I Could Have Died in Michigan




Exactly a month ago today I could have died in Michigan. Very specific, right? Anyone who’s been to Michigan can say they could have died there. After all, we’re all a split second away from death at any given moment. Especially if you listen to the “Emo Kids”. But whatever, I digress. Point being:

My companion and I went to Michigan to see the family over Christmas. That visit was very cool. My guy got to meet all these people he’d heard a lot about. We had a great time and I made plans to go back alone in January to do some other family type stuff. Three weeks later I hopped a plane and I was back there through another of the coldest weather snaps they had this season. 

My plane back to Florida was scheduled to fly out on Saturday, the 25th, which also happened to be my one year with my guy. Pretty awesome, eh? I was flying out of the Grand Rapids airport and had to transport myself from Saginaw to Grand Rapids. I did this on Friday as my flight was in the morning on Saturday, the weather was crappy and I wanted to see my niece and nephew, brother and sister in law again before I took off as I wasn’t planning on returning until July. That’s a very long time for me to go without seeing family. I start to get twitchy after three months, as my guy can attest to. Fortunately I can video chat and call at any time but it’s just not the same. 

Friday was forecast to have some simply awful weather. High winds with blowing snow, travel safely Michiganders type weather. I took one of the plethora of country highways to take myself to the main interstate. The roads weren’t bad but visibility was pretty crappy. I took a few pictures when I was at stop signs and the like and I think I even posted one on Twitter right before. There’s a bit of a haze there. 

I reached the main interstate and of course used the entrance ramp to merge with the very little traffic. I hit 60 pretty quick and, of course, there was a semi in front of me going slightly slower than that. I checked my mirrors. I checked the road itself for slushy spots and the like. I checked over my left shoulder to ensure there was no traffic that I had missed in my rear-view mirror. Everything was clear so, as I’ve done probably millions of times in my life, I hit the blinker and started to merge into the left lane to pass. 

I blinked, I think I blinked. The next thought I was aware of was, “Why is the median in front of me? That’s an awfully large snowbank – OH SHIT!”

I knew what had happened instantly. I’d hit black ice. At 60. 

My next very clear thought was, “Huh, so this is how it happens. Go limp so it doesn’t hurt.”

I assumed i was going to die.

The truck spun and it flipped. I don’t remember anything past the first flip and my eyes were closed with my hands on the wheel. When I realized it had come to a stop I opened my eyes. I was upside down which was weird as it took me a minute to realize the sky was on the wrong side of things. I was in shock, I know this. I was amazed, simply amazed, at what I thought to do in the aftermath. 

I reached out and turned the engine off. Amazingly it was still running. This whole portion felt like I was playing a video game, one of the first person shooters. I was completely disassociated with the hand reaching out to turn the truck off but I knew that hand was mine. I did a quick scan of my body and all my limbs were straight and nothing hurt at that moment in time. 

I reached to my side and found the clasp for the seatbelt. Thank God I’d been wearing it. I was held quite firmly in the seat and the injuries I sustained were more from that than anything else. I hit the release and angled my head so I fell on my left shoulder. Even all screwed up mentally I knew not to fall on my right shoulder as I have a partially torn rotator cuff and I didn’t want to make it worse. Stupid, small thoughts but, you know. 

Every window in the truck was pretty much blown out. I can’t remember why I couldn’t crawl out the driver’s window, I think the snow was too high on that side. I army crawled my way out the passenger window just in time for the first witness to reach me and ask if I needed an ambulance. I wanted to say, “Well, duh,” that’s what ran through my head over and over but instead I said “I think I need one, yes please.”

As I dragged myself from the vehicle I managed to spot my wallet. I knew I would need that. I scraped through the snow and came up with my winter coat (it had been in the passenger seat. Too hot to wear it on the 3 hour drive, you know), my scarf and wallet. I’d had my earbuds in – at a reasonable volume – and had been listening to something on my phone for the drive. The earbuds were still in my ears when I stopped but the cord went to nothing. I never did find my phone. 

There were several helpful people who stopped to help. One woman held me up while I stumbled through knee deep snow looking for my phone. They put me in another car with a woman and her two daughters. That nice woman cranked the heat and had me put my hands on the heater. I was so cold and shaking so awfully I couldn’t control my limbs. 

My dog Bailey had been with me. I was able to see him briefly through the windshield. That was the last time I saw him. Unfortunately his injuries were too severe and they had to put him down.  

I could only remember one phone number. I’m generally good with phone numbers. Especially my brother and sister in law’s numbers. I’ve dialed them numerous times and it was their house I had been going toward. The nice woman in the car helped me dial the one number I could remember which was my sister in law. I left some insanely scary message on her voicemail and then the cops arrived. Thought association eventually led me to tell them where my brother works and his name so they were able to contact him. I hear that was an adventure in itself as everyone thought it was a prank call of some sorts? 

Anyway – ambulance came and they hauled me down to Grand Rapids (hey, I ended up there eventually so the trip was ultimately a success). Three hours later they let me walk out of the ER. They didn’t even make me wait for my ride. 

I was stunned. The nurses and doctors were stunned. I could hear them through the curtain. Initially I thought I flipped 1 1/2 times as that’s what I thought they were saying. Come to find out it was actually 3 1/2 or 4 1/2. To walk away from that, literally, makes me want to go buy a lottery ticket or something. 

The week that I was in Michigan I was working on the new book (working title Liquid Gold for the blog). I had finished Chapter 1 and had begun working on Chapter 2. I think I blogged about this at one point. I felt bad because I had put one of my favorite characters in serious physical jeopardy. On Saturday I wrote that person into a car accident, a pretty serious one, though I didn’t give them bad injuries, or not really, though the reader doesn’t find that out until the next chapter. 

I wrote that on Saturday and the next Friday I was in the car accident. I’ll be totally honest here: I’ve only looked at the document once since the accident and that was last week. I can be a pretty detailed writer at times and I didn’t want to force flashbacks. I even debated trashing that entire chapter and starting the project over completely. I have been talked out of that awful decision by one of the people who are editing for me. It’s a strong scene and does exactly what I need it to do so it stays. 

Today it has been exactly one month since the accident if you go by dates. I had to force myself to write this posting. I’ve been dealing with the physical repercussions of flipping a Trailblazer while doing 60 and have pretty much left my psyche and emotions to deal with themselves. That hasn’t worked. I don’t know if I thought it would. 

I was in a potentially serious accident in 2000. Someone ran/slid through a red light and hit my tail end in a station wagon. It whipped me around a few times but nothing major happened. I strained every muscle in my upper body in that one, including my face. I had forgotten what it feels like when your hair hurts. I feel like I have been sufficiently reminded. I recognized my aversion to driving after that one. I would only drive our F-250 Diesel that we had at the time as I felt like I was riding in a tank. This time I was in a vehicle that felt like a tank so now what? Fortunately I don’t drive often here in Florida. We take a lot of cabs. We’ll be buying a car soon and I have to wonder what my sub-conscious decides we should have. 

This time around I did more than strain muscles. And I feel way more than just an aversion to the thought of driving. At the moment I’m rather enjoying hiding out in our apartment and simply not dealing with the world but that’s no way to heal. 

Injury rundown: I have bulging discs in my neck and a small ligament that’s torn. That ligament makes my neck weak so by the end of the day my head is all wobbly like a newborn’s. It’s not fun. My lower back has a herniated disc and another one bulging with another small ligament tear. That tear is causing all sorts of fun reactions when I move in certain ways (sarcasm). My left shoulder, the one I purposely fell on the prevent further damage to the right one, is showing all the signs of a small tear in that rotator cuff. The doc is pretty sure I had a concussion, as well. 

So, that’s a lot to deal with on its own. 

I was walking Cocoa (my Florida dog, dappled dachsund, he’s a colorful hotdog) and thinking about this posting. Hiding out isn’t working. I’m not getting any work done and a person can only watch so much TV and play so much Bejeweled on the iPad. So we’re walking and I was trying to analyze how I feel about this whole thing. Better to know before I start the post. I didn’t need a spontaneously occurring epiphany while jotting thoughts. 

How am I feeling, emotionally and psyche-wise, about the accident? I’ll tell you. I’m fucking pissed. It was a stupid accident that has long lasting ramifications. A month of my life – so far – has been focused around this. I don’t want that. I had other things I was concentrating on. Marketing for the other books was going well. Sales were picking up. The new book was cruising along and I had some great ideas I couldn’t wait to implement. A month off and it’s like starting over completely. And that makes me tired. And being tired makes me mad and thus we’re back to me being just straight up pissed off right now. 

So – I almost died in Michigan. One of the reasons I started traveling in my youth was the desire NOT to die in Michigan, to live more of life than that. I have done that and yet Michigan doesn’t appear to be done with me just yet. 

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