Monday, October 29, 2012

"Our car's broken"

This is a hard blog to write - I know I want to Old Testament-style build an altar to the Lord's provision and protection and correspondingly chronicle this for our family.  I guess I'll just begin.

Tuesday morning of October 9th, Madeleine and I left the house like we usually do - she gets dropped off at church for a few hours so that I can do my work for The Community Cloth.  We were going our normal route, and we were headed toward the myriad Braeswood intersections north and south of the bayou.  We went through the first light, then the second, turned left to go through the light where Braeswood heads westbound, but we were headed north to the 610 feeder, and that's where the wreck happened.  I've replayed it in my mind so many times.  We were T-boned by a red light runner, and it was just like the movies.  I've explained it like that scene in Remember the Titans where Gary Bertier's car gets T-boned (except Madeleine and I weren't in the throes of post-football victory celebration, we were just driving to church.) All the same, there is that moment when you see the car and you know there's nothing you can do but brace yourself.

On it came, straight to us.  BAM.  I felt like we rolled for 20 minutes.  I remember the feeling of each and every time the car made impact with the concrete after the initial crash.  Madeleine cried the whole time.  We landed back on our wheels, and the adrenaline kicked in.  Somehow the other driver's car ended up parallel to ours but facing the other direction.  I remember looking past the steam and his airbags to see if he was alive, yes it was that bad, and the adrenaline continued to dictate my moves.  I looked back at whimpering Madeleine and tried to reassure her that we were okay.  She was so, so brave.  Strangers had stopped and were walking up to our car putting Madeleine's toys and books back into the car through the open window.  All I could say was "thank you."  No crying from me (yet), and somehow my phone was able to be found (minor miracle considering loose change from my console ended up in my shoes.)  I called Cason.  Careful to begin the conversation with "we are fine, but..." I told him we were in a rough accident and where we were.  "I think the car is totaled," I told him.  I didn't mention that we rolled.  I called 9-1-1 next and reported it all.  I then texted our childcare director at church and dear friend Amy, my boss Roxanne and my friend and Cloth volunteer Kristen with whom I was supposed to meet that morning...all just sitting there waiting for the authorities.  I looked at Madeleine and she seemed okay.  I went ahead and took her out of her seat while we waited.  I set her on the console and tried to console her.  (I've never used that homonym twice in the same sentence before.)

Police, fire and ambulance all arrived.  They helped Madeleine and I climb out of the car.  It's all kind of a blur.  Cason arrived quickly as well.  I was so sore already, and Madeleine had a seatbelt bruise and burn on her shoulder as well as a minor cut in her tongue.  I gave insurance info, talked to the policeman, talked to the EMTs, hugged my baby girl as all this chaos was going on around me.  I never spoke to the other driver - he was only 20 years old and in an impala.  I wasn't ignoring him in a rude or mad way, I was just focused on Madeleine, and it wasn't exactly the "hey how's it going, I'm Allison" situation I wanted to dive into.  Throughout all this, so far, I thankfully haven't had anger toward him either.  What a blessing.  I have just thought about all the times I've thought my schedule was so important that I might've pushed a yellow light before.  Anyway, I didn't think Mads needed to go in the ambulance.  I told the EMTs so, and I heard one of them telling his boss on the radio "Mother is resisting ambulance transport."  Well hang on a minute - I wasn't resisting, just trying to be practical here - Texas Children's was only about ten minutes away.  They talked us into the ambulance ride, and off we went, Cason right behind us.

We got to the hospital and they rolled my baby girl into a trauma room on her stretcher.  A team of kind, talented and efficient folks began to examine her - they cut her sweet yellow shirt off, x-rayed her, performed an ultrasound on her organs, and analyzed her thoroughly but quickly.  I was able to stay by her side as the child life specialist and I tried to show her pictures of Elmo and Mickey Mouse.  I heard whispers from nurses "she's the mom - she was driving the car - whoa I wonder what kind of car - they are doing great."  Later one nurse asked me what kind of car we were in "a 2005 xterra," I replied, but "we were blessed by so much protection."  In the trauma room Cason told me that a witness had stopped and told the policeman what happened and the policeman told Cason the other driver was getting the ticket.  That helped to calm me some that I was innocent as I thought.  It wasn't long before we were in the recovery room.

After a little while, they let us leave. Sweet baby girl had no shirt on but that was the least of our worries at that point. A kind stranger in the waiting room gave her what looked like a homemade stuffed animal worm. She was amused by it while we waited for Cason to bring the car around. That's her souvenir from the day, and even now she plays with it. I was nervous getting into his car, and when the valet shut my passenger door, that's when I began to cry softly. What a morning. Thankfully my amazing friend Ally was parked in front of our house when we got home.  I will never forget getting out of Cason's car in the middle of our street and hugging Ally...just sobbing.  The first thing I said to her was "it was so so scary."

Madeleine had fallen asleep in her carseat (can you blame her?) on the way home, and we put her straight to bed. It was such a comfort knowing Ally was there to watch her. We were on the phone a bit talking to family and our insurance company etc. when we finally got a game plan. Ally stayed with Madeleine while Cason took me to an Urgent Care facility to get checked out. I had lots of x-rays, but they all came back fine - diagnosis was some badly bruised ribs and a sprained neck.

Next we headed to Pearland where our car had been towed. We knew we had a few more things to clean out, and we wanted to release the car, title, etc. to USAA to get the process going. The place had a weird rule where only one of us could go back to the car at a time. Cason went first, then me. It was kind of a poignant moment, walking up to the car in that grassy field. Seeing again the damage it endured and being reminded of how God used that car to keep us safe. This was the car Cason was driving when I met him. I got nostalgic thinking about our first few dates, road trips we took in that car, how it later became my "mom car" only to protect us so mightily. I found a few more items as I gingerly looked under seats, and I went back to where Cason was. We got back home so Ally could leave (she had been watching Madeleine for seven hours!) and Cason and a friend of ours from our Sunday School class went to get my rental car. Another friend Amy Bettis brought Escalante's to us that night. Several other friends (Sarah and Marisa and Emily) blessed us with food in the following days.

Where are we now? Almost three weeks later we have gotten a new computer, (my old one was smushed in the wreck) a new car (got a great deal on a 2011 Tahoe)and a new car seat. Our insurance USAA has been amazing, but everything has still been a hassle. The emotion and stress of it all has been hard on our little family, and stressful in our marriage. Madeleine continues to want to talk about everything, and she frequently asks "What happened to Mommy and Madeleine? Our car's broken." Over the past week she's asked to pray for "our car's broken" every night despite getting a new car. I am still dealing with residual things - my left earlobe ripped last week - my piercing hole had gotten stretched from rolling in the car and rubbing against the seat belt. I was examining it in the mirror last week when it just fell apart. I think I laughed out loud and said "really, God?" I have to get it fixed by a plastic surgeon in November (and no I'm not having any "bonus" surgeries while I'm there!) I am also going to see a chiropractor this week since I still have some back pain.

What do I know? Despite all the "hassle" and stress and pain, God is GOOD. He is our mighty protector and he kept us safe in the palm of His hand. One mistake I made was trying to get "back to normal" much too quickly. I felt that since I "walked away" from the accident, I didn't really have an excuse to not resume life as normal, and of course I wanted normalcy. I took Madeleine to the pumpkin patch the next morning, I went back to work on Thursday, I went to our church's women's retreat Friday and Saturday, took a day trip to Waco for the TCU game and worked a Community Cloth sales event on Sunday! Those were all good things, but I shouldn't have done all of them.   I am so crazy.  I also know that rolling in a car is terrifying. I hope I never do it again, and I hope it never happens to anyone I know ever again. I shiver just thinking about it.  I know that anyone who deals with chronic pain has a rough go of it.  I am blessed to be a healthy person - an annual check-up is sufficient for me, typically, but people who deal with chronic pain and soreness...I have a new compassion for them having just been dealing with it for a couple weeks.  My heating pad is my new best friend!
I like this picture of Madeleine and I. It was taken at her birthday party just 11 days after the accident. I like that we are "back to normal" despite the bruises you can still see on my arm. I like that we are together.  While this story is far from over as far as the aftermath goes, I am encouraged and we are healing.