Thursday, February 4, 2016

No Memory

Except for a few small but vivid shards of time that have come back to me, I don’t remember a thing. Not a thing.

I do remember people walking around me, bending over me, hovering and going in and out of view, and I remember saying as loudly as I could: “Be careful of his hands! He’s an artist!”  And: “Be careful of my hands! I play piano!” Then there was only darkness again.

I also remember something else so incredible and mysterious that it does not seem sane to discuss it here. Some might judge me, or dismiss this special thing as wishful thinking. I don’t usually spend too much time fretting about what other people think of me, but I’m also not looking to be kicked while I’m down, so I’m going to keep this to myself for now.

After an indeterminate amount of time being “under,” I began to surface for longer periods. I first woke up to a reality which, thankfully, would later prove to be completely false. In it, my whole family and I had been injured and/or killed in a horrendous accident. It was a persistent reality, and I slipped back and forth between this world and the other one many, many times. The ease with which I traveled between them makes me wonder how many other realities are out there with various versions of events and outcomes. Some might attribute all this wandering about to be a side effect of the huge amounts of medication that were in my system. Fair enough; I can respect that point of view. But it felt like much, much more to me. Between those nightmare flashes was my actual life. In glimmers and shadows it lurched forward to push that other, even more shattered world away. My mom and brother appeared over and over, and I reached out to grasp that reality. The one where they were alive.

Finally, no matter how fiercely my mind had tried to protect me, and no matter how bizarrely it had attempted to shield me in a haze of uncertainty and inaccuracy, I began to comprehend what had actually happened. My first real, solid, true memory is waking up in a darkened room with my sister beside me. I looked at her and said, “Of course it would be you…” It seems like a strange thing to say, but of all the people in the world who might be waiting for me to wake up, it seemed right that it would be her — my little sister who has always comforted and cared for me, despite my jealous rage at her ever being born. (Note: we have actually always been very close, but there is an infamous photo where I am caught in the act of biting her finger as she lay in her crib, totally innocent of her “crimes” against my three-year-old self, and in it my face shows all of the conflicting emotions that I was usually able to mask under normal circumstances.) The point is, I’ve never quite been able to reconcile my guilt at feeling all of that jealousy, and that’s why it felt so nice to have her there at the exact moment when I needed someone the most. It was yet another gift from the universe — first my life, and now this. She explained that the rest of my family was safe and completely alive, but on November 12, 2015, as dusk approached us after we had spent an idyllic day taking a drive down scenic Highway 1, my boyfriend and I had been involved in a head-on automobile collision.   

To make a very long story short, we both had multiple injuries which required many surgeries and we now have lots of titanium in our bodies. However, despite the severity of the accident, neither one of us had any injuries to our spinal cords, brains or other internal organs. So, even in my drugged-out, panic-stricken state, I understood how extremely lucky we were. I have been told that we will eventually heal, eventually walk again. I have also been told that it was a flat-out miracle that we survived at all. My boyfriend knows it was miraculous because, unlike me, he remembers everything.

I don’t remember any of the following, but records show that the accident occurred approximately 60 miles outside of San Luis Obispo, on Highway 46. (Which I later learned is known as “Blood Alley” because of the number of fatalities that have occurred along it. It’s also where James Dean fatally crashed in 1955. Had I known these things, I really don’t think we would have been on that stretch of road.) We were traveling along when a driver going in the opposite direction jumped the double-yellow line while attempting to pass an 18-wheeler. This put him directly in our path, going the wrong way in our lane. Dave swerved to the shoulder of the road to avoid a head-on collision. But the other driver also swerved to the shoulder, so the crash still occurred. After that, the other driver died instantly, and our lives were altered forever. He was uninsured, so there’s no insurance settlement to help pay our bills. My health insurance and Obamacare are being put to the test. There will be many medical bills in my future. We’ll see how it all shakes out in the end.

We were brought to the nearest trauma center, in San Luis Obispo, so I know that I must have been helped by first responders in that area. But soon thereafter I was flown to Stanford University Medical Center, which is where I received my treatment and surgeries. Dave’s trajectory was a little different from mine, but we eventually arrived at the same place. We’ve been in ERs, ICUs, trauma wards and assisted-nursing facilities. Now, nearly three months after the evening of the accident, we are recuperating in my childhood home and being looked after by my family.

We’ve made a lot of progress so far, but it’s still just the beginning. I am hurting in every possible way, and I am just starting the physical therapies which I hope will bring me closer to living my life again. Same goes for my co-survivor, of course. We’re in this together, damn it, and we are going to WIN.

Both feet were broken, but this one was the worst.

Two pins holding delicate bones in place, and a long row of self-dissolving stitches.

Happiness is a brand new splint. I picked the velcro colors. A member of my team approves.

Comforting one of my team.