What follows is a very detailed account of the accident I was involved in 5 years ago that is the reason why one of my best friends, Amy, is having surgery tomorrow. If it’s all more than you want to read right now, I’d like to ask you to drop to the end of this post and consider lifting up a prayer for my dear Amy for some of the concerns listed there.
The date was August 5th, 2004. It was supposed to be a day of fun – Michele and I showing our new friend, Amy, what a beach trip “Michele & Stephanie Style” looked like. I let Michele ride with Amy because they’d had less time together getting to know each other given Michele lived in Dallas, while Amy and I both lived in Eugene. So, splitting the 8 kids as evenly as we could, we set off.
By the time we were ten minutes from Lincoln City, cars were no longer moving forward. Apparently, there had been some kind of accident that had halted progress completely. So after wasting about 30 minutes trying to decide if we should keep waiting in the non-moving traffic line-up, Michele made the decision for us to U-turn and head east again to trackback to a route that would take us to a different part of the coast.
I was directly behind Michele and was approaching a stop behind her as she awaited oncoming traffic from a stationary position to take the left turn to get us back to the coast. I was alerted to trouble when I heard the telltale crunching of metal behind me and snapped my attention to the rearview mirror just in time to brace myself for collision.
It would be a while before I realized what exactly happened – but I can now report that a truck with a recreational 5th wheeler attached lost control of their brakes as they came down the slight decline hill prior to where we were stopped to turn left. In between me and the 5th Wheeler was a Nissan Sentra. The 5th Wheeler literally “mounted” the Sentra, leaving one of the two daughters in their back seat brain dead. (She has probably passed on by this time). The other daughter suffered significant injuries as well. These pictures do not show our vehicles - we were able to proceed forward a bit to park our vans in safer locations following the accident.
The force of their collision into my van propelled me into the back of Michele’s van. The resulting force of our collision caused both Michele and Amy’s seats to fall backwards (a defective car seat issue of Chrysler vehicles, resulting in a major lawsuit settlement involving a lot of anxiety and grief for Amy’s family). Because the seat propelled backwards, Amy’s head struck the back of Ellie’s rear-facing carseat.
This is a picture of Michele, Amy, and myself the night of the accident after Amy (and myself) had been discharged from Lincoln City's ER. The extent of her injuries were unrecognized at the time.
It’s been over five years since Amy’s experienced a day without pain. But, she will say the pain is not the worst issue – it’s the “sensations” that feel like ants crawling along inside her head. Either that or the fatigue that’s never-ending. She might also tell you that the loss of short-term memory, or cognitive limitations would be the worst. Head injuries are terrible that way. So many different symptoms and issues that arise from it. And, let’s not even consider the emotional strain of such an occurrence – the depression, the anxiety over the trauma that happened…..coping with the limitations that life has now handed you – and realizing as each day goes by that it’s not going away, not getting better, and that hope for recovery is ebbing…..
The year following the accident, because of the lawsuit; extensive appointments, tests, and scans were conducted to try to get to the bottom of Amy’s scenario. A definitive diagnosis was sought (brain injury), but unfortunately, less than ideal time was spent trying to find answers to her problems. After the lawsuit was over, Amy was so tired of it all, she took an extensive break from all of the poking and prodding and did her best to just get by.
However, earlier this year, Amy realized it was time to try again – to give alternative doctors and therapies a try, to reawaken hope that life for her could get better. She visited a neurologist that she felt a great connection with. He listened to her issues, made it clear that it wasn’t “all in her head” (well, actually it is, but you know what I mean!) – and after MRI’s were conducted, gave her the bittersweet reassurance that neurologically speaking, there were no major concerns. This was a bit heartbreaking for Amy as it meant there was nothing “to fix”. However, after about another month, it was decided to re-examine her neck area with these scans. The results showed that most certainly there were issues of concern – and need for repair. In fact, after seeing a “conservative” neurosurgeon, surgery was not only recommended, but deemed necessary – ASAP in fact.
Almost as if Amy needed verification of the need “to go under the knife” – the pain from her neck in the last month has become nearly excruciating. Of course, in typical “Amy fashion” – any person who doesn’t know her would never guess. But, I do know her and am aware of the fact that she’s losing feeling in the fingers of her left hand – a result of the nerves being infringed upon on her spinal cord from the C4 and C5 vertebrae. She’s admitted recently that she feels like “just holding her head up” requires great effort – and I’m not talking figuratively.
Tomorrow, she goes in for surgery. They will go in through the front of the neck and repair those vertebrae using bone from her hip. She could be released as early as Wednesday – which speaks highly of how successful and efficient these surgeries are. I’ve heard from two different physical therapists who work with patients who have undergone this surgery that the change can be dramatic as soon as the patient emerges from anesthesia. (Which makes sense, if the nerves are no longer being infringed upon). However, the recovery can also be daunting as it is necessary for the patient to wear a “collar” band around their neck for six weeks– and due to the front entry, swallowing can even be an issue. Some have described the first parts of recovery at times feeling like you are suffocating. Amy doesn’t have an easy time with turtlenecks – so a constricting collar will certainly be an issue for her.
On the positive side, Amy’s parents will be staying for at least a month with her family – and in demonstration of just how many people love this lady and her family – within 48 hours we were able to secure 33 meals to be scheduled for delivery over the timespan of her recovery. Amy is renowned for looking out for the needs of everyone around her – and now it is finally time for those others to be able to assist and support her.
So, from you, dear bloggy-friends, I’d like to ask for you to lift up one of my dearest friends in prayer. Please pray for peace for her going into the surgery (as you can imagine, she has considerable fear that she’d awake and not be able to feel her legs – or not even awake at all and leave her children without a mom and husband without a wife). Please pray for wisdom and extraordinary capabilities from the surgeon and his team. And, pray for her recovery – that it would be rapid and complete – and as pain and anxiety free as possible. And, finally, I’m praying – and hope you would join me – for results from this surgery to bring back her “life”. Not the old life before the accident – because Amy would testify she’d “do it all again” because of the life lessons it has taught her and opportunity to witness through this story – but for a “new life” without constant physical pain, fatigue, and emotional weariness.
It’s all a tall order, but with God, nothing is impossible.
Thank you, my friends – I will keep you posted after the surgery takes place – and will also follow up later this week with some of the other details about the accident that took place 5 years ago that testify of how God is still in the business of miracles......