The Day My Perspective Changed

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic


The day I was in a car accident, when I almost lost my leg, is the day that my entire perspective on life changed. From that day, I have been a better person, learned amazing life lessons, and so
much more. Want to know about that day and what the first time my perspective changed was like? Read.

Submitted: October 27, 2017

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Submitted: October 27, 2017

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Last year was a difficult time in my life personally, and spiritually. I was trying to figure out who I was as an individual. If what I was doing and where I was headed is what I truly wanted. Note: wanted, not needed. I started hanging around the friends that I didn’t need to be hanging around. I was making conversation daily with the people I didn’t need to be conversing with, about things that I didn’t need to be conversing about.  I often used the excuse of, “oh, I will influence them in a positive way.” “My character is strong enough to not be influenced by them.” WRONG. Little by little, conversation by conversation, I was influenced negatively. I wasn’t encouraged. I wasn’t getting prayers from them (only from my family). I wasn’t getting a, “how are you?” or even a “I hope you have a good night.” All of this led up to 7/31/16…the day of my accident.

CRASH. CRASH. CRASH. CRASH. CRASH. That’s all I heard when I woke up to my car in the median, fighting gravity with the posts from the median barrier cable.

I quickly woke up, pulled myself together, undid my seat belt in case I got twisted up in it (I have seen that happen on many TV shows way too much), and pulled my emergency break. As I pulled my emergency break for the first time ever, I began to spin uncontrollably on I-270S in Columbus, OH (about one hour from my hometown Dayton). Everything went into slow motion immediately. I saw many cars drive by, and time was moving so slow that I know I saw a Dodge Ram and a blue Cobalt drive by for sure; I’m not even someone who knows models of cars! I saw I was facing the oncoming 70 MPH traffic. I thought, “this is it…someone is going to hit me. I need to brace myself.” I began yelling out for everyone I wanted to say goodbye to people.

Fire went down my body, especially my lower extremity. It was a tingling worse than my juvenile fibromyalgia pain. A throbbing. Burning. I took deep breaths.

“My ankle hurts.” Every part of my lower body went numb. 

As I cried out to God, , all the while yelling “HELP!” into the traffic. Nobody hit me, and the science says they should have. Miracle #1.

I saw a lady get out of her car in navy scrubs. She is a nurse. She stood in the emergency lane watching for traffic before crossing. I was attempting to open my door with shaky hands and adrenaline energy. I was squirming. I was trying to get out of my car. “Why can’t I feel my legs?” I tried lifting my self up out of the car. “My femur must be broke.” I kept yelling, “MA’AM! CALL 911! I HAVE BEEN IN A WRECK” (as if she didn’t notice).

“I did. They are on the way. Calm dow….” Her voice drifted off as she came towards my car then backed away slowly before getting too close; her jaw dropped. “WHAT?! Ma’am, HELP ME!” A man came to my car. He ran. He crouched down next to me. I was still attempting to exit my Eclipse Spyder. I asked for help.

“Sit still.” At first, I thought this man wasn’t compassionate. Then the words came out of his mouth, “I am a doctor.” At the time, that didn’t mean anything to me.

“SO WHAT YOU ARE A DOCTOR? I AM IN A WRECK!” He asked for my medical history. I didn’t want to give it. I wanted a hand to hold. I was surrounded by traffic, a nurse and a doctor at this time and I was still alone. Grabbing this doctor’s hand I began to pray.

“You don’t have to pray so loud..” This doctor obviously didn’t know how desperate I was to get a hold of  God to help me. I had a soft, green blanket (a close friend of mine got me for Christmas) on my lap. I got cold while driving home. He lifted it up. The expression on his face changed. He motioned for the nurse to come our direction, but she couldn’t.

She explained, and I quote, “I can’t handle it.” Later I found out she was a TRAUMA nurse at OSU, and she couldn’t handle the sight of my leg being ripped off from my body.

“Honey, you have a big piece of metal coming through your leg and your bone is sticking out.” The post went through my floorboard, through the leather seat of my car, through the bottom of my thigh, went through my hamstrings, femur, soft tissue, and quads, then came out through the top, stopping right at my chest.

I cried again. No. No. No. Not my leg. “Now, I need your medical history.” As those words came out of his mouth, up came a lady with glasses and blonde hair coming to my rescue, who later I came to know as Shelly.

Her first words were, “I am an STNA.” GOOD! Someone I could relate to. I was an STNA at an assisted living and at a long-term acute care (LTAC) hospital. As she calmed me down, and put my hair up in a ponytail, I answered the doctor’s questions.

I gave my name, medical history, and the medications I was on. Shelly kept me awake. My name. Siblings names. My job. My major. My blood type. What I had for dinner last night. Anything and everything to keep me awake and still. 3 medical professionals on a Sunday morning. Miracle #2.

“I don’t want to die. I need to know if my cousins are going to be adopted. I need to have kids. I don’t want to lose my leg. I NEED my leg. I work medical jobs. I am in school for nursing. I want kids. I NEED 2 legs.” I sobbed.

Deep breaths…1 Mississippi…2 Mississippi…3 Mississippi….

I heard the sirens. They were there after waiting 20-25 minutes, but it seemed like an entire lifetime. After I calmed down, I noticed something was touching my chest. It was on my chest wall. I thought it was my femur at first, but it was the post. The post was almost IN my chest, which would have caused it to hit my heart. Miracle #3.

The paramedics were there. A couple were walking around inspecting my car. A couple more kept asking if my airbags deployed. They didn’t. IF they would have, my femoral artery would have been cut and the post would have shifted into my chest. Miracle #4.

Some of the EMS personnel were trying to get the roof off of my car, I was trying to help. I pushed up on my roof. I demonstrated to them that it was a convertible and they could simply remove the top by pulling back. Next was the door. Jaws of Life. I cannot even describe the noise. It was loud. Thinking of the noise brings tears to my eyes. Shaking. Crashing. Grinding. Pounding. The door was removed.

I remember one paramedic in particular, Heith Good of Norwich Township. He is the one in the front seat with me 2 pictures above. He crawled into the passenger seat.

“I’m Heith. What’s your name? How are you feeling?” I told him.

“My ankle hurts.” He laughed.

“You have a big post in your thigh and your ankle hurts?” He saw the seriousness on my face.

I asked him if he would pray for me. And he did. He was a believer.

I pleaded with him to not let me lose my leg. “We are more worried about your life right now, Tori.”

“If you cannot save my leg, don’t worry about saving my life. I NEED 2 legs.”

“Tori, we want to save your life; don’t talk like that.”

He asked me to tell him about myself. I told him what I told Shelly. My job. My major. My plans. My siblings. I kept asking him for family. I told him my parents’ names and numbers. “Get a hold of them…please.”

I turned the conversation on him. Asked if he had kids. He does. I asked their ages. Even to this day I remember their ages. At this point and time of the morning, I was calm. I was taking deep breaths. IV. Fluids. O2 mask. Neck brace.

It was almost time to get out of my car.

My knee was jammed into the steering wheel. They slid the orange spinal board between me and my leather seats. They put a towel at the entry wound. The bleeding was surprisingly controlled. It only nicked my femoral artery- no stent required. One more millimeter (.1 of a centimeter), and my femoral artery would have been cut in half. That would have caused a bleed out. Miracle #5.

I remember being lifted steadily by multiple EMS personnel. It took two tries. The first try, my knee was still caught on the steering wheel. I screamed out that we needed to cut the wheel. Was I screaming in pain? No. I was numb. Tingly. Almost sick to my stomach. I was screaming to let them know. One of the paramedics came over with the Jaws of Life to cut part of my wheel off.

He told me, when I met him this past May, that he was so nervous cutting off the wheel because of how steady he had to be with it cutting so close to my knee. He was successful, thankfully.

The second try of lifting me out of the car was a success. They lifted me and transferred the spinal board from my car to the stretcher. I remember being so embarrassed. My leg was exposed. Cars stopped a mile long (or more- that wasn’t exactly my focus), the bystanders, the 3 medical professionals, the EMS personnel, all of it. I was so embarrassed and hurt and exhausted. Hence why I fell asleep at the wheel in the first place.

After I got into the ambulance, I remember telling Heith how tired I was. I was fighting to keep my eyes open. I asked if I could ‘take a nap’. I closed my eyes. He intubated me.

We headed to Grant Medical Center. I didn’t think I would wake up with 2 legs. And neither did they. Miracle #7.

The same day of my accident was a rough day. I used to say that it was the worst day of my life, but I now I can say it was more of the worst morning of my life. Throughout this journey so far, I have learned a number of things.

What I want to write about today is one of those lessons: Don’t let something that happened during your day determine your entire day.

What I mean by that is just because something bad happened that morning- you were late to work, you got bad news from the doctor, couldn’t find a closer parking space, you forgot your lunch- that doesn’t mean you have to have a bad day.

On the last morning of July, I had the worst experience of my life. But when I woke up from the anesthetic, you know what I had? One of the most memorable moments of my life where I felt nothing but love. The love that I felt outweighed the pain. Around 80 people that day, counting children and babies, came to show their love and support. Some couldn’t even come back and see me, yet drove an hour to the hospital I was in (Grant Medical Center).

I woke up to a nurse pulling a ventilation tube from my throat. It felt like the strep tests I would get as a kid, when a long cotton swab is slid into your throat. I wanted to cough out the dry air. I saw Mom sobbing into my dad through my fogged vision. It reminded of me of Papaw Lester’s viewing.

Everything from my waist down was still numb. No tingling. Some throbbing around my pelvis. I remember going in and out, as I was on a morphine drip and just coming out of a sleep from anesthesia.

“Do you want to see your leg?”

“Do I have it?”

“Yeah, you do. Look under the blanket.” I look. A metal bar was on the lateral side of my leg starting by my knee and finishing by my upper thigh/hip. My leg looked like it was in half. I believed, at the time, that the metal bar (later I knew to be an external fixator) was holding my leg together. There was black material stuffed in the gaping hole in my left thigh. I had seen that before from the LTAC (LifeCare Hospitals of Dayton) that I worked at. It was a wound vac. Although it wasn’t hooked up or vacuuming, I knew what it was.

But what upset me the most wasn’t the look of the gaping hole in my thigh or external fixator stabilizing my femur…it was the tube I saw coming from under my gown and down my thigh. I had a catheter. I was a 19-year-old girl with a catheter. I then felt I had lost all of my independence and modesty. I remember even expressing my sadness to my Aunt Marcia when she came into my room.

“Do I have a catheter?”

“Yes you do. It’s okay.”

*I sob*

I was under the care of 3 surgeons that day: Dr. Wu, Dr. Mehta, and Dr. Spalding.

Dr. Wu is a cardiovascular surgeon. He is the one who determined that my femoral artery was only nicked and could possibly need a stent, but I didn’t end up needing one. Dr. Mehta is my orthopedic trauma surgeon and he explained what happened to my leg physiologically. The post from the median split my femur in half and exited through the top of my thigh.

He saw cotton, leather, stuffing from my seat, rust, and dirt in my leg. It was a 4-5 hour surgery. He explained he called in Dr. Spalding, a trauma surgeon, to be on standby for a bleed out. But, there was no bleed out. Later I found out that it was only 1 millimeter that was between my femoral artery and that post.

In between sleeps and drifts I remember a lot of men in dress clothes around my bed praying for me. I felt love.

I asked the paramedics for Mark that morning. That’s my cousin (through marriage). I remember him and his wife coming into my room. I wanted to ask about the babies and something important for them that was supposed to occur the following day. I felt love.

Papaw & Mamaw Coleman praying for me in my room. Mamaw Lester is a woman who is typically quiet, but I remember her voice clear as day praying for me and comforting me. I felt love.

The embrace between my best friend and myself when she saw me for the first time that day… I felt love.

A friend of my sister and I brought a large amount of snacks to the hospital for my family because he knows what it’s like to be in the hospital. That was an act of love.

Every moment that day from the moment I woke up caused me to feel an overwhelming amount of love. Gifts. Encouraging words. Texts that my sister and best friend read to me from people.

So yes, I had the worst morning of my life. I felt the most love that day than I have ever before. If it had not been for the worst thing that has ever happened to me, I never would have felt the best thing I have ever felt.

Next time you’re having a bad day, think about it. Reflect. Is it really a bad day? Or is it really just a bad part of your day?

Don’t let something that happened during your day determine your entire day.

Change your perspective.


© Copyright 2018 Tori Coleman. All rights reserved.

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