The day finally came when the doctor had no choice but to tell me the truth. “Your ankle was operated on to remove shards of bone. You have a large metal screw holding the two halves of the major bone together. Your foot was snapped back on top of itself, pulling all of the ligaments and tendons apart. I’m sorry. You will never walk on your left foot again.” I sat in my wheelchair and sobbed.
When my mother-in-law dropped me off at my apartment, I had already made up my mind that I was going to walk again,unassisted. I tried using the crutches the doctor had prescribed, putting just a little bit of weight on my left foot. The pain was so great that it nauseated me. I had to lie down and wait for the worst of the pain to wear off.
Every day, after my husband left for work, I would practice walking with the crutches, not putting any weight on my left foot. Even this was difficult and painful due to the damage done to my right arm. Using the crutches hurt. After a few days, I went back to practicing without the crutches. I would stand next to a wall and put a little weight on my foot. It was good that I was home alone because I could scream as much as I needed to without disturbing anyone.
I had a little extra time before the baby was due. I had four hormone shots to prevent a miscarriage while I was in Intensive Care. Each shot delayed the birth by a week to ten days. I was able to walk with one crutch as a stabilizer the day before my check up with the orthopedic surgeon.
I remember sitting in the waiting room at the Hattiesburg Clinic, giving myself a pep talk before they called my name. I used the crutch to talk every agonizing step down the hall to the doctor. He was seated on a stool, expecting me to be in the wheelchair. I left the crutch at the door and took ten of the most painful steps in my life. I collapsed into the doctor’s arms, exhausted. We both cried as he held me. “It isn’t possible,” the doctor repeated over and over.
It wasn’t possible, but God allowed it to happen in spite of the damage. It was three years before my gait resembled anything close to a normal walk. The pain is ever with me. Some days, my ankle won’t cooperate and I have to use a crutch, but I know it is only temporary.
I’ve had to have surgery on my neck because all seven discs were ruptured. The pain shoots down my shoulders, making sleeping difficult. I live with a ruptured disc in my lower back, as well. I have to be constantly aware of what I pick up, how I pick it up and how I carry it. Otherwise, I will be suffering when the internal swelling presses on my spinal cord.
There were three miracles allowed me by God after the accident. The first one: I lived. The doctors were amazed that I lived at all. Someone with my injuries usually doesn’t make it. The second miracle: I carried my unborn child and gave birth to her after 30 minutes of hard labor. The third miracle: I have been walking since nine months after the accident. The screw was removed from my ankle a few years ago. The metal sleeve is still in my right arm. I have two metal bars in my neck. I currently get steroid injections in my neck and lower back to help ease the pain. My legs never regained the lost muscle. I will always be the woman with the skinny legs.
The drunk driver lived a lonely life, in and out of jail for drunk driving over the years. Finally, one day, he took his own life. I don’t know what his demons were. I’ll never know what finally drove him over the edge. Maybe, he just couldn’t forgive himself for causing so many people so much pain. I forgave him, but no amount of forgiveness could take back the pain he caused. What did he leave behind? What was his legacy?
Larry left no immediate family, just sisters who had grown tired of his drinking and driving. He left behind a woman who has been in pain since the day of the accident.
Not all victims of a drunk driver die. There are those of us who live with constant pain. Those of us who wonder for the rest of our lives, “What if I had left fifteen minutes earlier or ten minutes later that day?” “What if?”
In spite of everything, I have much to be happy about. I have been blessed and I don’t sit around feeling sorry for myself. I continue to push myself day by day, accomplishing as much each day as I possibly can. You don’t let the freak things, the bad, unlucky, and sour days define who you are. They are just days that need a do-over. So, get up and try again. Do it over again, if you need to. There is joy in every day, but you have to be looking for it.