Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Not My Best Day

I don't claim that the way I experience things is the same way everybody else does. For that matter, I don't claim to be different from everybody, either. My ego is just not that big on either end of that spectrum. However, I do think most of you will agree that yesterday was not my best day. Nor would it have been yours.

I was stopped at a light, focused on waiting for either the light to change or cross traffic to clear a long enough swath for me to make my right turn in slick conditions, meaning a long slow pull out. So the first impression, and indeed the lasting and repeating impression, was of just how incredibly LOUD it is when you get rear-ended by a school bus.

WOW, YOU GOT REAR-ENDED BY A SCHOOL BUS?  I lost track of how many times that phrase got tossed my way yesterday.

Nearly simultaneously after that were the sensation of pain in the lower neck/upper back, awareness that despite my foot on the brake I was sliding about 20 feet forward, gratitude that I wasn't actually pushed into the cross traffic, noting that none of said traffic slowed or much less stopped, and that there was a heck of a lot of orange in my rearview mirror.

I didn't actually turn around to see the bus. As discombobulated as I was at the moment, it still didn't seem like a good idea. Other things were important. I had freight on board, and I wasn't going to be delivering it. I had to call dispatch. But first I had to call 911. Which pocket was my cell in this morning?

As someone who wears female-type pants, I never have a belt, and thus no belt clip phone holder. At work they usually ride in my uniform shirt pocket. Yes, they. My personal cell and the Blackberry. With cold weather, and this was COLD weather, I added enough layers that the shirt pocket was not accessible. My uniform hoodie was my usual outer layer, and its pockets typically carry my first set of car keys, a pen or two, and the Blackberry. Sometimes the Blackberry stays in the car on the console for easy access and because it tends to shut itself off more often when it bumps against the flip phone for some reason. Annoying. Other times both are on my right pocket, and still other times the flip is in my right pants pocket with another pen, in case I run out, and my backup keys, in case I try to lock myself out of the car. Again.

I found both phones, and called 911. Where was I? I gave the wrong street. Now how do you do that? Like I said, I was discombobulated. The street I focused on for some reason was the street that actually dumped into this one, the street I had written in my tripsheet as the address where I had just picked up the package on board. I got the cross street right, but the 911 operator was getting impatient with me as where I claimed I was didn't connect on her map and, having said I might be injured, and mentioning a school bus, she naturally wanted to get help to us ASAP. As soon as I figured out my mistake (hey, I could have just looked up at the street sign), she transferred me to the proper jurisdiction to give out hopefully better information on the accident details.

It worked. I was clearing a little bit. Still maybe not enough for them. When the bus driver came up to me to find out if I was OK, I actually rolled down my window to tell him I was on the phone with 911. I got scolded over the phone, being informed that they were the ones needing my attention. I had just been trying to be polite, but I turned away from the bus driver and rolled up the window in his face. It was letting in a lot of cold air, anyway. The car was still running, so why didn't the car get warmer now?

A little tinkle from the back told me. It was one of the last bits of my rear window falling into the back of my car. Yep, gonna be drafty. I was informed that emergency vehicles were on the way, and I took advantage of the minute it took for them to arrive (1 fire dept. truck with 2 paramedics, 1 ambulance, 3 or more sheriff deputies because nobody could figure out just what jurisdiction I was in, Arden Hills? Mounds View?) to contact dispatch so the freight could get removed from my car and delivered.

The first deputy asked for my driver's license, and when I started to reach for my pocketbook on the passenger floor, he verbally stopped me. I was not to move. When I pointed to it, he asked me how to get to it. I keep my doors locked, but trying to tell him which button on the door to push to unlock it was beyond me at that moment. I just asked him to bring the door closer to me so I could push the right one. Muscle memory trumps forebrain under severe stress. I was handed my pocketbook so I could get the DL out. Yeah, partly so I couldn't claim anything missing because folks do that, and partly because, well, would you like to try and find where I keep the thing? And by the way, when it was handed back later, I didn't even put it in the right slot myself.

You know, I like to think I actually have a brain, but there was precious little proof of that then.

I also pointed to the glove box as where my insurance papers were. I have no idea whether anybody pulled them out. Right then they were putting a very uncomfortable collar around my neck to hold it immobile. One of the deputies sent the fire dept. folks on their way, though I guessed somebody checked out the kids in the school bus. Yes, it was full of kids, I found out later when I asked, and all were OK. Well sure. They had the soft stop. I was the one who got the jolt.

I was asked whether I thought the bus needed an inspection done for failed brakes, but everybody on site agreed that the abundant ice covered by fine snow was the culprit. I wanted to add, "Yeah, but I managed to stop OK without skidding," thinking the bus driver should have started stopping well before he actually did. The ice wasn't limited by any stretch to that one corner. Aren't school bus drivers supposed to be extra extra careful, safe drivers? I mean, had I even seen it approaching
from behind, I'd not have been concerned, thinking surely he'd have known how to stop on this crap. Any other vehicle, I'd be slightly paranoid. I tend to assume ordinary drivers are idiots and do my best to keep out of their way. It mostly works for me. No insult intended to the reader, of course.

The next big question was where did I want the car towed to? We were actually close to headquarters, and I called dispatch (WOW, YOU WERE REAR-ENDED BY A SCHOOL BUS?) to see if it could be left there. Unfortunately, somebody would have to pay the tow, and I was going to be removed from the scene by ambulance. I could have actually driven the car out of there but for that. It was still running just fine, and I'd actually backed it up a bit from where it stopped to be clear of any cross traffic that decided to go out of control. It would have been a bit too well air conditioned for comfort, but still fully drivable.

But no, it couldn't be left at HQ. So, I gave my OK for it to go to the impound lot, and got the deputy's card so I could call and get a phone number later to find out just where that was. But now, how about the stuff inside? Dispatch said the relief driver was still half an hour out, as nothing was moving on the roads. The deputy asked where exactly HQ was, and hearing how close, offered to take it, and my clipboard with important paperwork needing to be turned in at HQ that day, and drop them there if the tow truck arrived first. (Apparently our driver arrived first, I found out later. And I know who has my clipboard.)

Did I need anything else out of my car before my ambulance ride? I had both cell phones and my pocketbook already. I had started breakfast, a whole three bites, but it was cottage cheese with grapes, nothing convenient to haul around with me. My cooler had more food in it, so I asked for that, thinking too it had room for everything to get dumped in it. I also wanted my Kindle, forgetting I'd removed it from the cooler after reaching my car that morning. It remained behind on my passenger front seat as I was escorted to the ambulance. We were enroute before I realized I'd forgotten it.

My escort was two strong young men, one holding tight to each arm, all of us careful not to slip on the ice as we walked alongside the bus back to the ambulance. I'm sure the kids got an eyeful as well as quite the story for their day. Once there, getting in seemed insurmountable, But the men pointed to the support bar on the door frame, and pushed from behind as I went up both high steps that I'd never manage with my knees under the best of circumstances. They were good!

I sat on the stretcher for about two seconds before being assisted to lie down, got covered with thin blankets and fastened in with two seat belts, one for the torso, one for the legs. Then we sat for about 20 minutes. The gal in the ambulance had questions, and somebody tried to take my blood pressure through two sweatshirts and a work shirt. I also recall a thermometer. A deputy required a car key for the tow. I was asked which hospital I wanted to go to. Let's see: Regions? St. Johns? When they said any hospital, and knowing there would be insurance companies, plural, paying for the ride, I selected Fairview Wyoming. If I were going to be there a while, my own doctor could check in. If not, it was closest to a ride home.

Oh boy, another problem to deal with: a ride home.

The ride up in the ambulance was a novelty. Fortunately.  I've never been in one, nor seen one, aside from TV and shipping Daddy off once or twice. Of course my view was limited to the ceiling, both for what seemed like a very long boring drive, siren-free, and for the entry to the emergency room. Nobody bothers to finish the ceiling in the ambulance bay, so the view there is mostly corrugated steel roof, structural supports and water pipes. After a succession of sliding ceiling acoustical and light tiles, I was slid off my gurney onto a rolling bed in the ER. The head was raised, giving me a view of the typical private ER room. Those I have seen, and can judge.


Clothing was removed. The only surprise was that the crew neck sweatshirt open wide enough to slide up over the collar without problems. The open-in-back gown barely covered modesty, if I had any at that point. Untied, it didn't help with warmth either. Everyone who touched me commented on how cold I was, and brought in warm blankets. Being flannel, the heat lasted approximately 8 seconds each. Getting an arm pulled out for a BP didn't help for heat. Nor did finally being allowed to walk over to the nearest restroom, with accompaniment of course, in case of falls or whatever. I did feel borderline queasy afterwards, granting me an anti nausea pill. Swallowing might have disturbed my neck, so the pill was a dissolve-on-your-tongue variety. Strawberry flavored, the cheap fake candy flavor, which turned to just plain bitter several minutes later.

X-rays were mandatory, (WOW, YOU GOT HIT BY A SCHOOL BUS?) full cervical and thoracic spine sets. The hall qualified as a wind-chill tunnel. Removing shoulders of the hospital gown because of metal snaps and unzipping the bra because, hey, metal zipper, also added to the fun. At least the first set was taken with me horizontal. They wanted my shoulders down further than they were. Due to normally high shoulders and high muscle tension, that would up requiring one of the techs pulling on my hands during the shot.

That part wasn't what hurt. Next they wanted my arms up and out of the way. With both shoulders having rotator cuff injuries, that just wasn't happening. We did what we could to adapt, giving me a slight diagonal angle with the least painful arm up. They thought it could hang there for the several minutes it took to set up the shop properly. I disagreed. Eventually that shot got taken, however.

The radiologist read the films to that point, and it was decided the collar could come off. That was a relief. Not only was it just uncomfortable, it squeezed my head enough that I was feeling my pulse all through it, and was getting a headache. Ahhh, movement again. Ow. Careful.

Now I got to stand for the rest of the films. Of course, I took that to mean that I got to sit between takes. Even a couple seconds helped the knees. I was surprised to find out that some of the shots were through the open mouth, completely logical if you think about it. Mine just doesn't open that wide. And there were more of the raise-your-arms shots, though this time they brought over bars I could hold onto, giving minimal relief.

Re-zip, re-snap, re-blanket, and return through the windchill tunnel to my room. And wait. Add another trip to the restroom, involving a wait while a grumpy elderly gentleman informed me that the room was occupied when I found the lock engaged, as if that weren't clue enough. They put on a finger cuff and tried taking my BP again, finally figuring that if they took it via the upper arm rather then the forearm they'd get a more normal reading. (Who takes it via the forearm, anyway?) By normal, I mean the second number was 110 instead of 120. The first was sticking at 158. They excused that due to the stress. I wasn't so sure. I mean, sure, lots of stress. LOTTTTSSSSSSS. But I want to get a reading under actual normal conditions to make sure the new meds are still doing what they ought.

An actual MD showed up eventually (SO, YOU GOT HIT BY A SCHOOL BUS, EH?), letting me know there was nothing broken and no major soft tissue damage. X-rays show that now? Anyway, he was letting me go with a prescription for Percoset. I was going to feel much worse the next few days before I felt better, and he didn't want me back just due to pain control.

Now began the discharge parade. One took monitor readings. One had a handful of paperwork, including my Rx and cautions about possible symptoms requiring further medical attention. (Note to self: be sure to read those.)  One allowed me to get dressed. And one, poor thing, tried to get insurance information. Well, there's my vehicle insurance, due to it being a car accident. But there's the school bus insurance (WOW, YOU GOT HIT BY A SCHOOL BUS?), since they were at fault, and being removed from the scene, I didn't have that information. It was during work, so there'd be maybe a contribution from the work accident insurance we're required to purchase even though we're independent contractors. And no, the Workman's comp form she brought back wouldn't be relevant either. And of course, there's always Medicare. Finally she just thrust a blank form at me, told me to figure it out, fill it in, and send it back to her.

Eventually I was released to wait for my ride. I called Rich, interrupting his sleep. His schedule is always weird, but right now consists of his being on-call to drive his brother to and from work, arriving at 6:00 AM, departing 6:00PM, and sleeping during the day between trips. Paul's license is temporarily suspended because he didn't have proper proof of insurance in his car when pulled over for a speeding ticket. The reason for the no-insurance proof is that he wanted to hang onto the old card because it had an accident claim number on it after a previous encounter with an attack Bambi. When the updated card arrived, rather than keeping both cards, he just left the update home. And after the ticket, he, um, forgot to update his information with the county. He knew he was properly insured. He just didn't quite realize how important it was that the county knew it too. So until it gets straightened out, or his work permit arrives in the mail, his brother drives. At least his child support is up to date and his license is valid.

On the other hand, it meant there was a car and driver available for my use. Rich took half an hour to arrive, which I mostly spent on the phone, to Steve, my insurance company, the county sheriff, the towing company to locate my car and get info on springing it, and dispatch to keep them informed.

About 2:00 we walked into WalMart to get the Rx filled. I hadn't eaten since those few bites of breakfast, so I treated Rich to the other half of a Sub while we waited. Then he drove me to almost downtown St. Paul to the impound lot where, after half an hour, I was allowed to drive my car out and home.

Yes, it drives fine. It's a bit too airconditioned for -2 degrees, never mind windchill, but the rear end collision didn't do anything to the driving parts. The hatch is caved in, bumper much the worse for its experience, and glass lights broken. Despite that, I had one brake light working and both turn signals. Rich followed me home, after lending me his winter jacket to cover my legs since he was in a warmed car.

Upon arrival, I finally took ibuprofin, and we unloaded everything from the car. Looking at the damage, it's my guess they'll total it out. I expect they'd value it at zero with its 320,400 miles on it, if I hadn't just replaced the tranny. I sent Rich to bed, offering to drive down and pick up Paul myself. On the amount of sleep Rich had gotten, I figured that was much the safer option. I could wait to take Goofy Pills. And Paul's car would be warm.

Now the paperwork dance begins.

And my cell company just texted me the warning that I'm close to the limit of my minutes for the month.


1 comment:

a2z said...

Good grief! I hope you are not too much the worse for wear, Heather. Despite your discombobulation, it sounds like you managed everything very well. Take it easy.