For those who are squeamish, you may not want the rest of these details. I’m not going to get super graphic, but I am going to spell out what happened to me and Jason and where my body is at now.
I have exactly one split-second memory of the accident, so the next few things are based on public record. We were going west on 26th St. We were t-boned by someone who ran a red on Blaisdell Ave. My car was hit hard enough that it slid sideways through the intersection, jumped the curve and landed on the steps of the church. In addition, the other vehicle heading west on 26th t-boned the second car that ran the red, making it a 4 car accident.
Jason died instantly. He sustained significant head trauma and his brain was destroyed immediately. He did not suffer.
I was transported to the trauma center at HCMC. At admittance, I had a broken rib, extremely minor spinal fractures/compressions, a hemothorax/pneumothorax, bleeding from my adrenal gland, a concussion, and a laceration that required 9 stitches in my eyebrow.
For those of you not in the medical field, let me take that apart for you. I assume you know what a broken rib is. If you are keeping score at home, mine is my third rib on the right side with a clean fracture basically in my armpit. This is why I’m cautious about hugs, because that’s about where hug arms land. The spinal fractures are also easily understood, especially since mine were so minor the trauma resident couldn’t actually spot them. He and my father (also a doc) joked that this is what radiologists are for. In addition, the spinal fractures might actually have been a few weeks old, so they might have been from the accident or from circus training. Either way, I need to be careful, but they don’t require any further interventions.
A hemo/pneumothorax is when blood (hemo) or air (pneumo) get caught in the pleural (lung) cavity. So, in this case, I had blood and air trapped in my lung cavity, which was pressing against my lungs and restricting my ability to breathe. Bodies are amazing, and mine was already healing this within twelve hours of the accident; by the time I went home it had shrunk by about 50%. At this point, it is gone and no further follow up is needed, unless I start experiencing shortness of breath.
My adrenal gland got sufficiently beat around in the accident that is sprang a leak. This had stopped and my body had started cleaning up the mess within 12-24 hours. It, too, shouldn’t require any other medical follow up.
The laceration and concussion are a little more complicated. Well, the laceration isn’t complicated. I hit my head, it needed stitches. There were 9 stitches in my eyebrow, which were removed 2 weeks ago and most people can’t even see where they were without staring at it.
The concussion is where it gets complicated. Concussions, or Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs), are getting more and more attention in the medical field. It turns out that brains are complex and don’t heal as cleanly as other body parts. So, the long-term impact of this won’t be known until the long term. In the short term, they can test working memory, look at pain, dizziness, and nausea and use those as indicators to determine the severity of the TBI and the likeliness of having long-term impacts. My working memory tested as normal both initially and at my follow up appointment. The headaches, nausea, and dizziness all abated within 4-5 days of the accident. In short, the obvious TBI symptoms are looking really good.
There are other symptoms that could be TBI or they could be grief, including being easily fatigued, having a short attention span, and once fatigued struggling for word recall and with memory. I am experiencing these symptoms. My attention span is about 15 minutes long and I have about a 2 hour window of activity before I need to take a nap, or sit someplace quietly. Currently, I’m easily overstimulated and get exhausted quickly in stimulating environments (If you saw me at the wake and I looked kind of glassy-eyed, this is why). Medical advice is to limit my time in highly stimulating environments, keep screen time/focus time to short periods with frequent breaks, and not return to work or school for another few weeks. I’m following that to the best of my abilities.
At this point, I am taking ibuprofen as needed to control pain. My body functions are all there, and I look healthy. Essentially, I walked away from the car accident that killed Jason. I don’t understand this. Emotional health is a totally different post, but know that I cry a lot and can’t plan for a future without him.
Thank you all for your support.