There is a split-second for your body to prepare for the trauma before the car slams into your left side, and a leisurely ride into work on a sunny day becomes an exhausting and painful day at the hospital.
Your fight-or-flight instinct is sparked by the adrenaline pumping through your vulnerable shell: your heart pounds; your muscles tense; your awareness is heightened, just as the worst of your situation becomes the prime object of your focus.
The hood of the car is, all at once, a white blur streaking toward you, and also a crystal clear threat to your existence.
As the collision strips from you the handlebars–and with them your ability to control your destination–you hold out your hands to catch yourself from a fall that you won’t be able to avoid.
You fracture your wrist, you seriously damage tendons, you separate your shoulder, and still you haven’t caught yourself. You roll: your helmet and the jacket you bought with body armor in it scrape along the pavement until you rest on the tree lawn just off the curb.
You regain your bearings while staring into an inviting blue sky. It seems a strange companion as you reconstruct what happened, and what didn’t happen: you’ve been hit, you’re seriously hurt, but you’re alive.
“I’m okay, I’m okay, I’m okay,” you say to yourself, part pep talk to stave off panic and part prayer, as you take an inventory of what body parts aren’t working as they should.
Your wrists can’t bend, and they hurt badly.
“I’m okay, I’m alive.”
Your shoulder hurts a lot; you can feel a collarbone seeming to push away from you.
“I’m okay, I’m alive.”
Your leg stings from road rash; your ankle and knee are sore.
“I’m okay, I’m alive.”
Your mantra keeps you engaged until bystanders arrive, and tell you help is on the way. Police arrive quickly, and EMTs and firefighters aren’t far behind.
People keep asking, and you keep telling, your name and what happened.
The car crossed traffic and turned into your motor scooter. You had the right-away. Your high-visibility vest was easy to see in the late morning sunshine.
Reality Sets In
Emotions spontaneously burst out of you as you think of your wife, your children, your future. You’ve staved off panic, but you still faced a chance at death.
You break down and thank God for a life you want to keep living, as a bumpy ambulance reminds you that, yes, you’re alive, but really you’re not okay.
“Even when you do everything right, something can go wrong,” becomes the new mantra, a mantra you say to yourself and others.
You tell it to the trauma nurse who, while asking standard screening questions, asks something that makes you break down again: have you thought about wanting to die in the last 30 days?
“No, I don’t want to die!” You say with emotion, still shaken from doctors looking for signs of internal bleeding and neck/spine/brain injury.
You tell it to the doctor who commends you for wearing all the right safety gear, unlike the motorcycle rider who arrived before you with a punctured spleen and bleeding on the brain.
You tell it to the nurse who holds the phone while you call your wife, your wife who told you to be safe that morning and every morning.
Even when you do everything right, something can go wrong.
Into The Unknown
As you limp toward your van to go home, you don’t fully realize how long a recovery you have ahead.
You don’t know how bad your fractured wrist is, and the serious tendon injuries in your other arm.
You’re told your collarbone isn’t broken, but your shoulder is separated–the bones have been violently pushed apart.
You don’t know how long your body won’t be able to help you be a husband, writer, musician, and father like you are accustomed.
You don’t know how long you won’t be able to hug your wife, or pick up your baby, or bake the family’s sandwich bread.
You don’t know how long you won’t be able to type with the same speed and accuracy that helped you work from Oslo to Cairo to Cleveland.
You don’t know how long you won’t be able to play guitar, singing the songs you wrote for your children while they clap and dance around you.
You don’t know how long you won’t be able to reach a fork to your mouth, or pull on your pants, or tie your shoes, or scratch an itch, or sleep anywhere but propped up on the couch.
You don’t know how long it will be before you don’t tense and feel anxiety while your vehicle passes through an intersection, or how long before you don’t suddenly wake up fearing something’s about to hit you.
You’re thankful for a wife and family that support you while you work to fully return to being the father, husband, and man they need you to be.
Recovery is long, and you don’t know when it will end.
You’re still not okay.
But you’re alive, and have so many reasons to live.