I remember waking up on the morning of June 18, 2013 in a weird mood. Lesley and I had been in the midst of trying to get back into the swing of things with going to the gym and eating right, and with summer school in full swing for me, and Lesley in her usual grind with work, I recall being frustrated.
The house was a little messy. I felt a little behind in school. Lesley and I hadn’t been able to spend as much time together as I’d hoped up to that point in the summer. We were down to one car since Lesley’s often-injured Jeep was in the shop.
Life overall was good, but on this particular day, I’ll admit, I had let the small things bother me.
Lesley, Connor and I piled up into my silver Ford Focus, and I drove us to Lesley’s job at our church. The plan was to drop her off at work and take Connor to a movie.
We were running late, and we got to the church at 10 a.m. – about 30 minutes late (sorry Lesley). I gave Lesley a kiss goodbye, still in an admittedly weird/foul mood, and watched her hustle into the building in the midst of a worsening rainstorm.
Some 45 seconds later, I came within inches of my life. After coming to a stop sign just down the road from our church, I had edged out onto State Park Road, where a treacherous blind curve was made all the more dangerous by the driving rain and unexpectedly dark conditions. Sensing some oncoming traffic to my left, I tried to edge forward cautiously, but by the time I committed to turn left, I realized I’d made a horrible mistake.
About 100 yards away, my wife and her co-workers heard the sound of sirens pierce through the summer rain. Some of Lesley’s colleagues surmised some poor soul may have wrapped his car around a telephone pole due to the weather.
It wasn’t until later that my wife realized what had happened – that the sounds she heard were those of a fight to save my life.
The mistake I realized far too late was that I’d pulled out in front of a massive tree-cutting truck, which barreled into the driver’s side of my little Ford. My 6-year-old boy was sitting right behind me. He was virtually untouched, suffering from some mild seatbelt burn.
I was not as fortunate.
That’s me, several hours after the accident. I took the brunt of the collision, thank God, and I’d suffered serious injuries. Essentially, the left side of my body had been shattered. All the ribs on the left side of my body were broken, as was one of my vertebrae, and two bones in my pelvis. I also suffered a pulmonary contusion (bruised lung), collapsed lung, pneumothorax (when the pleural cavity fills up blood, air, and fluid), a Grade IV spleen laceration (there is no Grade V), and a concussion.
My memories of that day are little more than a vaguely related series of sensations. I didn’t wake up until I was inside the ambulance on the way to the hospital. I recall desperately asking about the condition of my son. I distinctly remember the pain. The inability to the breathe. The fact that the EMT’s wouldn’t really tell me if I’d be okay or not… only that they confirmed I had broken ribs.
I also recall getting a few blood transfusions for my internal bleeding. And despite my doctors’ wishes, I very much remember what transpired in trauma bay, where the most seriously injured patients are whisked in, promptly disrobed, and worked on as quickly as possible (think every television and movie depiction of emergency medicine you’ve ever seen).
There, I recall a young doctor forewarning me: “Andrew…. we’re about to put in a chest tube. This isn’t going to feel very good, ok?”
He was being honest. In case you’ve never heard of a chest tube insertion; it’s a surgical procedure in which a doctor finds a nice soft spot in between your ribs (which were all broken), makes an incision, uses a finger to pry apart your intercostal muscle, and sticks a plastic tube into your lung cavity to drain off blood and fluid and air.
I was awake for the whole thing. The procedure, plus the numerous broken bones, led to crepitus, which is a condition marked by subcutaneous pockets of air that makes your skin “crackle” to the touch.
While I was in neuro-trauma intensive care unit (NTICU), there was a constant ebb and flow of family and friends to keep me company. I was moved to a regular room after about three days, and made enough progress to get discharged a week after the accident.
It’s been an incredible growing experience for Lesley and I. We’ve been awakened by God’s presence. He’s spoken to us by making us appreciate each other. He’s spoken to us by showing us what incredible friends and family we have.
And he spoke to us when we saw the aftermath of the wreck. How, we asked, could Connor escape this without a scratch? And how did I survive it?
Lesley came across a cool quote we both agreed was applicable to our life after the accident.
“…I’m not really the same but then again, life seems more engaging, friendships richer and reflections deeper.”
Lesley and I have been overwhelmed by the prayers, the support, and the encouragement we’ve benefitted from. Ironically, not spending enough time with Lesley – one of my chief complaints before the accident – certainly isn’t a problem anymore. I’ve spent nearly every waking moment with her as she’s helped nurse me back to health.
And I’ve gone from a co-runner in races with Lesley to her head cheerleader at races for now. It’s the least I can do for a woman who has spent countless hours to ensuring I’m cared for.
And in the meantime, I’ve had to focus on small fitness goals.
I could barely walk for the first week out of the hospital, and I had no range of motion in my left side from the rib breaks and scarring from my chest tube. I went through three weeks of physical therapy, and my first trips to the gym were humbling. I sank like a stone when I tried to swim even a few yards. I couldn’t even hold my left arm over my head. I couldn’t lift anything that weighed more than a pound or two.
It’s a humbling experience, but it’s a growing experience – one that I thank God for.
And I guess that’s a good place to leave you. I write this still physically broken in a lot of ways. I’m in pain constantly, I still have yet to get my strength back. But I’m alive.
Check back with us soon for an updates about our longterm and short term fitness goals, and what races Lesley has been up to!