The Accident and Dealing With PTSD
POMP Rating: 🌵🌵🌵🌵🌴
Factors Influencing Rating: This accident was life-changing for our relationship. ☹ A near-death experience that “keeps coming back.” ☹ The red-tape of dealing with insurance and salvage and bills was hell. ☹ We lived to tell about it. 😊 Every day is a gift now. 😊 Some parts of this story are funny. For real. 😊
We were on day two of our two day drive back home from summer travel, 2018. Driving through rural Georgia, we were only two hours away from home. This is a familiar route for us; we have taken this same route to and from Texas for well over ten years now. The back of the truck, as well as the backseat, was full of luggage, tools, gifts we brought back for people, etc. Normally my son and our German Shepherd, Stella would be in the back seat, but not this time. I was on my phone in the passenger seat and my husband went to pass in the passing lane. It was raining pretty hard. At the bottom of the small hill we were descending on the pass, there was standing water, and when we hit it, shit got really crazy and creepily, life moved in slow motion.
When we hit the water, I could feel the back end of the truck lose control. We veered over into oncoming traffic and I saw a semi tractor trailer headed straight for me. I also remember seeing my husband turning and turning and turning the steering wheel, but I don’t remember any noises at all. No screaming, no horns honking, nothing. Suddenly, the truck corrected, veered sharply back into our own lane, then began to spin around, leaving the highway, miraculously hitting no other cars. I could hear the tires hitting bumps and it felt like we hit a ditch, then we started to flip backwards. We flipped and flipped, like we were on a carnival ride.
It was really noisy, like bang, bang, bang over and over again – a shotgun sound. I later realized it was the airbags exploding. Then we started to flip sideways. This is when we started to hit the trees. This is the part where I was feeling some pain. It was like every time we flipped I could feel something punching me on my right side, my hips, my face, my head, my arm, bang, bang, bang- again, but this time I was aware that I was hitting lots of trees in the woods. I was thinking, when would we ever stop flipping, and which tree will be the one to kill me? Was Marty already dead? This is what I was thinking.
Then We Stopped
We finally stopped. We were in the upside down position, hanging from our seat belts. I turned and looked at Marty and he had the look of a wild animal in his eyes. I’ve never seen him look like that – ever. It was so strange to see him look like that. There was no blood, no wounds visible, no detached limbs. It’s weird that’s what I was looking for, but it was. He unbuckled his seat belt and was in an animal-like all-fours position on the hood of the cab. Every window was blacked out with mud. It was like we were buried in the earth. I said, “Are you ok?” He said, “Are you ok?” We both said yes and then I said, “Marty I can’t get my seat belt off and we need to get out of this truck.” I swear as soon as I said that I heard voices from outside.
The Three People Who Pulled Us Out
I heard a man’s voice saying, “Are you ok?” I said we were and we needed help getting out. I heard a woman’s voice saying, “I’m a nurse. We’ve called an ambulance. Are you sure you are ok?” Then I saw a large, burly-man’s hand just poke through a curtain thing on my side of the truck. The curtain thing was actually a deployed airbag. I grabbed on to that hand and I said, “Pull me out!” He said, “Are you sure? Are you sure you aren’t hurt?” I said, “Pull me out – as hard as you can!” So then, another hand came through the curtain, grabbed on to me, and he pulled me out. I somehow squeezed, face first, through mud and water and leaves and glass all the way out until I was sitting down on the ground, in the woods, rain coming down on me. I was alive.
The man was wearing army fatigues and combat boots. A woman was there and she put her hand on my head and when she pulled her hand away she had a pretty big hunk of my hair in her hand. She said, “You lost some hair, but I think you’re ok. You’re in shock, though.” I said, “Get my husband out of the truck, and by the way, you have a spider crawling on your foot. It’s just a grand-daddy long leg, though, so it won’t hurt you.” So funny that I remember all of this, and why in the world would I say that to her at that time?
The Motorcycle Man and the Strange Shoes
Well, my husband pulled himself out of the truck, and still in wild animal mode, was walking from the truck to the side of the road, and back again, methodically bringing our belongings from the woods to the highway. I was sitting there on the side of the road, with sirens in the background, knowing they were coming for us, holding the hand of a motorcycle man who wouldn’t leave my side. He put blue tennis shoes on my feet. I don’t know where they came from. I don’t know what happened to my shoes. He just said, “I won’t leave you. You’re going to be ok, but I’m gonna need my shoes back once the ambulance gets here.” I don’t even think I said thanks to the guy, and I feel like such an asshole for that.
The Police and The Ambulance
The police arrived and they immediately escorted my husband out of the woods from making his frantic recovery rounds. I looked and I could see two police officers holding him by the shoulders as he was in a crouched down like position. His body was shaking uncontrollably and they were just holding him up. The motorcycle man was still holding my hand and I said, “Is my husband throwing up?” He said, “No. He’s crying. He’ll be ok.” I could see in the background that our luggage had busted and all of our clothing was just scattered, like everywhere, our underwear and belongings decorating the woods. The motorcycle man said, “You’re going to go in the ambulance now to get checked out. I’ll need my shoes.” So he helped me into the ambulance, took his shoes off my feet, and left.
You’re In Shock
Once inside the ambulance, I had a blood pressure reading of 140 over 77. They said I was strangely calm. They said we should not be walking after such an accident, or alive for that matter, and that we were very lucky. They also said that highway was a notorious spot for accidents in the rain because the road held water. Then fix it, I thought. I had a double scratch on the side of my leg and the EMT said, “That’s gonna hurt.” But he didn’t treat it or touch it at all. He said, “Do you remember what happened?” I told him, “Yes, everything.” He said, “That’s gonna come back.” I only know now what he meant by that, because it did come back and it’s no fun at all when it does. Hello, PTSD. Marty’s blood pressure was 225 over 115. They said it was adrenaline because he is in great shape. At this point, things started to get really, really weird, and believe it or not – kind of funny now that I look back on it.
Well, It’s Time to go to The Huddle House, Cause That Makes Sense
After the EMTs checked us out inside the ambulance for all of 15 minutes, they said, “Well, you don’t really need to go to the hospital, and your truck is pretty well totaled, so I can have the police officer drop you off at the Huddle House up the road and you can call someone to come get you. I KNOW you don’t believe this happened, and I still don’t either, but – ya’ll – this shit actually happened! We did as we were told and got in the back of the police car with whatever my husband recovered from the woods and they drove us to the Huddle House. You know, the all-day pancake restaurant. The Huddle House.
They let us out on the waiting bench outside the restaurant beside a really stinky dumpster and our belongings were placed next to us. The officer didn’t leave without first telling me that he was dying of ear cancer and that I should probably get checked out at the hospital when I get back to Savannah, because the adrenaline from the wreck could be the only reason I was walking and I could have a broken neck and not know it. Thanks. I appreciate that, officer. And, why are we not being taken to a hospital again?
Calling a Friend
I sat on the bench between the dumpster and the restaurant, wondering if I really was super-woman walking around with a broken neck and my strangely low blood pressure, and wondering if there really was an ear cancer. And maybe when I stand up, my head is going to fall off because of my broken neck, right here at the Huddle House. And that's how this is going to end. While I was contemplating my future, my husband called a very good friend of ours in Savannah and asked him to just drop everything and, you know, drive two plus hours into the country to pick us up. He immediately obliged and we will forever be thankful for him for helping us.
While we waited, we were approached three times by patrons of the restaurant who offered to give us money or buy us pancakes. “No, thanks. We have been in an accident. I’d love an ice pack for my neck, though.” I’m pretty sure we looked homeless, what with our bags in disarray and my missing chunk of hair, flies landing in the scrape on my leg, and Marty crying off and on. Then, there was the scabby cat that hung out behind the dumpster, which kept staring at me as if to say, “Hey, at least you don’t have the mange, bitch.”
Back in Savannah
Once we made it back, the first thing we did was get in my car and drive to the hospital. We were checked out and everyone in the ER said we were lucky to be alive when they saw the picture of the truck. They warned that the coming days would be extremely painful and we would need pain pills. This did not happen at all, as it turned out, we felt fine, but we had a double prescription of the best pain pills and muscle relaxers on the market.
On our way back to the house, we stopped at the grocery store and grabbed two bottles of red wine, because that's important. We sat on our living room couch and drank both bottles. Two glasses would normally knock me out, but I guess the adrenaline and all kept us from sleeping. We sat on the couch and didn’t say one word. We just drank and sat. I remember looking out the window and seeing the sun coming up. I turned to my husband and said, “We should go to bed now, the birds are singing.”
The Post Traumatic Stress
The next week and the week after that were awful. We both had horrible nightmares that woke us up, screaming and grabbing at nothingness in the middle of the night. I had one dream where God came to my bedside and told me I was actually dead, not having survived the accident, and I needed to let go and accept that is was time to go the Heaven. So after that dream, for about three days, I questioned reality everywhere I went. Was I really at the car rental place? Did I really need to bother with the insurance paperwork? I really wasn’t sure.
I went for a walk at one of my favorite trails at the YMCA and had tunnel vision as soon as I got deep enough into the woods. It was like I was back at the accident all over again. We fought a lot, and we never fight. We got counseling for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I couldn’t talk about the accident at all with anyone or I would start getting dizzy and start crying. My husband wanted to talk about it all the time, so this caused problems. It was a tough time.
Getting Back to Normal Life
Going on road trips used to be one of our favorite things to do, but now, not so much. But we still go. We still do it. Because it’s really the only way to get on the other side of what happened. And, it is getting easier. I would not want to be Marty having to drive me through a storm on a country road on a road trip – we’ve done it since the accident, and I was Bitchy McBitch, full-throttle, but he handled it like the gentleman that he is. We still go to counseling, and the wreck still comes up, but I can talk about it now without getting dizzy, but I don't want to talk about it.
I can walk through the woods with ease, and it all just keeps getting easier. I do think about that mangy cat sometimes, and I have dreamed about it, but mostly, I feel strongly that my husband and I are meant to be alive, living out our days, healthy and happy, so we just do everything that we’ve ever wanted to do, grateful that we are here and that we can. I still haven’t been able to eat at a Huddle House since the accident, but truthfully, I’ve always been a Waffle House girl, so I think it’ll be ok. Life is for the living, and we are forging ahead. I'm not gonna overthink it.