August 2, 2007 is the anniversary of my sons car accident. He was
driving his Rav4, lost control on a canyon road and went over the
embankment tumbling down 350 feet to the bottom. He came to rest upside
down, his 6 foot body cinched tight by the seatbelt.
My son, 33 at the time and recently been diagnosed with MS had been having some difficulty and should not have been driving that day.
The rescue workers said he was semi - conscious when they finally got to him, he had removed the seatbelt and fallen to the bottom of the roof. It required a helicopter, ropes and skilled rescuers to pull him safely out and rush him to the trauma center at Northridge Hospital near Los Angeles.
We were so fortunate someone saw him go over and called for help. I wish I could find and thank this momentary angel.
The night before the accident, I had a horrific dream my son was in an accident, almost exactly as it happened. I woke up sweating and troubled , I was leaving on a business trip that morning and my head was filled with anxious and foreboding thoughts. I wanted to cancel the trip but instead brushed off these feelings and left for the airport.
I got the call as I stepped off a plane in Indianapolis to attend a motorsports event, how ironic. It took 24 hours to get home and to his bedside. "Thank God he is alive", I kept saying.
Miraculously, he had only one major devastating injury to his lower spinal cord, and only minor cuts and scraps everywhere, no stitches required! The doctors wanted to do surgery to repair his burst fracture on L1 and could not say what the outcome would be, his spinal cord was 75% involved and told us to prepare ourselves as he may be completely paralyzed. Only time would tell.
The surgery took place on the third day. An eight hour surgery to remove the broken pieces and repaired by placing a titanium cage and pins in place of the crushed disc.
After multiple rehabilitations, months in and out of the hospital and so much more I cannot begin to list, my son is an incomplete paraplegic requiring use of a wheelchair for mobility about 95% of the time. He has learned to be as independent as his tenuous good heath will allow.
Wearing a seatbelt saved his life however his entire life, our family and mine was changed irrevocably in an instant. In fact everything has changed.
Is anyone prepared for such an event? You read about and hear about car accidents everyday in the news. For me, who practically lived at the rehab hospital off and on for a year, I can tell you my son is so fortunate to only have his injuries. I saw so many patients with much worse outcomes every day. Newly injured patients with little to no movement from the neck down, no speech, brain injuries. New patients arriving each day with sirens blaring outside as the newly injured arrived to the trauma center, just as we had. I am sure many did not make it into rehab at all, so mostly I felt grateful he was still alive and still do. We've had some very close encounters with near death the past two years.
Last week a friend said, " People don't realize that a car is a lethal weapon. When you start up the engine you need to treat that powerful weapon with its due respect".
Every 13 minutes, there is a death caused by a motor vehicle accident.
There are approximately 3 million car-related injuries per year, 2
million permanent injuries, and 40,000 deaths in the U.S. annually.
U.S. Department of Transportation statistics indicate that accidents
are generally related to irresponsible driving behavior.
The pictures you see are the actual car my son was driving and what is looked like just after the accident. I have not looked at these pictures for almost two years. I could not go to the accident scene or retrieve his personal belongings. I could not bear it and needed to keep my emotional composure during the long days of learning how to care for my new son. Yes, my new son.
All of the hopes , dreams and aspirations of what my sons life would be like died, and a new son with new hopes, dreams and aspirations was born on August 2, 2005.
My new son shames me with his courage and spiritual strength when I feel sad or angry. My new son is gentler, kinder and more loving and can laugh at himself more. My new son thinks of others always and even when he is in the hospital is always reaching out to give hope to another patient less fortunate or who needs help learning the ropes in this new life. My new son has new interests , challenges and is adjusting to his new role in our family and a new car pictured here.
I don't miss the son that died much these days. My new son has brought so much more to my life. He has given me more passion to reach out and help others, to slow down once and awhile, talk more softly and notice the small but important gifts of each new day. He reminds me daily to educate people about safe driving, car seat safety and that we carry precious cargo in our vehicles and to not forget that important fact. He reminds me not to use my cell phone, text message or otherwise be preoccupied when I am driving and to remind others as well. He helps me remember not to park in disabled parking zones, be conscious of others with disabilities and to NEVER use the disabled stalls in the restrooms because they are reserved seating only.
As I write these words my heart swells with pride and a smile curves across my face. He is truly a good person and has become this in the midst of his most difficult and pain filled circumstance. I would trade places with him in a nano second if I could. But the universe had other plans and I am sure more will be revealed.
I want to give a heartfelt thanks to the MS Society, Wyngs.org, the staff at Northridge Hospital and especially the United Spinal Association for your continued support of my sons second life.
Join me in Second Life on Saturday August 4th, 2007 to celebrate at the UnitedSpinal.org "Let's Race for a Cause" event. SLURL to location: secondlife://garage/65/209/35
Patty Streeter in Second Life