This happened some twenty years ago, but the impact will affect me the rest of my life. The picture above was once my ’85 Subaru GL, which met it’s final fate, due to a head-on car collision, at the hands of a teenager’s stupidity.
About twenty years ago, I worked a second shift job (4PM to Midnight), and one night, I remember finishing my shift, getting in my car, and leaving the parking lot at work. That was the last thing I remembered that night. About two weeks later, my head finally unscrambled enough to find myself in a hospital, laying in bed, hooked up to feeding tubes and indicators, with a cast on my arm, cast on my leg, my jaw numb, and my wife showing incredible relief that I had returned to reality.
While nurses and medical techs were checking this and checking that, my wife gave me the lowdown on what happened. While I was driving home that night, doing the speed limit, staying in my lane, headlights on, seatbelt on, etc, two teenage boys had suddenly swerved their car over, and hit me head-on. Apparently these two were on their way to a party or something, and the driver dropped his cigarette. Instead of pulling over to retrieve the cigarette, or having his buddy find the cigarette, the driver decided to just keep driving with one hand, while he crouched down to feel around on the floor mat for the cigarette with his other hand. Their car swerved over into my lane, and that was the end of that. According to the police, he was entirely at fault.
The two boys were both 17, had about a beers-worth of alcohol in them, and were legally too young to be drinking or smoking anyway. Since the driver was crouched down, the airbag went off above him, and he ended up with a broken leg and a hole in his aorta. His buddy was sitting upright, so when he hit his airbag, and just ended up with a couple of scratches.
As for me? My car was so crunched, the para-meds had to use one of those ‘Jaws Of Life’ devices just to get me out. My car was an ’85 Subaru, which didn’t have airbags. They had to airlift me and the other driver by helicopter to the hospital.
My injuries were: slight brain shearing (the membrane around the brain ripped, which depending on how much shearing, determines how much memory loss, personality change, or permanent brain damage happens), one eye socket destroyed, three teeth knocked out, jaw broken in four places with main jaw nerve severed, right wrist broken, and fibula bone on left leg broken.
For about two weeks, I was in a state of delirium, where I didn’t recognize anybody, and if somebody asked me a question, they’d get some really off the wall answer, and when they left, I’d have no memory that they had even been there. My wife was really going through a tough time with all this, first, wondering if I’d live, and then wondering if I’d even mentally come back. She also had to take care of our two daughters, who were pretty young at the time.
After those two weeks, I was pretty much back mentally, but the whole trauma had altered my personality slightly. Being out in the sun too much bothered me, and I was restless and had a slightly shorter temper. I couldn’t read a book, or even watch TV for very long, as my patience would run short. The mental and physical therapy started, but I was only in the hospital one more week, before I was sent home, and the therapy continued as an out-patient.
I was off work for six months, and fortunately I had saved up enough sick leave over the years that I had enough to cover the whole time. The casts eventually came off, and I at least had more mobility. Personality-wise, I pretty much went back to being my old self, although I’m never going to be what I once was. My wrist has about 70% mobility, and the surgeon said I’d probably end up with arthritis in it eventually. My jaw and lower lip are half numb, and feels like a shot of novocaine that never goes away. The surgeon (different surgeon) told me there was a remote chance the nerve might reconnect, but probably wouldn’t, since nerve tissue is very slow at repairing itself, if at all. To this day, I still have a half numb jaw and lower lip, and if I drop my head, I might slobber. The surgeon was also concerned about the new eye socket being positioned wrong, and giving me double vision, but that seems to not be a problem.
As for that kid that hit me? I heard he was also flown to the same hospital for surgery, but he never contacted me, and I never contacted him. If he would have had the guts to approach me and apologize, I would have accepted it, but I don’t know what the story was with him. Maybe he was too scared to approach me. Maybe his parents, or his lawyer, told him to keep his mouth shut. Maybe he doesn’t even care. Maybe he was very self-centered and somehow blames me for ruining his night. I don’t know.
As far as anger towards him, yes, at first I was VERY angry at him, partly for what he did to me,
but mainly for the hell he put my wife through, as well as our two kids being scared so much. I eventually let that hate go, though. The hate harms me far more than it does for him. Although I think he was rather stupid, I’ve forgiven him.
Legal settlement took some time, as it normally does, but I ended up getting a pretty good amount, from both his insurance, and mine, as well. I don’t understand why my insurance would be paying anything, but somehow that’s how it works. Before, we were keeping our heads above water paying bills and everything, but that was about it. With the settlement money, we bought a new car (mine was a totaled hunk of metal and plastic), had our basement refinished, and we took a trip to Disneyworld. The kids were 10 and 6 at the time, so they were the perfect age, and we had our most fantastic vacation there.
My wife tells me my personality had changed slightly since then, but I didn’t notice, and I don’t seem to be any different, other than the fact that certain hobbies and things I was interested in, I don’t seem to care about anymore. It’s hard to tell whether it’s from the accident, or just plain age. I still love her, and would do anything for her. I’m still a pretty laid-back guy.
I could have ended up losing my life that night, through no fault of my own. The odd thing is, I have no memory of anything from the time I left that parking lot, until two weeks later. Maybe it’s best that way.