Thursday, April 03, 2008

It's one thing to write about terrible events in some fictional character's lives. It's another thing to live through an event like that in your own.

Let me explain.

Tuesday, April 1, started off like any other day. Here in the Beautiful Black Hills, we'd had some snow (not unusual for late March, early April) and the roads were a little slick. Since it was April Fool's Day, I started it off by telling the kid she didn't have school. Got her hopes up, just to say "April Fool's!" I know, I'm a meanie. She got up, got dressed, and headed off to school.

Before I continue, let me explain something. The state law in South Dakota gives 14 year olds the privilege of driving. I'm not a native of this state, so maybe that's why it's not a law I've ever agreed with. I think 14 is a bit young. If 16 was good enough for me, then it should be good enough for everyone, right? But ask any South Dakotan between the ages of 12 and 16, and you'll hear what a great idea this law is. So the kid and her dad convinced me to let her take driver's ed, let her get a car, let her drive herself to school.

So Tuesday, I'm waiting. Waiting for the call that my child is required to make. The one that is supposed to put me at ease about her driving. The one where she tells me in the most annoying of teenage voices that she's once again made it to school on time. Instead, when my phone rings, she's crying. "Mom, I've been in an accident."

My husband says my response was to scream "Oh My God!" That's when he knew something was wrong, perceptive guy that he is. I spent the next few minutes trying to talk to our daughter, answer hubby's barrage of questions and get dressed (hey, when you work out of your home, you you can delay showering right away!). I finally heard a man's voice, "You need to hang up." My sobbing daughter replied, "It's my mom. She'll be mad." The man took the phone from her and told me he was a paramedic. I needed to meet them at the hospital. Once again I thought I was going to vomit. My overactive, mystery-laden brain was coming up with all kinds of scenarios.

On the way to the hospital, I started making calls. The school needed to know she wouldn't be in today. The auto insurance company needed to know about the accident. (Where was that policy info anyway? Oh yeah, in her car.) The medical insurance company needed to know she was going to the hospital. (What do you mean I have to call you back? Aren't I supposed to get pre-authorization for everything? Oh, the rules are different in an emergency? I see.) Her grandparents needed to know.

Since the ride to the hospital obviously took at least an hour -- difficult since I know hubby was really pushing the speed limit, going the most direct route and it's only 10 miles from our home to the hospital! -- I had time to make these calls. I called my dad's cell phone. Dad is a retired cop and can handle an emergency. He didn't answer. I called Mom's phone next. Mom is a never-to-retire homemaker who doesn't deal real well with blood, vomit, or hysterical daughters. She says didn't understand a thing I said besides "I need to talk to Dad." Meanwhile I remember my husband telling me I had to calm down.

Once I got Dad on the phone, I really lost it. I was able to finish my mini-break-down (first of many, it turns out!) by the time we got to the hospital. We beat the ambulance there and had our daughter all checked in by the time she showed up. I'm not sure how that happened, to be honest. I don't remember answering any questions. Hubby probably handled that. I'm almost positive I didn't.

When we saw her, she was on a backboard with a neck brace. An oxygen tube was stuck in her nose. Her face was scratched and scraped from the airbag. Her eyes were red (well, the one she could open) from crying. Her clothing was burnt (not only the sweater, which you see here, but the cami and bra underneath it). She had two fat lips. Once again, I thought I would vomit.

I won't go through the emotions of the cat scan and x-rays. I know I talked to the cop as he gave her a ticket for failure to yield. I know I didn't argue with him. I just wanted to be back in the ER room with her. Besides, years of experience taught me not to argue with a cop. Or is that just not to argue with Dad?

I remember having to leave a few times. Telling the kid I had to pee, when I was really in the bathroom crying.

Eventually, the doc said they would release her... sort of. She needed to be taken across the street to an oral surgeon. Her jaw was "very broke." She ended up having it wired shut, a condition she doesn't need for dietary reasons (the kid is 5'6" and MAYBE 120 pounds!), but will have to live with for the next 5 weeks. At least. By the way, the cost of that part alone was more than we paid for the car. And that doesn't include follow-up visits or the ER trip.

Now, a mere two days later, I'm still a basket case. I find myself accidentally starting down the path of "what if" and can feel the tears well up inside me. I'm not sure this kid will ever get to leave sight of either her dad or me. Looking at the car, I know how close we came to losing her.

I know I will never again leave the house, or let her leave the house, or let my husband leave the house without saying those three words that annoy every teenager -- "I love you." I know that I will take my writing more seriously because it's something that is important to me and I've seen that we really don't know what tomorrow brings. I know that we should never put off what needs to be done right now -- at least not when it comes to those we love.

I'm so sorry I had to learn these lessons. I know it was Divine Intervention that kept my daughter from being "more hurt." Her angels were on the job that morning. Take a few minutes right now and tell your family and friends and loved ones what they mean to you. You might be really glad you did. No matter what, it will put things in perspective for you.

Post a Comment