21 February 2013

Heels Over Head


a real-life adventure

Read Part XVII here.

Now available in ebook format!

During the next six weeks, I learned not only how to roll in and out of bed, stifle sneezes, wait for doors to be opened for me, delegate grocery shopping and sit without doing anything at all, I also mastered the metro mass transportation maze. I learned how to get just about anywhere in Denver via RTD. My kids argued RTD doesn't stand for Regional Transportation District, but Ride Through Denver.

Of course, even buses were a challenge. Three steps up, three steps down. Uncomfortable seats, when seats were available. Railroad tracks. Oh, the railroad tracks! Pain rumbled through my back and ribcage like lingering canyon thunder every time a bus jerked to a stop or traversed a bump. Railroad tracks were downright demoralizing, like a super-sized, premium, obstacle course extreme. Waves of pain yearning to roll.

Railroad tracks aboard a bus were better than driving, nonetheless. I was convinced my kids would not survive another automobile ride with me. I could not be trusted with their lives.

Insurance negotiations ached on the other end. Ours would be a precedent-setting case that would tie up courts for seven years before all the dust settled. My insurance company, Louis' insurance company, the truck driver's insurance company and the insurance company covering his load duked it out in an effort to push the majority of responsibility on each other. Louis often got caught on the short end of the insurance stick, sometimes going without necessary services because the individual insurance providers didn't want to take the brunt of responsibility for his medical expenses. To validate 50% of one claim would in essence be admitting they were half-responsible for all of his claims, which were extensive. Here he was, the hero, and none of the four big-name companies wanted to carry their share of the burden. It didn't seem fair.

In a follow-up conversation with the investigating police officer, I learned the truck driver had been fired. That bit into my guilty conscience, too.

My kids' adoption and bonding therapist kept trying to convince me this was an accident; it wasn't a crime I'd intentionally thought out and carried out with exactness. I may have had difficulty swallowing my own innocence, but I had no problem whatsoever knowing with all my heart the truck driver was involved in an accident. Just the fact he left the road three times before hitting me demonstrated he was doing everything within his power to try to control his rig. What about his family? What about his future? How could he be cut off and shut out just like that, no mercy? I experienced recurring nightmares detailing my mind's impression of how that driver, whom I never got a chance to meet, must feel about Louis' predicament. How do you ever get past squishing a human being who was trying to help a damsel in distress?

My personality completely changed. Before the accident, I could never be found at home on a weekend. I'd shuttle the kids up to Rocky Mountain National Park or Mount Evans for sunrise every Saturday morning, or we'd take bike rides in new places throughout the metro area. Long weekends would find us in Moab or Salt Lake City. Lake Powell or in a tent somewhere along the West Slope. Garden of the Gods or Horsetooth Reservoir. New Mexico or Washington State. We were not stay-home potatoes.

Now we took bike rides, once I could ride again, but we stayed on the South Platte bike path. I didn't have to drive us to the trailhead. It was easily accessible from our home.

Weekends were spent at home sewing, writing, walking to the local park or taking a bus to Water World. We walked to church on Sundays. We walked to the grocery store. If we wanted to go out to eat, we walked to Taco Bell, McDonald's or Wendy's because they were all close.

We didn't take any trips that summer, with the exception of fireworks in Estes Park on the fourth of July weekend. Someone in the singles group at church just happened to be going and asked if we'd like to ride along.

People kept asking me when I was going to buy another car. I couldn't bear the thought. Taz sometimes would hint that he would be in driver education in a couple of years, but I still couldn't picture myself behind the wheel of a car.

The day the adjuster contracted by my insurance company called to interview me, he was at the Corolla graveyard and attempting to locate my vehicle amongst a sea of 20 something vehicles that expired the same day as mine. Plain white four-door Corolla, blue cloth interior, probably smashed on at least three sides, smashed on the top, broken windshield, green and white Colorado plates DHH something something something.

"Oh, here it is," he finally said. Then there was a formidable pause.

"Oh... my... gosh!" I heard him gasp. "I can't believe you're alive! How did you survive this? You were in the front seat? There isn't room in the front seat for a human being! There isn't room in the front seat for a small child! You are incredibly lucky!"

This guy surveyed compacted vehicles for a living, and my car shocked him. His reaction was incomprehensible to me. How did I survive? How in the world did I not wind up part of the metal and glass?

Any vehicular appeal I may have felt immediately disintegrated as he described my car to me. At that point, I still needed to hitch a ride out to Castle Rock with someone who'd be willing to tolerate my blubbering so I could retrieve any personal items that might still be in the car. But after that particular conversation, I had no interest in seeing my dream car ever again. The romance was over. I could replace anything that still remained in the car. I no longer wanted to retrieve the case of CDs, the GameBoys, the first aid kit, the emergency blankets, the roadside emergency kit with jumper cables, the tripod, even the important papers in the dash. Getting in a car again seemed deadly enough. Getting in a car to see my car... that was just plain suicide. Besides, it might rain. Rain and roads no longer mixed for me. I was destined to become a wart on the doorstep of Denver, never to travel again.

But then the adjuster said something that triggered a change of heart.

"Looks like somebody left their pillow in what's left of the back seat," he said as he rifled through debris. I could hear the muffled sound of him rustling paper while he probably clutched his cell phone between his ear and shoulder. "Oh, no, I'm sorry, it’s not a pillow. It's a little quilt. Do you have a baby? Or was this a gift you planned to give to someone?"

"Quilt? My daughter's quilt is still in the car???" I breathlessly asked.

"Blue with white polar bears. Yep, it was neatly folded and wrapped in a plastic bag."

"Someone tried to put it on me while I was waiting for the ambulance, then it disappeared into thin air," I said in utter astonishment.

"Looks like they tried to protect it for you. They wrapped it up pretty darned good. I'll put it back in the bag and leave it at the front counter of the office so it will be safe. You're awfully lucky it's still in there. Looks like a box of CDs in here, too. Oh, and here are a couple of electronic games. Those must belong to your kids. If I were you, I'd get out here as soon as you can. Your vehicle is going to be crushed and shipped out by the end of the week."

Read Part XIX here.

Table of Contents

Copyright 2013 by Deborah and Brett Atkinson
All rights reserved. No part of this book - prose, photos or graphics - may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without express prior written permission of the author.


  1. Every week that I read this . . . Wow! What tender mercies of the Lord...

    1. Thank you, One of the Whites. I think that's one of the main things I'm trying to emphasize, and it brings my heart great joy to know perhaps I'm succeeding...

  2. Doing some blog walking this am and found my way here via Crochet by the Sea. WOW, the car accident looks nasty. Sounds like you're healing; but it does take time. I can understand the walking and not wanting to get in a car again. I hope things improve for you. why didn't or couldn't your adjuster get the items from your car and give them to you, vs you having to make the trip and see it?

    1. Welcome, Sandy, and thank you! The accident was indeed the worst one I've ever been through, but it made me who I am today, and that's why I decided to share it. I hope what I've been through will help someone else.

      I didn't think to ask the adjuster if he might somehow find a way to get things to me without me having to make a trip. It is entirely possible he wasn't even from my area. Never met him through the entire process. And, in some respects, I think it was good for me to be forced back into a car to get my daughter's quilt. They say if you fall off a bike, the longer you take to get back on it, the harder it will be to work up the courage to get back on it. Getting in my neighbor's car that day was so traumatic, but perhaps it set the stage for me to eventually work up the courage to drive again.

  3. You are so lucky to be alive after that horrible accident!

    I have taken this week's photos in different interior design shops. And yes I added texture to the elephants :)

    1. Thanks, Cat! And the texture for the elephants was so effective!

  4. again the tears were flowing as I read this. I was in an accident when I was 14 and we were rear ended. I don't remember being afraid to get back into a car, I don't even remember what the car looked like after the accident. The innocence of kids I guess.

    But fast forward when my oldest son, 26 at the time fell asleep coming home from work one early morning. Thankfully two other cars were on the road at that early morning, devine intervention, and called the police and stayed with him until help arrived. At church the next day I happened to sit near a young gentleman that I didn't know. As I asked for prayers for my son and his continuing healing this man looked at me in disbelieve. After church he told me he was one of the men that stopped and stayed with my son. He said as he approached the vehicle he honestly didn't expect to find anyone alive in the vehicle.

    One of the graces of God that early morning was also my husband took a different route to the hospital where our son was taken then I would have taken. If I had driven we would have passed the accident scene and I would not have expected the minor injuries my son received, I too would have thought he couldn't survive.

    His car was a mess, his seat belt had broke loose, the car was upside down in a small drainage ditch that run perpendicular to the road he was on.

    He had a concussion, he hit the windshield and when he bounced back his hair caught in the cracks of the broken windshield and he was left temporarily bald on top and he hit the turn signal handle with an open mouth and took lots and lots of stitches to sew up the inside of his mouth. I was in the room while the surgeon sewed him up and she kept saying, I hope this is where this belongs, and those weren't really words a patient wants to hear.

    Well, darn, I didn't mean to go on like that it just brought such vivid memories of us seeing his car or what was left of it and wondering how but by the grace of God did he survive this accident.

    Thanks for listening and thanks for sharing your story with us.

    1. Oh, Brenda, I had to catch my breath after reading that. Thank you for sharing. Isn't it amazing how certain people come into our lives??? That you were sitting right next to one of the kind strangers who stopped to aid your son... Wow. I'm so glad your son survived! What a horrible experience. But I guess you too are who you are because of what he went through...

  5. I'm amazed you were able to retrieve the blanket and CDs!

    1. And... oooooops, almost gave away the funny extra I describe finding in the next segment!!!

  6. How good to know that the quilt didn't get taken after all ... some kind soul was very careful over that.

    We were hit by a deer the first autumn we lived here (the deer jumped at our car and shattered the driver window while I was driving). No one was injured, but it sure put me off driving for a while. Can't imagine how hard it must have been for you to face the thought of getting back behind the wheel. And the railroad tracks sound horridly painful.

    Dang insurance companies. (Feel free to substitute something stronger for "dang".)

    1. Sue, agreed on the dang part.

      I couldn't believe I got the quilt back. My daughter was so excited! Sad thing is I don't think either kid still has their quilt...

      I'm so glad you weren't injured when the deer jumped out in front of you. I've seen cars completely destroyed by deer and elk... too many years living in Estes Park, I guess.

      I had trouble with railroad tracks again after my surgery in 2004. Then again last summer after the bike wreck...

  7. I find myself sucked in by your descriptions each week. What a living hell afterwards, dealing with what sounds like ptsd. Oh my, that photo of the car...

    I've also read the next installment... oh my. I'm so glad that you're okay, and that the small kindnesses of random people helped you along.

    Sorry for my miniscule commenting. I have these dang splints on my wrists...


Dusty words lying under carpets,
seldom heard, well must you keep your secrets
locked inside, hidden deep from view?
You can talk to me... (Stevie Nicks)

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