Sunday, February 11, 2007

What I couldn't say 'til now

Ladies (and the occasional gentleman), the truth is I've been holding a bit back. And now, after the end of this crazy week, I don't have to anymore.

Last November, I was making dinner (pumpkin lasagna) and waiting for my husband to walk home from a photography class so that I could surprise him with it. (He loves anything with cheese.) I sat down to blog about my meal, and my cell phone started ringing. I didn't get up, and it went to voicemail. But it immediately started ringing again. At the same time, I heard an ambulance siren. I felt a horrible gut reaction, and it was right.

"Hi, this is Anna, and I'm a bystander. . . ." My husband had been hit by a car that was going about 35 mph (about 56 km/hr) while he was crossing the street in a crosswalk. He was two blocks from home.

Two of our friends live down the street. Another bystander had called them (my husband was awake enough to call out the two phone numbers he could remember), and the wife had run to my apartment when she heard. I was in my apartment panicking. I knew my husband was nearby but couldn't remember how the streets intersect in my panic. I couldn't find my keys; I couldn't find my coat. The wife called me as her husband drove up. We hopped in the car and sped up the street.

I got out of their car and ran to my husband. A policeman tried to stop me. I could see blood running out of a large gash in my husband's head; he was very pale. I was still panicking. When I reached my husband, he was shivering. "I'm okay, I'm okay," he said. But then--"I can't move my legs. I can't move my right arm."

The ambulance took us to the ER at the trauma hospital in our city. It's the major-trauma unit for the surrounding 200-mile or so area. They stabilized my husband and put him in a tiny trauma unit room. Over the next few hours, they ran tests on him to see what his injuries were. He shivered uncontrollably. He still couldn't move his legs or his right arm. His back and neck hurt terribly. His body was swelling. I just knew--just knew--that he had internal injuries, that he was bleeding to death inside. I knew I was losing the person who meant the most to me in this world. Late that night, I gave in to my fears and put my head down on the edge of his stretcher and sobbed and sobbed. My husband took the hand he could move and stroked my hair, which only made me cry harder. I think I lost five years of my life in the fear, sadness, and anger of that night.

But he wasn't bleeding internally. The doctors considered it a miracle that he lived, but he did. His pelvis was broken in three places. His eye socket had shifted, permanently restructuring part of his face. His collarbone was dislocated. And he was covered in bruises and bloody areas from head to toe. But he lived.

We spent 10 days in the trauma hospital--a place that serves largely people who have no health insurance. It's a nightmare of a place to be long-term, but it was Thanksgiving weekend while we were there, and there was no luck transferring him. I bought and cooked him food to coax him to eat. A hundred friends and family members came and spent the night with him and brought us food and gave my husband entertainment and let me go home for brief periods and rest. Then my husband walked before anyone said he would, and he was able to come home weeks before anyone expected. He started physical therapy for his pelvis and shoulder. We visited countless doctors to get second opinions. We learned his collarbone would never heal. We learned his face would never heal completely but could be partially fixed with surgery.

I was angry at the guy who hit my husband. I was so furious. I wanted to stop being angry. I drove through the intersection where my husband was hit over and over again, trying to understand how the guy didn't see him. Was he on a cell phone? Was he changing a cd? Was he just driving too fast? How did it happen? How did he manage to hit my husband when my husband was 3/4 of the way across the 4-lane road? I experienced waves of fury, sadness, and sympathy. Part of the time I wished the guy who hit him was wracked by nightmares; I was so angry he was going about his daily life while our lives had so radically changed. Other times, I would think how awful it must be to have that moment of impact between your car and a human being--I felt sympathy for the guy who hit my husband.

Then we learned that the car insurance company of the guy who hit my husband refused to accept responsibility. So did the guy who hit him--he pled 'not guilty' for the charge of 'failure to yield to a pedestrian' (the understatement of the year). "The bastard," I said.

Several attorney friends told me I had to take down all of my old blog posts about our finances (which we've spent the last two years fixing), our life together, etc. from my public blog with my name attached to it. "It doesn't matter what you said about anything," the attorneys told me. "People can twist anything you've said against you in a deposition." With great sadness, I did it. I wrote many posts about what was going on, and then I either saved them or deleted them. We hired an attorney. He warned us the process of settlement could take as long as two years.

But Friday, Friday was a miraculous day. I came home because we sold my car and the person who bought it was picking it up. Then I drove me and my husband to lunch at a nearby restaurant. On the way home from there, my husband got a call from our attorney:
the insurance company had agreed to our demands. For the first half hour, I felt like dancing. After that, I felt so tired--so very exhausted . . . so overcome with relief. It was a feeling that lasted all weekend.

And at last, at last I can write about whatever I want to again without fear of recrimination.

My husband's body won't heal entirely, but it is getting better. He's tired nearly all the time, which was never true before. He looks a bit different, and--I'm a little embarrassed to say--one night after I had taken a sleeping pill that messed with me, I panicked because of the change in his appearance. "You don't look like you," I said, and cried.

But we're getting our lives back over time, and eventually, most of the harm from the accident will at least fade. With the insurance settlement, we can fix the financial problems this disaster caused, and come out a little bit ahead financially as well. I used to think people suing for emotional damages was stupid, but then I realized that with an accident like this, your life is very altered, and the only way an insurance company or person can even try to make it up to you is by granting some money to help where it can. Well, an apology from the guy who hit my husband would be nice, too, but I don't think that's coming. We'll see when he goes to trial on March 7.


I'm Fat said...

Dear God. I had no idea.

I don't know what to say...

I am so glad that your husband is okay. You have been carrying this emotion around for so long and couldn't share it with us. I am so sorry. Sorry that you had to endure it.

Please tell your husband that I am so happy he is well. He is a wonderful man, I am sure.

losing it... said...

As I always say, everything has a way of working itself out. I am glad that your husband is doing well. =)

Chubby and Tubby said...

I'm also glad to hear that your husband is okay. What an ordeal, you poor thing. It sounds like you've been incredibly strong through all of this.

I hope things continue to improve for you. You deserve it.

Krista said...

Even though I don't even know your name, I have great empathy for you. And admire you all the more that you are so balanced emotionally (posts about losing weight) after that happening to you and your husband. Thank you for sharing it and I am so happy that this chapter of the nightmare is over and you can have a little money to help get throug it.

~~Midnight Raider~~ said...

That's a major story. I'm glad the insurance company finally accepted responsibility. I had a friend killed in a motorcycle accident years ago... the guy who did it (the one who was at fault) never apologized either. But I suppose he lives with his guilt every day.

PearShapedGirl said...

Wow, Veggie, what an awful situation. There is nothing worse than something terrible happening to a loved one. I had goosebumps reading this and imagining that it was my husband that was hurt. I'm so sorry you and your husband had to go through that ordeal. What a great relief to have the insurance agree with your demands! I hope everything goes well at the trial and that your husband (and you!) continue to heal.

Take care,

Cory said...

I'm glad that your husband is ok and you have managed to get the finances in hand.

the veggie paparazzo said...

Thanks for all the supportive comments! I just felt like I was holding back part of who I am right now by holding this back. I'm glad I shared.

celtic_girl said...

I admire the courage you have both had to maintain.Stories like this always make me reflect on my own problems and be grateful for what I have. I'm glad for you the stress is nearly over:0)

Michelle 595 days said...

I read this post through tears. I can only imagine how difficult your lives have been for the last few months. It certainly puts my circumstances in perspective.

I am certainly happy to hear that your lives are on the mend emotionally, financially and health wise.

Take care!

Thank you so much for the book suggestion, it's available at my library so I'm going to go pick it up today. It looks like the kind of book I love to read.

the veggie paparazzo said...

Celtic and Michelle, thanks for being supportive.

While I agree that major events put our own lives in perspective, at the same time . . . problems suck, big or little. So please don't feel like I think I have the 'right' to feel better or worse than anyone else on a given day, because I don't. The day of Dan's accident, when I was weeping with my head in my hands, my mother said, "Oh, S., it could be worse." "Of course it could be worse!" I cried. "We could have been born in the Sudan, but we weren't!" And my best friend said, "No, this sucks all on its own." I was like, Thank you. Problems are problems no matter who in the world has greater problems.

End of soapbox :)

Lola said...

I was so glad to read that your husband is doing so much better now.

It's too bad at times like you went through you also have to deal with the insurance and trials and people that just won't own up and apologize.

Here's to a better road ahead for both you and your husband.

metamorphose said...

What a horrible thing to go through! THAT BASTARD! I HOPE HE ROTS! I mean, if he showed some sort of remorse, and to plead "not guilty?"

AHHHH! How infuriating! What is wrong with people? My boyfriend was a victim of a hit and run -luckily he was in his car, and not a pedestrian, and thankfully all he suffered from physically was some whiplash -but seriously, why don't people take responsiblity?? And the insurance company....

Sorry. Anyway.

So glad your husband is doing well now. I personally don't believe in suing people left and right -but where there has been emotional damage like should be done.