minute trips were still excruciatingly painful and I had terrible anxiety. When I did, finally, get behind the wheel, I gripped the steering wheel until I was white knuckled and would pull over, because I felt like I was having panic attacks. I would return home and just cry.
Cry…I did that so much. I was angry. I was depressed. I really didn’t talk to anyone because I felt useless and I didn’t want to bother anyone and ask for help. So I sat in the basement, alone, and felt like the world was caving in. Here the driver was, walking around, going about his daily duties, and my life was turned upside down.
I missed my old life. My kid missed their mom. My husband was doing his best to do it all, housework, running kids to school and sports, grocery shopping, fixing my hair, wiping my tears. I felt like the biggest burden. I felt like a failure because I couldn’t get better, faster. The hand spasms still come and go. My voice has changed and isn’t as girly because of the surgery and nerve damage. The muscle loss makes my neck stay “sunburnt” looking. Some days it still hurts to get out of bed. Some night, I still have to lay on a heating pad, ice pack, or both.
It wasn’t until our daughter got her driving permit and started driving that I felt I really needed to “turn my frown upside down”. I had been hit by a texting driver. My family was impacted for life. What can I do? I can tell my story. I can tell the good and the bad and the extremely ugly. I can change minds and lives. I can show my kids that their mom is a fighter and wants to help others learn from bad choices.