My Eight Car Accidents and The Road to Recovery
I’ve been in eight car accidents.
That’s right, eight: the number after seven yet before nine.
Some people get struck by lightning, I happen to get struck by cars.
Actually, this isn’t something I’ve shared very often over the years for fear that folks will scatter when they see me heading towards them in my big white minivan.
But I guess the cat’s out of the bag now, so let me explain.
First, permit me to clear my good name as a driver. Only one time was an accident considered my fault, and that’s when I was turning left and a woman ran through the red, however no witnesses hung around to corroborate my statement.
With the exception of that time, I’ve either been standing still at a stoplight or have been a passenger in a car that was hit. And remarkably, the drivers I was with also weren’t at fault.
The first accident I can recall occurred when I was thirteen and a car rear ended my mom’s car as she had her wheel cocked to turn left. The force of the impact launched our vehicle into the oncoming lane so that a car T-boned the backseat where my sister sat. The sound was explosive as the side of our station wagon imploded, and the windows shattered into a million shards. We were shaken, but were examined and told that we were unharmed.
If only I had known then what I know now.
Twice my husband, Jame, and I have been driving brand spanking new cars when maniacal drivers have materialized, seemingly out of nowhere, to demolish our cars as well as injure us.
The first time it happened, we were driving down a two-lane highway in Minnesota when “Farmer George” decided to cross the center line and take out the entire driver’s side of our month-old Taurus and then, just to spice things up a bit, send us spinning around in a circle, stopping inches from a ravine. True to form, I had been eating a Snicker’s blizzard which erupted all over Jame including his white polo shirt. In shock after the collision, he looked down, wiped a bit of brown goo off of his arm saying, “I’m bleeding, Beck. I’m bleeding bad.” Yet, he wasn’t. Other than bruises, stiffness, and a supreme case of the willies, we were both okay. Our car – not so much. It was headed for the scrap pile. Farmer George crawled out of his car, stumbled unsteadily towards us and professed his innocence in a slurred voice, claiming that he had been swatting a bee. The small town cop who had just pulled up agreed with his cousin George without question. I have a feeling that George has swatted quite a few bees over the course of his life.
The second time one of our cars was totaled was about ten years ago when a man shot out of a shopping center onto Rand Road, a four-lane street, and slammed into the side of our two-week-old Acura. He slowly emerged from his vehicle with withered legs and crutches. He was incapable of speaking any English. And while I wasn’t thrilled about the demise of yet another new car, the mama grizzly in me really came out something fierce when I looked back to see the rear door was smashed inward right where my sons were buckled in.
Another time I was in the middle of a six car pile up where an elderly man mistakenly whaled on the gas instead of the brake. There were five of us stopped at a red light, and he slammed into the last vehicle who returned the favor to the next, then to me and so on and so on.
Suffice it to say that with this track record, I can be anxious in a car. It’s a learned behavior. I’m an über aware sidekick, and my passenger-side brake foot is quite active, quite often.
Thankfully, despite all of the slamming and bamming, screeching of metal and crashing of glass, every other accident victim I’ve been with and I, have miraculously been able to walk away from the collision seemingly unharmed.
Eight significant accidents with only a brief medical exam in an ambulance each time: the conclusion always the same.
You’re fine. Get along with you, now.
Get back on the horse that threw you.
Drive away if your car is able.
And yet, we weren’t okay. I wasn’t okay. Like pro football players, or paratroopers, the continued abuse my spine has suffered has taken its toll in a silent but very painful way. Lower back, neck, knee, foot, shoulder, and hip pain have plagued me since my late teens, which, in turn, has often hindered my physical ability.
A few weeks ago, revved up with a weight loss goal, I had begun to walk on the treadmill when a familiar burn began to throb in my right hip. Four minutes in, and I literally could not take another step since the pain was too great. So, I bent over and stretched my hips as I’ve learned to do to alleviate the pain and stiffness. And once I was feeling a tad more limber and the pain had dulled somewhat, I mounted the elliptical, deciding that a change of movement was all that was necessary. I couldn’t have been more mistaken. By the end of that day, I could hardly hobble from one end of the house to the other.
Somehow I had to take control back of my physical being. For God’s sake, I wasn’t attempting to train for a marathon, I was only attempting to walk from here to there, yet even that was proving to be too much. Adding insult to injury, my ever-shrinking husband was excitedly giving me reports about how many pounds he had just lost and how pumped he was by his new weight lifting routine.
I was at the end of my rope, but instead of throwing in the towel, I decided to fight back and do something about it.
So here’s the road to recovery part of the story.
For years I had seen a NUCCA chiropractor, one that solely focuses on aligning the first vertebra in the neck, right at the jaw line called the atlas. The years I was under his care had been the healthiest of my adult life, yet I had stopped going because it was a bother, it was expensive, his office was too far, and it basically got in the way of my life. The theory with this type of approach is that if your atlas is out of alignment, everything else follows suit all the way down to your toes. If your atlas is in alignment, however, everything else will work much more effectively as well. The procedure is similar to the one that Jim McMahon from the Bears recently underwent that helped him regain a great deal of cognitive ability once a good amount of the water from his brain had drained.
I happily discovered that there was a NUCCA chiropractor only a mile from my house and made an appointment right away. The exam began with a thorough study of my spinal position and concluded with series of x-rays. of my neck and lower spine. When the x-ray of my neck was ready, the doctor placed it on the backlit screen and within seconds spun around with a troubled look. “Have you ever broken your neck? Two of your vertebra look fused together, one has a severed chip, and your neck is curved in such a way that would suggest that.” she inquired. To my knowledge, I hadn’t, but with so many severe traumas, you never can be certain. Whacking my head on an icy hill in our yard a few weeks prior probably hadn’t helped the situation either.
After studying the x-rays, my gait, posture, etc., the doctor concluded that I have advanced arthritis in my spine as well as scoliosis, that my right shoulder sits three inches lower than my left, my right leg is an inch and a half shorter than my left, and my head tilts one and a half inches to the right. She said my body, through compensating for the many traumas, was like a bunch of puzzle pieces that had been taken apart and forced back together the wrong way.
The good news is that, through non-invasive chiropractic care and healthy habits, I can eventually restore my spine to a normal state, relieving the severe pressure on my joints. Apparently, even the type of scoliosis I have can be reversed. After only a week of spinal adjustments, I feel better and can tell that my body is actively shifting: working to return to where it should be. This is going to be a long process, sure, but it finally has me headed in the right direction, and for that I’m incredibly grateful.
Accidents don’t always result in broken bones and loss of blood. Often, the damage they cause is invisible but it can be just as much or more traumatic than visible injuries. Any time you’re in an accident, insist on having x-rays done as well as a spinal correction if needed. It could save you years of pain as well as save your joints and spine untold abuse.
I’m so happy to be walking down a healthy path once more even if it’s one slow step at a time.