Friday, March 27, 2009

Changing Point In My Life

So I have been debating all week whether or not to let you into something very personal in my life. After much consideration, I decided, because this makes up so much of who I am today, to share. I think I have typed and retyped this story about ten times. It is hard, the scars still seem fresh but at the same time, it seems like a lifetime ago. And I don't tell this story for sympathy or as a "poor me". I tell it because it is me. I tell it because it is real. I tell it for as a warning of the dangers of those who drive under the influence. Every time I see this picture my hands get clammy, my armpits begin to tingle. It takes me back to that day, six years ago tomorrow, March 28, 2003.

I was a junior in high school. My life, I thought, was pretty alright. I had wonderful friends, a fun job and a pretty cool boyfriend (now a pretty cool husband). It was Friday afternoon; school was out for the week. I dropped my friend Paige off at her house; I can still remember our silly conversation. As I pulled out of her driveway, I clicked my lap belt into place. For me, the next week of my life remains an empty slate. I still cannot imagine what that week was like for my family and friends. Phone calls, prayer chains, hugs and tears; their lives were tossed in a whirlwind. After a week had passed I remember lying in bed, unable to speak, to painful to move. Flowers surrounded me, monitors beeped. “Think” “What do you remember” I told myself. Nothing… For me, all I have are stories. Stories from my family and friends; the story told in the police report.

I was headed home, on a two lane road, less than a mile from our driveway. My car was headed south, his was headed north. A stop sign sat about a quarter mile up the road from him. One car separated him from the stop sign. He decided to pass, pulling out directly into my path. I had no time to react; my foot still remained on the gas pedal when they pulled me out. He hit me full force, head on. Each of our cars went spinning into opposite ditches. He was fine; high on cocaine and an overdose of anti-depressants, I was not. An approaching truck stopped and noticed that I wasn’t breathing. He administered CPR until the first responders arrived. He is my angel; he saved my life. Two hours later, I was pulled from my car. My seat was bloodstained and syringes lay in the backseat from morphine, helping to keep me calm. I was rushed to Gerber Memorial Hospital where listed stable and then transferred by ambulance to Butterworth. News was beginning to spread. My mother, who was at the beauty salon, heard they had Warner shut down between 72nd and 80th because of an accident; she said she just knew it was me.

I was rushed into emergency surgery to repair my internal injuries begin work on my external injuries. Doctors repaired what was critical and decided to finish surgery when I became more stable. I was put in a medically induced coma. Two days later, another surgery followed, this time repairing my remaining injuries. I suffered:
-left and right broken femurs
-left and right broken tibias
-right shattered knee
-right shattered ankle
-lacerations to my spleen, which they removed
-lacerations to my liver, which were repaired
-a collapsed lung
-lacerations to both my hand and face

Metal rods were inserted into both my left and right femur and left tibia. Screws and plates held my right knee and ankle together. Staples and stitches covered and held together every injury on my body. A breathing tube was inserted. I also had a tube inserted into my side.

After one week in the ICU, they removed my breathing tube. For me, this is when my memory started back up. I was then transferred onto the orthopedics floor; where I spent an additional week. When the doctors had done all they could for me there, I was transferred to MaryFree Bed to learn how to adjust to my “new” life. While preparing to leave Butterworth, I remember having the staples and stitches removed from my hand and face. I asked to see a mirror; I had not looked at myself up until this point. I cried. In the mirror I saw an ugly girl who was swollen, red and scarred. My one week spent at MaryFree Bed proved challenging. Therapy sessions exhausted me. My muscles were weak, my brain was slow and I was still in large amounts of pain. I was placed in a wheelchair, where I would spend the next six weeks. And while, adjusting to life in a wheelchair at MaryFree Bed was difficult, it proved even harder when I went home. The hospitals had become my comfort zone. They were fully equipped to deal with me; my pain, my injuries. I was surrounded by people who were in similar situations to me.

The next few years of my life were filled with doctor appointments; follow up surgeries, shots, etc. I went from wheelchair, to walker, to crutches, to walking boot. My senior year of high school was started while I was still on crutches. I faced mountains of challenges and hurdles but was determined to succeed. My doctors were worried about my injuries long-term affects. I have proved to be their “miracle”. My family and friends offered words of encouragement, they became my support system. Brian stood by my side every day, while most guys would probably walk away. I could never say thank you enough to my “angel”, the first responder team, the many doctors and nurses who cared for me and my family and friends.

Through everything I have become strong and determined. And although this experience forced me to grow up pretty quick, it has shaped who I am today. I see a different light on life. My hugs are a little bit longer, my breathes are a little bit deeper. I am in no means, perfect. I still have bad days. And it is still easy to sometimes take life for granted. But I use those days to build on all that I have to be thankful for. So, tomorrow, I will celebrate a day that has a special meaning to my friends and family, a day I will never forget.


Heather said...

wow, Ashley. I'm so sorry you had to go through all this. So glad that you are "okay"... as okay as you can be after going through so much. Thank you for sharing. ((hugs))

apt said...

What a big price to pay for current wisdom and appreciation. This is a mighty powerful post. Thanks for sharing. My hugs are going to be a little longer as a result of this reminder.

Amy Carroll said...

Ashley...I knew you were a wonderful and sweet person. I had no idea that you were also such a strong and courageous person. I read your post today and cried. Thank you for sharing your story and for helping me put into perspective what a gift every day is.

Hugs girl!

Keri said...

Ashley, I'm amazed by everything that you've been through. This is a beautifully written and powerfully written post. Thanks for sharing.

Christina said...

My god Ashley! I had no idea! Like Amy said, this is a very powerful post. I am so sorry you had to go through this. I am happy you were able to make it over this major hurdle in your life. It has definitely made you stronger. And I love how you maybe channel some of that thankfulness into your animals and friends and family.

Genevieve McKeiver Photography said...

Wow was that really 6 years ago?!?!
I don't think I ever saw the pictures from that day. Thank you for sharing your story with everyone.

Genevieve McKeiver Photography said...

PS- I am honored to be spending tomorrow with you. I promise to be very cautious tomorrow on our drive to Kalamazoo.

Ashley said...

Your comments mean so much. Thank you! It has been a long road and quite the journey at that. If I could go back and change it all, I am not sure if I would.

Gen- ;)

This DVM's Wife's Life said...

Wow, this was amazing to read. I know you once before mentioned you had been a bad car accident but I had no idea how bad it really was. You have basically been to hell and back having made an amazing recovery. I can't even begin to fathom all of your pain. Your husband sounds very special to have stuck by your side through thick and thin. Thank you so much for sharing and telling us what happened to you 6 years ago.

Karin Schueller said...

Well, it usually takes a bit to make me cry, but you did it! I knew the day I met you you were pretty awesome, and you had an awesome hubby, but this explains alot. :) You have a kind heart, and I'll say a little thank you in my heart to those that helped you that day and the days after. Becuase honestly, you've touched me your pictures, and I will treasure the pictures of my family until the day I die. Nope, I'm not exaggerating. :) Amazing, you don't have a noticeable scar anywhere on that beautiful face! Thanks for sharing such a personal thing with us. I feel honored.

kristen said...

Ashley, I'm covered in goosebumps and my eyes are all welled up with tears! What a powerful story - you would never know today that you were in such an awful state just six years ago. You're one strong girl! ((hugs!))

Shellmo said...

An incredible story of survival. Reading that list of your injuries made me tearful - so sorry for your pain back then! And at the hands of a fool! I'm sure you relish life and appreciate each day - a good reminder for all of us.

ryan richard said...

wow that's crazy I can't believe you went through that! If only everyone could look at life and appreciate it like you do because of that. really great that you could share that and make people take a second look at their life and realize how lucky they are! Glad you could come this weekend =)

Still Cross Photography said...

Ashley - I am honored to have met such a strong and optimistic person. Thank you for opening up to all of us! We are a cyberfamily, are we not?!?!

Cathy Clementz said...

Ashley, I don't know why I hadn't checked your blog in a while, so the first thing I read was about your accident. How horrible for you and your family! BUT, it appears that this played an important role in your life.

Cathy Clementz said...

Ashley, we haven't heard from you in a while...are you OK??

Jennifer Parke Photography said...

I am so glad that you did decide to post this! If you can reach just one person and make them think twice before they get behind the wheel think of the difference that can make!

I can not even imagine the trials that you have been through but I am so glad that you have had the courage to do so!