How a frightening trip to the ER changed my resolve about distracted driving
SALT LAKE CITY — The SUV hit me, launching me into the air before my body slammed back down onto the grocery store parking lot.
I came to, shaking uncontrollably. Someone was putting pressure on the back of my head to stop the bleeding. Several voices told me not to move, that the ambulance was on its way. I saw a man’s feet approaching; he knelt down and asked my name, the date, my age and the name of the President of the United States. A woman wanted to know who she could call.
Because I was in shock, my answers were inarticulate. But there was nothing fuzzy about one question that kept running through my mind:
“What was the last thing I said to each of my kids?”
The paramedics arrived, strapped me up, hoisted me into the ambulance, took my vitals and stuck a needle in my arm (several times, in fact). They asked me more questions, including the name of the President of the United States.
A paramedic then took a gigantic pair of scissors and cut my absolute favorite pair of jeans, all the way up the sides (adding serious insult to injury). Semi-coherently, I tried to negotiate a deal where they would reimburse the cost of the jeans — plus a teensy bit more for pain and suffering. They referred me to their boss.
In the ER, I was disrobed and poked and prodded and CAT scanned and X-rayed. And in a surprise move, the doctor even asked if I happened to know the name of the President of the United States.
No disrespect to the president or his name, but I was much more concerned about what I had last said to my kids. While waiting for test results, I finally had time alone and managed to remember (with five kids and an addled brain, this was no easy task).
“I love you, sweetie!”
“Should I buy two or three dozen donuts for your birthday tomorrow?”
“How big is the world geography textbook you need a cover for?”
“I’ll be back in about half an hour, bud. Don’t forget to rinse your plate and put it in the dishwasher.”
“I’m taking your brother to his practice later, so Dad will be here in an hour to pick you up. Don’t be afraid of the ball, sweetheart. Have a great practice!”
Minutes after yelling those final instructions to my daughter as she dribbled her basketball into the gym, I had parked my car in the grocery store parking lot and started walking toward the entrance.
I understand that saying “I love you!” every time I talk to my kids would be setting the bar a bit high. But I didn’t like that my score on that day was only one out of five. In fact, it made me cry.
The doctor returned to report that I had suffered a concussion, scrapes, bruising and pulled muscles — but no internal bleeding or fractures.
A police officer came in next, explaining how he had just interviewed witnesses and watched the security video of the incident. The driver had been driving too fast, looking down and hadn’t seen me until it was too late. I had screamed and put both of my hands on the hood — as if trying to push the SUV away — and in doing so had protected my torso from taking a direct hit.
In fact, he emphasized, I had reacted exactly how I needed to in order to save myself from serious injury or death.
The officer looked directly into my eyes and said, “I’ve seen a lot of accidents, and you are very, very lucky.”
I believe that it was more than luck. Seeing as I’ve never been trained on how to deflect an oncoming SUV, I felt nothing but profound gratitude for the unseen hands that guided mine, and that cushioned my fall. Clearly, it wasn’t my time to go; the outcome could just as easily have been tragic.
Distracted driving. We’ve all seen it. Most of us have been guilty of it. At what point do we decide that it’s simply time to stop? Many vehicles literally weigh a ton, sometimes two. Is a phone call or text while driving, or even reaching to pick something up, worth what we’re risking by letting ourselves be distracted? Far too much is at stake. We have no idea whose lives could be forever altered by our looking away.
It might be a mom, wearing her favorite pair of jeans, walking into a store to buy donuts for her son’s 12th birthday.
The next morning, I heard my sister singing these words on my voice mail:
No New Year’s Day to celebrate
No chocolate covered candy hearts to give away
No first of spring
No song to sing
In fact here’s just another ordinary day
I’d never been more grateful for another ordinary day.
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