I was ready. As a teenager, I was ready for the future, for some freedom and for fun with my friends, the only people who really understood me. It was the beginning of Spring Break, and also Saint Patrick’s Day. We were ready to celebrate with plenty of alcohol and a Volvo station wagon big enough for the group of us.
I was not ready when my boyfriend lost control of that station wagon at highway speed, and it rolled down an embankment, ejecting all of us. When I finally regained consciousness, the severe pain from my injuries was overwhelming. I felt so confused…I was alone in a large hospital room, I had tubes coming from all over my body and my hands were tied down. Where were my family and friends? Terrified, miserable, and alone, I was not ready for this. Silently, I cried until I fell into another drug induced sleep.
Later, I learned that my arms had been restrained so that I wouldn’t pull at the breathing or feeding tubes coming from my mouth, the tube draining my chest cavity, or the many intravenous lines in my arms and neck, or the urethral catheter draining my bladder. Since I was in the Intensive Care Unit, my family was only allowed to visit during specified times.
The following days and weeks are a blur as the medical team fought to keep me alive. Pain marked the only memories that I have of that time. The physical pain was much more than I could have ever imagined, but the pain and concern I saw on the faces of my family and friends is haunting as well. I felt so guilty; my poor choices had caused all of this pain.
Fortunately, thanks to excellent care, I began to recover. I couldn’t even roll or scoot in bed without assistance and severe pain. I had been so eager for freedom and fun; but here I was living in complete dependence. I can tell you that several weeks of using a bedpan is no teenager’s idea of fun.
After surgeries and weeks on bedrest, I required months of physical therapy to regain the ability to walk independently. I yearned for my previous life. I was isolated from my friends as I was too weak and in too much pain to spend much time with them. The next year, I was finally able to return to school and to a more normal life, though I still had years of pain and surgeries ahead of me.
I still think often about how fortunate we are that none of us died as a result of that completely preventable crash; so many similar situations end tragically. My plea to you is this: never get behind the wheel after you’ve been drinking, and never ride with someone who has been drinking. It is simply too risky. Always be ready for the unexpected and buckle up!
Teresa Taylor is the Trauma Prevention Coordinator/Outreach Educator at Stormont-Vail HealthCare