Monday Memories, part one

I suppose “memories” is a misnomer. My accident defined a big part of my life, and yet I don’t actually remember it.

The first part of this story is easy to tell. I’ve told it before. I don’t remember any of this – I know this story because others have told me about it. I’ve read the police report and the hospital chart. I have amnesia. Not the “made-for-tv-movie” kind, where I remember nothing from before the accident and everything from after. The memories closest to the accident – most of my adolescence – are gone, although I remember my childhood well enough. The weeks after the accident are gone too, and the months after are fuzzy. It’s easy to tell this story, because it might as well have happened to someone else.

But it didn’t happen to someone else. It happened to me.

I was 17 years old and a senior in high school. My life was pretty close to perfect. I grew up in Independence, MO, a large suburban community outside Kansas City, Missouri. High school was almost over. I was smart, and I was among a group of about a dozen students (out of 400- plus in my class) competing for valedictorian. I had already been accepted to my “safety-safety school” (the school I would go to if I didn’t get accepted to my safety school), plus they’d offered me a significant scholarship. I wasn’t really concerned about getting accepted to the school of my choice, since I had fantastic grades and test scores.

On the evening of Wednesday, November 8, I drove to another nearby town to visit friends. Late that evening, I pulled onto an interstate to drive home. The weather was poor that night. The first ice storm of the year would ultimately cover the area with a half-inch of ice.

At 10:30 pm, according to the police report, I hit a patch of black ice and lost control. My car plowed into the 18-wheel semi ahead of me.

My torso was thrown forward. I was wearing my seat belt, thankfully – otherwise I surely would have been thrown through the windshield and onto the interstate. My head hit the steering wheel and possibly also the windshield. I fell unconscious, probably as soon as my head hit the steering wheel, although it’s possible that I remained conscious for a few minutes afterward. At some point I quit breathing.

Someone called 911. The police and fire departments, as well as an ambulance, responded. The police wound up closing down the interstate entirely due to the treacherous conditions. My car was crumpled around me, and the fire department had to use the hydraulic rescue tool known as the “Jaws of Life” to extricate me. When they were through, the car was reduced to scrap metal.

It took thirty minutes to extricate me. My condition got worse. I went from “unconscious but a little bit responsive” to “unconscious and unresponsive”. When I was removed from the car, I was placed on a backboard and in a cervical collar, with an ambu-bag forcing air into my lungs. The EMTs strongly recommended that I be transported to the hospital via air ambulance, but the weather had continued to worsen, and the helicopter pilots felt it would be unsafe for them to take off. I was transported to Truman Medical Center via ground ambulance.

stay tuned for more…

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