Many people know that I am a brain–injury survivor: I was in a car accident that resulted in a coma for 6 weeks back when I lived in Arkansas. Now I have recovered to a great degree: many would say that I am completely healed. Still, I recognize the changes that have occurred in my life and the compensation that is still necessary to live day-to-day. And there is a time of year that reminds me of those days more than any other: right about now, just before my annual trek to the South to celebrate our rodeo. It happens that today is the anniversary of my my accident.
The tenth anniversary.
April 14th, 2001: the day before American tax day, the second of the new millennium. It was a Saturday that year, and I had gone to the office to get some work done. (Yes, that was me: the workaholic.) It was a stormy day, and probably about 5:00 or so I headed home: my now-husband Tim and I were supposed to go out that night. At a particular curve in the road I hydroplaned and spun into the support for a walkway that crossed over the street, just outside the Blind-Deaf School in Little Rock. (It is very visible on Google Maps; and on street view you can see the column I slammed in to.) Friends of mine, leaving the library where I worked, apparently came up on the accident some minutes later, soon after the paramedics arrived. They did not recognize the Jeep as mine, but they wondered if anyone had survived.
I was whisked to the hospital (the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences is literally 2km down that road). They (the orderlies?) found my ID and called my house, where Tim was waiting for me to turn up. We were supposed to go to the rodeo’s “Easter Basket Auction”, traditionally one of the last fund-raisers to be held every year before the rodeo… and which is to be held this weekend in Little Rock. I’m sure Tim was annoyed, and wondering where I was: I had a habit back then for being late. But this time there was a legitimate reason.
So began a story I’ve been living ever since. I was in a coma for six weeks: every year I acknowledge the day of the accident and count down each day until May 29th, the day I woke up. We call that “Wake Up Day”, and that is more of a day of celebration. But those days in between: I can’t help but think about how they were for my family, who wondered every day if I would live or die. It is a long time to live in limbo. My whole family came to visit during those weeks: although I do not remember that first time for several of them in the South.
The pictures above are some of the only surviving remnants from that period. One is my car: the jeep that I had owned for less than a year, the first car that I had bought completely on my own. Yes, I was driving. The other is the only picture of me in Intensive Care; my sister took that picture while my mom wasn’t looking. Although I might have a certain curiosity and a wish to see more of what it was like during those weeks that I was “out of it”, I do understand that at the time it was just something everyone was trying to get through.
The other reason we remember this date every year is that we use it to announce “Wake Up Day” that will be coming up in six weeks. It is a night we like to have a party at our house: a celebration of life and health and creativity. This year the 29th is a Sunday, so we’re electing to celebrate the day before: so mark your calendars for the evening of Saturday, May 28th. More information will be available regarding this year’s celebration over the next few weeks.