My Hair was My Helmet
Updated: Oct 21, 2018
After I was hit by a car crossing the street on my morning dogwalk, a Trauma doctor told me it would take 1-2 months to heal from a severe concussion.
A month ago today, Saturday breakfast in bed…was in ICU. I called my loving nephew, a double-lung transplant survivor with Cystic Fibrosis. It felt great to hear his strong voice, remembering a time he barely had the breath, literally, to speak on the phone.
“You know, I’ve been thinking Aunt Denise, it’s kind of ironic you were hit by a car. Remember while I was waiting for my lungs you told me, ‘Patrick, any of us could die before you. All we have to do is walk across the street and get hit by a car… Isn’t that kind of ironic.’”
I chuckled. True…it’s hard to believe I am now a statistic. Auto vs ped (pedestrian) is not unfamiliar to me as a nurse who worked many weekends in a Northern California ER and trauma center.
“We’ve had four pedestrian hits the past two weeks in our area,” the ER Tech talked as he wrapped gauze around my head the day before, his newest patient. “One boy died last week. It’s getting crazy out there…”
“Don’t cut your hair,” he admonished. “I’ll wash the blood out.” All my life hairstylists thinned my hair, “enough for three heads,” they’d explain. Now I was thankful. Is that a wig? An odd question for me as a young woman. My new answer—It is my helmet—the helmet that cushioned my skull.
My jacket was my armor, as the long pants. It was the first time I’d worn a jacket all summer—perfect protection from road rash, more than I already had.
Pilates protected my spine, as strong muscles clamped my neck as my head hit the pavement. piloga protected my hip. I realize now I influenced the things I could just by staying stretched and toned, by including exercise in my weekly schedule, even swimming the day before.
God controlled the things I couldn’t.
The Hit The Day Before
As Benji and I crossed the street, one I’ve walked eighteen years, to avoid another dog walker during our suburb’s dog-walk morning hours, I didn’t anticipate a problem as I saw the car before I crossed and continued talking on my cell. A good thing as I didn’t tense my muscles.
I never felt the hit. I know I was lying on my back in a foggy haze. It is a surreal blessing to be in that state of semi-conscious shock. A woman kept screaming, “Oh, my God.” A man asked me for contact numbers which I recited with my eyes closed. My husband’s. Mom’s. Sirens blared in the background. I was semi-aware…I must have been hit.
“Where’s Benji?” I asked dazed. Someone brought him to me. I cradled him, I was told.
God tipped, flipped me on and over the car—instead of gravity pulling me under. I once saw my schnauzer dribbled under a truck like a basketball…and die. (a devotional in Dogspirations, written 2015)
I later learned the driver sat frozen in the driver’s seat. She was blinded by the morning sun coming up over the hill. Later, she sent flowers and a sweet note praying I would be well, wishing she could turn back time. I felt bad and prayed for her. There for the grace of God go I…
My husband texted close friends launching prayer chains. It lifted the burden from him, as my brother and SIL drove with him to the scene. They arrived just as they lifted my stretcher in to the back of the ambulance. I have a vague recollection of his smiling face and as he stood at the back doors swung wide open.
I have a new appreciation for our city’s rapid EMS system sprung into action by 911—and streamlined ambulance, sheriff, firetruck and designated ER five miles away. I have a short recollection of a bumpy ride to the hospital jostling on my backboard and straining to answer the paramedic’s question, “What month is it?”
Answered Prayer in the ER
I opened my eyes when the ER nurse aroused me and introduced herself, “Hi, I’m Julie. We’re going to staple your head—there’s quite a gash and it’s bleeding.” I already knew that by all the talk of my bloody hair and my hazy interjection, “Just cut it!”
Thump. Thump. Thump. Stapling my head was like seven little bumps. Each one, a dull thud, jerked me slightly. It ended. I slept.
As I lay there in my ozone drift, Julie spoke to someone after running her fingers along my neck. “There seems to be more oozing than normal. Check this in five minutes.” A short time later, fingers poked in my bandages again, and pulled against my neck.
A tense voice stated close to my ear, “Something’s wrong. Something’s not right—call the doctor. We need to reopen this.”
Soon, I opened my eyes long enough to look up at a young Asian doctor. “We’re taking the staples out. We need to close the bleeders.” That nurse, Julie, called it.
Pluck, pluck, pluck. My eyes remained closed as I listened to hub bub above me. I only felt tired and my head felt heavy.
“Oh yeah arterial bleeders…I got two.” Three voices sighed and whispered over my head, but I could hear the doctor flounder. “I can’t find it—I know it’s here I just can’t see it.” “Look over there.”… “I’m digging deeper…It’s really spurting.”
Spurting? I broke out of my peaceful fog and malaise. People are praying. I know they are.
I struggled to speak out loud. “Jesus can help you find it. He helps us find things.” My voice sounded raspy and intense. “Jesus, please help them find the bleeder!” Eyes closed, I waited anxiously, the voices now silent above me.
“I found it!” The doctor sounded excited. “It’s really spurting.” Her relief rippled to all of us, especially me. I relaxed again, and thanked God and all my family and friend’s prayers flooding in…temporarily.
Trust vs Peace…Patient vs Nurse
After a minute’s reprieve, as they rewrapped my head, my nurse brain awoke and worked against me.
Doubt and what if’s kicked in. Did they cauterize the veins well enough? What if one breaks open again? Or there’s another bleeder they didn’t see! I had to shut off the faucet of fear.
I distinctly remember talking to myself. No one could help me with this part. I either worry or accept His peace. This is where I needed to step into faith. Trust God, Denise. People are praying. The Great Physician did guide the doctor’s hands. He answered so I could rest.
He’s watching over me.
What Really Matters in Life
You know what rekindles the romance in a marriage? Realizing you might have lost your best bickering buddy, over who knows what? Forgotten socks strewn on the floor instead of in the washing machine? Dishes in the sink next to the dishwasher. You forgot to check your phone, again?
“I love you Denise. I’m so glad I didn’t lose you.” The husband of my heart spoke softly at my gurney and later again at the bedside.
“I love you Steve, I’m so glad you’re in my life.” Together we affirmed, “I’m so glad we’re married.” (We are a #middleagedmarriage) Eyes welling with tears, we gazed at each other a couple feet away, and touched finger tips. Time had stopped and romance edged back into the long pauses.
The first couple days after discharge emotions ran high. My Prince served me saltine crackers with my pain pills, and helped dress my facial, hand and knee abrasions with salves to keep them moist. Avid handholders, we’d both tear up while rubbing fingers, or palms cautiously, no lower than the second set of scraped knuckles, which would later scab. I still haven’t been able to wear my wedding ring.
My walker gave me a sense of stability and security to deal with the wooziness. (lasted 2 ½ weeks.)
The deep purple swollen shiner succumbed to normal skin tones in four days and the scratchy eyes relieved by eye drops soon followed. Although the back of my head throbbed the first week at night, (staples were removed in ten days), my facial, knee and knuckle abrasions kept me awake at night. Superficial pain turned to scabs and itching and oddly, knuckles dictated constant attention…because they are part of our active functioning hands.
I’ve never valued them like I do now.
I am truly thankful to my wonderful family and friends for the support and food and encouragement and cards and flowers and most of all….Prayers. Thank you so much. I felt the life-saving, life-giving love of Christ from each of you. The power of prayer is inexplicable and undeniable.
After I came home from the hospital and walked through the front door, Benji sniffed my feet, moved on and whined to my brother. He ignored me. Steve motioned to him, pointing at me, “There’s Mommy.” After a couple more prompts he turned his attention from my brother at the front door and looked my way.
He had an odd blank stare. He didn’t move. Suddenly his ears lowered to his head, he tucked his stump, hunched his back, and began shaking like he was in a frozen tundra. “It’s as if he saw a ghost.” Steve observed. He stepped slowly toward me and sniffed again. It took him a couple days to act excited or normal around me. (I wonder if the smell of blood on my head when we were last together cause him to think I died?)
Today I walked Benji. It is a miracle he was not hurt. I have not been able to walk down the street around the corner where this happened yet, but I know when I do we will remember and we will be grateful.
Soli Deo Gloria
To God be the Glory
Thanks to all my wonderful family and friends for your prayers and cards and food and joy. God's richest blessings upon you all. Jesus is my Light & you are my Hilights.
Every Day is a Day of Thanksgiving.
Our best life is now.