When I awoke in the hospital, my mother was standing over me. I remembered hearing her voice while I was unconscious. She and the doctor were talking about my probably brain damage. I thought I had been dreaming. Since I could not remember the accident, I had to be told what happened. My first question upon learning there had been a car accident was, “Oh, my God, did I hurt anybody?”
I was told that a man who had just been released from a mental institute, without driver’s license, stole his mother’s car and went to a bar to get drunk. He caused the accident and the only injury to him was a broken nose. He spent one night in jail. He was told that, if I should lose my unborn child, he would be charged with manslaughter. His mother and sister prayed outside my door day and night that I would not lose my baby. Not because they had compassion for me, but rather, they did not want Larry to go to prison.
I was not allowed visitors in ICU except for immediate family. My pelvis had been crushed. I could not be put in a cast because I was pregnant. My left hip had been broken by the door handle that was twisted, leaving a sharp, hard metal spike to break my hip bone.
My left ankle had been crushed. Surgery was performed to remove the shards of bone and what remained was glued and screwed together in an attempt to keep the foot attached to my leg. It was cosmetic, not meant for walking on. I wore the cast on my ankle, up to my knee for the rest of my pregnancy. I knew that six months was too long to wear a cast, but my doctor told me it was because I was pregnant and it was taking longer. They did not want to tell me that I would never walk on that leg again.
My right arm was broken. Because I could not sit up, surgery was performed to place a sleeve over the broken bones and my arm was in a sling. Both arms were at 90 degree angles for several months. The left arm had nerve damage. I had to have physical therapy every day to eventually straighten both arms. I can still remember how painful it was. I cried and begged them to stop pulling on my arms. The PT specialists would ask, “Don’t you want to hold your baby one day?” I would try harder.
I had hairline fractures all over my body, a severe concussion, lacerations on my left arm and face. The stitches were removed too soon from my right arm, leaving a seven-inch scar that was an inch wide in some places. My left ear had to be sown back in place.
When I first conceived my daughter, my body tried to reject her. This is known as morning sickness. For a very small number of women, the body reacts violently to expel the foreign invader. I could not keep water down, much less any food. Nothing helped ease the nausea. By the time I was three months pregnant, I had lost ten pounds. I weighed 110 pounds at the time of the accident. I was on drip and still could not keep food down. The doctors were desperate.
They would come into my room with cheeseburgers bought from fast food restaurants to tempt me to eat. I would try, but it always came back up. One day, a doctor asked me if I was craving anything. I said I would like a tomato and mayonnaise sandwich. It had to be a fresh, vine-ripened tomato. It was around the first of May and tomatoes would not be ready in South Mississippi for another four to six weeks. A nurse offered, “There is a vine-ripened tomato somewhere in the US. We will find it.”
The call went out for a ripe tomato. It wasn’t long before a trucker heard about me and brought a bushel of vine-ripened tomatoes to the hospital. The cafeteria sliced the tomato and sent the mayo and fresh bread to my room, where the doctor prepared the sandwich and cut it into four equal pieces. I ate the first quarter of the sandwich with three doctors and four nurses cheering me on. It was the first thing I had eaten in almost four months. I was down to 99 pounds.
I had been given a shot for nausea before I attempted to eat the sandwich. I managed to eat half of it without throwing it back up. There were cheers of success heard throughout the hospital. I was able to keep one sandwich in my stomach each day. If I pushed the issue by adding sandwich meat or tried to eat more than one, up it all would come.
I was weak, I was in pain and my legs were wasting away. I did not consider at the time that I was losing muscle from both legs. I had always been a skinny kid. I had Dolly Parton breasts (mine were natural) and Olive Oil legs. I was not told that I would never get back the muscle that I had lost. So much had been kept from me. The doctors had been afraid that the truth would be too much for me to handle.
I was bed-ridden for months, my baby grew restless, kicking me without mercy because she had to lie in one position day after day. I was taken to the doctor’s office, after I had been released from the hospital, by my Mother-in-Law for checkups. Each visit, I was promised the cast would come off my leg. They would take x-rays and give me the bad news. “It isn’t healing correctly because the baby is using all the calcium in your body. Give it some more time.” I cried every time. How was I going to take care of my baby if I was stuck in a wheelchair.
I promise, if you come back for part three, you will witness a miracle.
- A Drunk Drivers Legacy: Part One (barbarastanley.net)
- The Future of Drunk Driving Prevention (allstate.com)
- When a person decides to drink and drive (nwacaraccidentattorney1.wordpress.com)