Bit of a wreck, ain’t it?
I’ve had a pretty good reason not to be blogging for the last while.
My husband, Colin, and I survived this collision that left the other driver dead.
Looking at this picture, it is a miracle that we made it out alive. This post is not about traveling rich or dying broke.
This blog is about the reality of what life can throw at anyone. It is a hopeful tale of survival.
It was January 28th, 2018 in Queensland, Australia. Thirteen days into our 24-day vacation. We woke up to pouring rain in the town of Mackay on the East Coast of Australia between Brisbane and Cairns.
Rather than grab breakfast in a local coffee shop, we decided to press on towards the Eungella National Park, famous for it’s waterfalls, forest vistas, bird and mammalian life, and a particularly special little fellow – the platypus.
Colin had been doing a great, safe job of driving our rental vehicle on the left side of the road. This wasn’t foreign to him as he learned to drive in Britain.
It was raining and miserable that morning and Colin was driving 20 kms under the speed limit.
Lucky for both of us.
At 7:45 am, we were hit by a 76-year-old man who lost control of his vehicle for whatever reason and spun out, hitting our car head on. He died instantly.
It was a split second in time – one that hit us out of nowhere and changed our lives forever.
I did not lose consciousness. I opened my senses to that dreadful burnt rubber smell, an exploded airbag in front of me and shattered glass and plastic everywhere.
I looked over at Colin who was asking if I was okay. I knew that I had internal abdominal injuries. My gut was in pain – pain that I had never before experienced.
Being a physician, I also knew that I was in grave danger of dying without immediate help.
The rest is a blur: Colin saying he loved me and to “hang in there”; a stranger coming to the car, holding my hand and asking if I could hear the ambulance that was very close; emergency services using the jaws of life to extract us; my clothes being cut off in the emergency room (that was my favourite top!); being given some drugs that took me to another world, while ridding me of the agonizing pain; waking up on a ward 3 days later with no track of time; being unable to move or cough without excruciating pain; the humiliation of the bedpan; and on and on.
I learned that I had two bowel surgeries and had not been expected to make it.
Happily, I was out of the ICU within 24 hrs and had been spared the indignity of a colostomy. Colin had his arm and leg in braces after orthopedic surgery and was bruised from stem to stern. We were shattered – both spiritually and physically.
To add insult to injury, we were in a country about as far away from home as you could possibly get. Fortunately, we had a niece living in Australia who we had just had a lovely visit with the day before the accident.
Colin said that waking up from his drug-induced state to see Alyssa’s smiling face was simply wonderful. My daughter, Siobhan, also flew down from Vancouver to help us through the worst times. The outpouring of well wishes and support from family and friends was truly strengthening.
I have frequently used the adage: “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.
I will now say: “what attempts to kill you can break you” – and you may not feel strong for a long time. It is amazing how resilient the human body and spirit can be. My injuries were life threatening to the point that the surgical team did not expect me to survive. Scary. Yet, thanks to an amazing medical team and a bit of luck, here I am.
Colin suffered devastating fractures in his right arm and left leg requiring several surgeries for fixation and debridement of infection.
There were a number of factors that were just very, very lucky for us. The fact that we were just 10 minutes from one of the major trauma centres in Queensland when we had been traveling in the middle of nowhere previously. The fact that we were doing less than the speed limit. The fact that there was a Greyhound bus behind us with a dash-cam that recorded the whole thing so there was no question of what happened.
No, I don’t think I’m a different person than I was one second prior to the crash. Same old me – just a new coat of paint – resected bowel, laceration on my left eyelid, staples down the centre of my abdomen, that sort of thing.
I am also very saddened that the family of the deceased driver had to suffer through this tragedy as well. In a twist of irony, that family sent a lovely bouquet of flowers to us saying they were so very sorry. I broke down and cried when I read that note.
We have a long rehabilitation road ahead of us. At this point in time we are trying to get well enough to be allowed home to Canada. I think our healing will continue to improve once we are in our own environment and are surrounded by friends and family. We will be forever thankful to the amazing doctors and nurses that literally saved our lives.
So, Australia, we will soon bid you adieu. We do love this country and might come back some day.
Broken – but mending.
Update: April, 2018 – We are both healing slowly back in Canada. Thank you for all your well-wishes. I wish you all safe travels and long, healthy lives.
I will resume my blogging in the near future.
Check out my original song on Youtube: BROKEN