Monday, July 1, 2019

Being Hit by a Car is Weird

Being hit by a car is weird.


A day later, I remember everything, and the following nanoseconds are likely permanently etched in my memory.

We were going west down Homestead. Straight. In our bike lane.

As the eastbound car began to turn into us, I was mostly incredulous. “What’s he doing?” I said with urgency and some irritation.

Brandon, my tandem captain, husband of nearly 20 years and lifetime cyclist, was already on it, waving his left hand and screaming “STOP. STOP. STOOOPPPP” from the front of our tandem bicycle.

As the car kept coming, making his left hand turn directly into us, it became clear that the impact was inevitable. On the back of a tandem, I have no control. No brakes, no steering, no gears. Nothing. I am fully dependent – a place I rarely find myself and even more rarely put myself. 

As the driver kept turning his SUV toward us, everything slowed down. 
Oddly enough, even my heart rate seemed to slow.

A calm came over me. I remember my brain saying, “Okay, Stace. You are about to be hit by a car now,” in much the same way you would prepare a young child for an immunization shot. Quiet. Calm. Simple. Matter of fact. “This is going to happen now so, just know that.”

My ears and brain registered the sound of the crash at exactly the moment my face saw the black hood of the Lexus SUV. The little bits of bird poop. My head was so close to the hood that I expected to hit it, to feel the black shiny metal on my face – to land on it. I knew I would dent it.

Instead my body turned midair and was facing the sky. “So blue,” I thought.

In the midst of my slo-mo, a quick moving object caught my attention – our tandem flying through the air and landing 27 feet away from the point of impact. Everything felt like a slow motion video except the bike flying through the air. I marveled at its speed.

And then the landing. My landing.

Hard. No bounce. And no real skid.

I was suspended in the air and then I was just down.

And I stayed down.

I panicked for a brief moment concerned that the car would keep rolling and smash my head, then I heard Brandon before I saw him. He was yelling at the driver, “STOP. STOPPPPP.” Evidently the driver continued to roll well after impact. 
And then my husband screamed, “Why did you hit us? WHY DID YOU HIT US?” as he ran over to me.

“I’m okay. It’s okay. I’m okay. We’re okay,” I said from my prone position on the ground. Left side. Afraid to move. Thought about my legs, tried to move them. “I can move them. I’m okay. It’s okay,” I said aloud. At that point I think I was talking to myself.

I tried to roll further onto my left side and push myself up. No Bueno.

“You’re okay, I’m okay. It’s okay,” these words were my mantra as I focused on feeling out the parts of my body for injury. “Stay down. Just take a minute,” I thought.

Ironically, as I was prone in the street, Brandon draped over me, the Lexus driver says, “Are you okay?”

I stopped thinking, stopped mumbling and likely made a, “Are you effing serious?” face.

Closed my eyes, released my breath, “Please call 911,” I said.

The driver brought out his phone, as I focused on checking myself for movement, but he took so long, Brandon ended up calling. “It’s okay, I’m okay. It’s okay,” I continued to remind myself.

Then there were the usual suspects: Nice neighbors, Police, Firetrucks, EMTs.

By the time the backboard came out I said, “I think I’m okay. I just hurt.”

Onto the backboard and into the ambulance I went anyway.

I could write an entire separate post about the ER experience – not Kaiser’s best day – but this post is just about the randomness of an unexpected trauma. That slo-mo thing. It was fascinating. In those nanoseconds I was able to say and think in full sentences. 

I was fully engaged – living in that moment, if you will.

Our tandem is totaled but Brandon and I are fine. Both of us. He is bruised and sore but made of incredibly bombproof stock. My pelvic and lower spinal x-rays indicate nothing is fractured. Just some deep bruising and soft tissue damage that will take some time to heal. For those familiar with deep tissue bruising, we are now at the "galaxy stage" – blues and purples on my hips, buttocks and back. In a few days the blues and purples will be joined by yellows and greens. Then they will begin to “drip down my legs.” And, in a few weeks, they will be mostly gone.

But that moment. That moment will never vanish.

Being hit by a car is weird. And I absolutely don’t recommend it.

That said, if it had to happen, I’m grateful that we are both okay and that I have the memory and ability both physical and mental to share the story. 

Add a bit more brightness and this would be the current color of my legs, butt and back. 

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