Monday, August 2, 2010

PSA: Don't forget the seat belt (An anecdote from the Personal Experience file)

Twenty-six years ago tonight, I was in a car accident that changed my life. It was the summer before my senior year of college and it was a hot, starry evening and my friend Jim and I were listening to Steely Dan on the radio of my car and the next thing I knew, I was in the emergency room of Henry County Memorial Hospital, sobbing in fear and frustration because I couldn't remember my name.

That's one of the things that happens when your head goes through a windshield.

When my dad came through the curtains of the ER cubicle and took my bloody hands and said, "You're going to be okay. Your name is Shelley and I'm your dad," it was the greatest moment of relief in my life.

I had a lot of broken bones. A severe concussion. Glass embedded in my face and forehead. A line of stitches that ran down the right side of my jawline. My right ankle was just about snapped in two; my left knee was destroyed; the engine block was shoved back into the car on impact with the huge tree we collided with and it did a number on our legs. I had to learn how to walk again during hour after painful hour of physical therapy and spent the next year struggling along with a walker, then with a cane.

I walk with a cane now. In moments of dark humor, I say to my family, "Gee, we are so lucky that I was in that car wreck that smashed my legs because we can get all these primo parking spots" as I hang my handicapped placard from the rearview mirror.

Neither of us died, but both Jim and I both bear the scars. We hadn't been drinking or anything. We were just two college kids out enjoying the beautiful, soft summer night and I was driving too fast on Spiceland Pike and it all happened so fast, it's hard to believe that every day of my life for the past quarter of a century has been different because I made the decision to forego the seatbelt and keep my foot down.

I have quite a few Facebook friends who are eighteen and under, both from church and from our homeschool group. Wear your seatbelts, kids, so that all of us who know and love you can watch you continue to make the climb toward adulthood and get married and have kids of your own. Because sometimes people in car accidents aren't lucky enough to be handicapped for the rest of their lives.


Amy said...

A message worth passing on, which I shall do.

Cheryl E. said...

And now, another reason I follow your blog! I had a similar, though less debilitating accident, all by myself. A seatbelt would have saved me a lot of injuries too.