Thursday, January 21, 2010

One of Those Days

I've often wondered if I would see my life flash before my eyes when confronted with a life threatening event.

In a car, at least, I know it probably won't.

So I spent the last three days at the hospital where I work. The first two days were expected. I had call after my first shift, and I will often sleep there to avoid the long commute and short sleep hours that would result. But by the end of my second shift, weather reports were warning of the impending ice storm pummeling the Midwest, and threatened that it would surely hit our area just as I was driving home. So I stayed a second day sleeping at the hospital, got up and did my third night shift.

The ice storm hit the next morning, about an hour before my shift ended.

I played it safe on the drive home, testing the brakes from time to time to see if the road was as greasy as it looked. Most often, our little Mazda started stopping without sliding. About halfway home I did a check like this, and my little car slid as if it was on glass. Fully under control, I let the car slow up a bit and continued on.

Now. On one part of the drive, the road gets hilly and winds around a bit. I entered that area with a big rig behind me, and as I was coming down a long hill around a curve I saw a white car starting up coming the other way with a blue pickup truck behind that.

Just as they approached me, I saw the blue truck start to lose control. It fishtailed into my lane, then out of my lane, then WAY back into my lane. Fortunately I have many years of driving experience in less than ideal conditions and God and luck were with me, so without panicking, I let my foot off the accelerator and gently eased my car off to the shoulder, beyond which was a steep hill leading into a cow pasture.

Everything was running both in super slow motion and in the blink of an eye. I watched the truck bed slide toward me and the tail come parallel to my window as it passed. Something just clipped the side mirror, making it flinch, but not flip all the way back.

Then I was past, eased my car back onto the road and looked in the rear mirror in time to watch the truck just miss the semi and go into the ditch, where it promptly flipped over, coming to rest on the passenger side.

I remember being very calm as the whole thing happened. Even thinking as the truck bed swept out towards me, 'Well, I guess this must be how I go. Sure wish I could have kissed the wife and kids one last time.'

But as I pulled off to turn around and get back to the accident scene, and the semi zoomed past (he would not have braked at all if he was a pro. On that ice it would have only made things worse) The adrenaline kicked in and I literally whooped with glee that I had survived unscathed!

I pulled up to the scene and saw the driver standing on her passenger door, holding the driver door open above her head and freaking out. Two other drivers joined me, they had been going the same direction as the blue truck and had come around the curve in time to see me turn around and head back. One guy followed me to the truck, the other stayed up on the road.

The truck driver could not have picked a better place to flip. the snow was up to my knees and soft as a marshmallow. After I got her to calm down a bit, I told her I was a medic and wanted to check her out a bit before we pulled her out of the truck. So I did a quick back and neck check, she had no obvious injury, and she was getting more freaked out with every second she spent in the truck. So we pulled her out and got her to the roadside. She got a ride with one of the drivers who stopped who was headed to the same location, and with nothing left to do, I got back in my car and continued home.

Of course, the remaining thirty minutes were spent what iffing. What if I had not done just one of my brake checks. I'd be a second or two farther and would have been tagged by that truck. Of course then the semi behind me would have either A) hit his brakes and slammed through all of us. Or B) tried to drive through it and probably slam through at the very least me.

When I got home I kissed and hugged my family, and woke my folks up to tell them I love them.

In my job, I often see the result of those less fortunate than I in similar situations. I know that all of life can change in less than a heartbeat. I was reminded again to make every second count, and waste no time telling those I love that I love them.

I'm glad to be alive!

More Later


Sharon said...

This literally takes my breath away! I am SOOOOOO glad everything turned out as it did... and as it was meant to! It is a wake up call for all of us to not take for granted our lives ..and loves!

Steph said...


Would you believe I had almost the exact same experience not quite 20 years ago -

I was driving to IC from CR in an ice storm, and a greyhound bus going the other direction lost control and the entire back half swung into my lane coming right toward my little Ford escort.

I tapped my brakes and my car fishtailed - when it was the same angle as the bus, I accelerated (slowly) and reached the shoulder just as the back of the bus fully filled my lane.

I can't claim any driving prowess on my part - I am convinced there was some greater power acting on my behalf. It all happened like a carefully choreographed scene from a movie, right down to the little old lady in the window of the bus, pointing down at me as if to say "oh that poor dear is going to die".

It was like you described it - I was totally calm, as if this was just the kind of thing I dealt with every day.

Don't know what happened to the bus - I kept on driving and that wave of adreneline and "holy blankety-blank what just happened!?" hit me after I got to a less treacherous stretch of road.

Did I mention - I'M SO GLAD YOU ARE OK!!!