10 YEARS AGO
On July 18th 2009, I was hit by a car while riding my bike in Pacific Beach, CA. I ended up breaking my jaw in two places and my left elbow. My teeth were shattered but my heart was full of hope. You see, I had lost everything as I had known it but yet I was falling in love with my now husband.
What started as an ordinary Saturday, turned into a nightmare. I participated in my usual Saturday activities (aka Open Bar) but headed home early to go on a date with Mr. Justin Hancy. He was broke so we didn’t usually go out on dates unless we had a groupon. This particular night he had a gift certificate from a client to Isabel’s Cantina, in Pacific Beach, so date night it was!
I had 3 serious boyfriends before Hancy and didn’t date outside of that. I was single for 6 years in San Diego and he was my first boyfriend since College. This was about 7 months into our official relationship (remember we were friends for years before that) and I was smitten. I told him this at dinner. What I really wanted to say was that I loved him BUT I didn’t want to be the first one to say it. Hancy hadn’t had a girlfriend since college (hell maybe even high school) and I didn’t want to freak him out, so smitten it was!
MY ACCIDENT DEETS
After my confession, we finished up dinner and hopped on our beach cruisers. We had gotten a text from our friend Brook that one of his Survivor buddies (yes, from the show) was at his house and to come on over. While riding the 7 blocks to his house, I remember feeling so happy (and smitten of course!). We were cruising down Cass street, I was in front of him (per usual, he is rather slow lol) and we were approaching the intersection at Cass and Grand Ave. The light was green, so I kept cruising. Well, as I entered the intersection the light turned yellow and when I was a little more than ¾ of the way across it turned red. The guy at the light gunned it and hit the back tire on my bike. I crashed to the ground but got back up. Hancy rushed over to me and we got my bike to the side of the road. The guy who hit me stayed in his car and didn’t get out to see what happened to me. I walked over to the window of the Purple Café (this has recently been demolished and now it’s a senior living facility) and looked at my face. When I opened my mouth, I saw that my three front teeth were cracked off and my chin was split open. My teeth were all I could think about. I kept putting my tongue to my teeth and Hancy told me to stop doing that because they were moving all over the place. The bottom were all in tact BUT they were just floating around. What was I going to do?! Someone called the ambulance and we waited for them to get there. The cops showed up and asked us questions about what happened. They wanted me to take the ambulance to the hospital and I remember not wanting to go. I thought I would be fine excluding my teeth. It was my teeth that made me say ok, I would go.
UCSD VS. SCRIPPS
Hancy was in charge of taking my bike and getting it back to the apartment. I got into the ambulance and requested Scripp’s but apparently, they were super busy so they took me to UCSD. On the way I remember picking my left arm up to do something and it just collapsed onto my face. I said out loud to the paramedic…. “well I don’t think that’s good”. (spoiler alert – it wasn’t!) I finally get to UCSD and am stuck in the middle of the emergency room for a LONG time. My chin is split open and bleeding down my neck, my teeth are gone and god knows what is wrong with my arm. I asked if they could get me some napkins for the blood and they told me to go to the bathroom and get them myself. Come again? When I get into the bathroom, there is someone’s urine sample on the sink… REALLY? This is top notch service and cleanliness if I have ever seen it! While waiting in the emergency room Hancy showed up like an angel. He was there with me the entire time. As a laid on the gurney with a neck brace on and contemplating my future I apologized to him for making him go through this. I told him that I loved him (say what?!) and was sorry for ruining his night but thankful he was there with me. Guess what folks, he said it back! That was our first I love you. Me with a neck brace on, surrounded by homeless people, blood rolling down my neck and 3 missing teeth. HOW ROMANTIC!! So, while my physical body was broken my heart was soaring! It was simultaneously the worst and best day of my life.
Hours later, they take me back to do an MRI? Cat scan? X-ray? I don’t remember or know but during this scan they found that I had broken my left elbow and my jaw in two places. More than one break is considered Trauma, so they had to transfer me to the Scripps Hospital Trauma Unit. (hallelujah!) This was the best thing that could’ve happened to me. I get transferred to Scripps and immediately feel enveloped in a warm hug. I am not in the middle of the emergency room with homeless people screaming, urine samples laying around and no help whatsoever. Instead, I am in the hall waiting for a bed but it is nice and quiet and I know that I will get the attention that I need.
I end up staying in the hospital for a week. I had to have my chin stitched up (first time I have ever had stitches!) and surgery on my elbow and on my jaw. The doctor explained all the things that could go wrong with my jaw surgery and the biggest one is that I could lose all feeling & motion on the right side of my face. Say what?! I asked if I had to have the surgery and he confirmed that I did and would also have to have my jaw wired shut.
Surgery went great but it took the hospital a bit to get my meds right. I have a weak stomach when it comes to prescription pain meds and with my jaw wired shut throwing up was not an option. So, they made a few tweaks let me go home with a wire cutter just in case. Unfortunately, that same week, I was supposed to head back to Rochester for Hancy’s mother’s 50th and meet the family. That wasn’t happening. He had been such a calming force during this whole experience that I was nervous to be without him. My mother and my aunt were there to take care of me however my mother gets a bit hysterical when trauma strikes LOL. So Hancy had to leave but we did write each other love “letters” (aka emails – remember my jaw was wired so I couldn’t talk) while he was gone, starting to really form an unbreakable bond.
The next 3 months were torture. I couldn’t use my left arm at all, had to shower with a bag on it, and my mouth was rotting from all the liquid pain meds I was downing daily. The doctor that did my jaw surgery was aggressive and tied up my mouth like Fort Knox. My mouth was completely wired shut with no air gaps and a layer of wax on top of all of wires so brushing them was not an option. There were mornings when I would look into the mirror in pain and just cry wondering what was going on inside my mouth and what the heck I was going to do about my missing teeth when the time came. I survived on Boost and Ensure and cried because all I wanted was one wheat thin. Just one. My jaw would end up being wired shut for 7 weeks. 7 weeks of no talking or eating. My two favorite things to do.
While I went to doctors’ appointments and started the healing process, we waited for the police report to come. Then one day it did, and I almost DIED. They were saying that I was at fault. That the light was red and I went anyways. That I didn’t have a light on my bike and that I should’ve pulled over to push the walk button. I was on a bike! Who stops riding their bike, goes up onto the sidewalk, pushes the walk button and then hops back on? Who does that when a light is green?! It was also about 7:15pm in mid-July so it wasn’t even dark out. This report was crazy, and my heart was broken. How could they think that? This guy didn’t even get out of the car after hitting me to make sure that I was alright and now some guy walking from Yoga is saying the light was red. I was furious with this guy. There were so many nights in the upcoming years that I wanted to call him and question him. Ask him how he could say that when I would bet my life that the light was green, turned yellow and then red when I was ¾ of the way across. I know it without a doubt. We would later find out that the light wasn’t timed right and as soon as the light turned red on my side, it immediately turned green on the driver’s side. Usually there is a delay from red to green. This is something that the city later fixed and haunted me for the years that followed.
Regardless of the police report I needed justice to be served. I was not at fault and wanted the driver to be held responsible. I went to a couple different lawyers and they all said the same thing. Since this guy was in a rental car and the insurance limit was 10k there was nothing they could do about it. Or in other words, they couldn’t make any money off of the case, so they were out. One even said to me, if I had been hit by a Mack truck it would’ve been better because then I would’ve won. My response was that if I got hit by a Mack truck I would probably be dead and not sitting here. He was quiet after that. I was extremely emotional during these meetings because I was broken. My body and spirit was literally broken.
After a while I decided that I didn’t want to fight back anymore. I couldn’t take reliving this accident repeatedly. I needed to put it behind me and move on. So that’s what I did. I paid all my medical bills and “moved on”.
In the years that followed I would get 2 crowns, 6 veneers & 7 root canals on my damaged teeth. I would go back in 2011 for another elbow surgery to remove the metal from my elbow. The screws were backing out and I had a huge bursa sac on my elbow (aka Peter Griffin chin). I would go to therapy 2x a week for PTSD and try to calm my fears of driving in a car with others or when anyone came up on the side of me. After a while I started getting frustrated with therapy. I didn’t feel like I was making any progress. I had a scheduled appointment and I gave myself an ultimatum that if nothing happened that session that I was going to stop going or at least not as much. Sure enough, I ended up having a major breakthrough and was crying my eyes out. Through this cognitive behavioral therapy, I came to the realization that I needed to let go of this accident & the damage it had caused. I needed to forgive myself, the driver and the witness. I realized that the only thing that would’ve changed if I had gone to court or if the witness didn’t give the statement that he did, was money. I would have money but that wasn’t going to change my face, my teeth or my elbow. Nothing would change what happened that day and it was time to let it go. I might have paid about 15k in hospital bills BUT I had a family, friends and a loving boyfriend, who apparently needed me to smack my face on the pavement for him to know that he loved me (geesh men!).
10 years later, I still have issues with my mouth (current photo above). I have TMJ on the left side of my jaw where it sporadically “punches me” and locks up. I have been going to acupuncture to relieve that pain and hopefully stop the number of incidents. My lower lip still doesn’t have feeling in it (I would say about 50%) and my teeth bug me all the time. I get extremely emotional at the Dentist and as I type my lower teeth are so sensitive that I swear they are slowly dying (those are the ones that were flailing about post-accident). However, my elbow doesn’t bother me at all! (I was very strict with my rehab). I still suffer from some lingering PTSD while in the car or on my bike but besides a little freak out now and again I am pretty darn good. I am still in love with my husband and he is by my side just as he was that day. Despite this accident and the havoc it wreaked on my life I would still say that overall, I am a pretty lucky girl!