Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Our Story: Part 2

Finally, Part 2 of Our Story.

It was September. Fall has always been my favourite season – the cooler temperatures, the misty mornings, the changing colours, and some quiet time in the park. Having worked in parks for 17 years, I always enjoyed this month the most after the hectic rush of July and August.

Jim and I were camping quite often – he would enjoy watching movies with the dog and sitting by the campfire – I would work. I remember one weekend, lying in our trailer, watching a movie. I don’t even remember what it was - but I do remember Jim and I being more entertained by the display of gymnastics taking place in my belly. Finally, at 5.5 months pregnant, I was beginning to believe that we might actually end up will a real live baby!

We discussed names that weekend too and had pretty much settled on Bennett. We liked the name Ben but didn’t like Benjamin. After reading a bit more about the origin and meaning we liked it even more. The Latin meaning of Bennett is “Little Blessed One”. We thought it quite appropriate considering everything we’d been through. The name is also a variant of Benjamin – which means “Right Hand Son”. Interesting how prophetic that would be!

Anyway, I was driving to work – it was Tuesday, September 19th, 2006. It was a nice morning and I was looking forward to getting to work and meeting with my boss who was returning from a well-deserved vacation. It was 7:30 am. I was listening to the news on the radio when suddenly an approaching car swerved in front of me – not a mere cross of the centre line, but a sharp turn. There was nothing I could do but slam on the brakes. I don’t remember anything from the moment the car swerved until the moment I woke up hanging upside down in the van. After that I remember everything. Like one of the police officers explained – this is both a good thing and a bad thing. The good thing is I don’t have sudden unremembered flashbacks. The bad thing is I remember EVERYTHING.

Rather than describe everything that happened next, I’ll list a few of my “memories” from the accident.

Ø I remember not wanting to wake up.

Ø I remember it being dark and smokey in the van – mainly the result of a deployed air bag.

Ø I remember a young man named Adam who crawled inside and did his best to hold my hips up to take the pressure off my pregnant belly. I remember him holding my hand as we talked about his teaching career. I remember him being told to get out of the van when one of the many volunteer firefighters smelled gas. I remember him crawling back in a couple minutes later.

Ø I remember begging them to let me undo my seatbelt and get me out of the van.

Ø I remember people shouting about the fatalities in the other vehicle.

Ø I remember someone telling me that soon my adrenaline would wear off and then I would be in A LOT of pain. Boy was he right.

Ø I remember feeling a light mist on my face as they strapped me onto the stretcher before putting me in the ambulance.

Ø I remember the paramedic who held my hand for the drive to the hospital that seemed to take forever. I remember when we arrived and I finally let go of his hand and how he said he would have a fun time trying to explain the fingernail marks to his girlfriend. I remember telling him that it would be easier than explaining fingernail marks on his back. (Even through all this I remain a smart ass).

Ø I remember hearing screaming in the emergency room and then realizing that it was me as they tried to straighten my foot.

Ø I remember a nurse asking me if it was alright for her to call Jim and tell him that I had been in an accident and just had a broken ankle so he wouldn’t be too freaked out. (Remember what I told you before, in Part 1 of Our Story – whenever someone uses the word “just” – be very suspicious).

Ø I remember being so grateful to be alive but so scared that my baby wasn’t. I NEVER want to feel that kind of paralyzing fear again.

Ø I remember seeing our baby’s heartbeat on the ultrasound and feeling such relief but still so much fear that it wouldn’t last.

So, those are some of my memories of what I thought until recently, was the worst day of my life. My injuries included a severe, open subtalar fracture/dislocation of my right ankle. My surgeon would only tell me six months later how close they were to amputating my foot. A distal femur fracture, a broken left wrist and a number of abrasions and bruises that would last for months, including the imprint of a seatbelt rounded out my most serious injuries.

After almost two weeks in the hospital, I returned home to a life that had changed forever. But at least I was still pregnant and hopeful that everything would be ok.


grandma said...

Hi Bennett,
I just read part 2 of the blog. I'll write a longer comment tomorrow. Seeing it written in black and white takes me back to the accident that almost took your lives. Your big sucky grandma is crying as I remember all that accured. I can't continue writting more until tomorrow.
Love you lots, hugs, kisses

Colleen said...


Just reading this part of your story also brings me to tears. I'm still amazed by the severity of your injuries and how you found (and still find every day) the courage and strength to pull yourself through such a difficult situation.

Both you and Bennett are true survivors.

I'm fairly certain he will never read this but I have to shout out a huge thank you to Adam. I remember Jim telling me this story. I could not believe that this young man stopped and rushed to your van to make sure you were all right. Not only comforting you, but at times putting himself in danger. This just goes to show you that there really are good hearted, well intentioned people out there! The words thank you don't seem to be enough.

I think you were surrounded by people who truely cared about you and Bennett, and that made the world of difference. Adam, the friefighters, paramedics and police officers and all of your family and friends were praying and hoping that things would be alright for both of you. I'm so glad you and Bennett are with us today.

Jim, your strength and courage doesn't go unnoticed. You are an amazing man. I know this was the most difficult thing you had been through. Just watching you care for Barbara after the accident made me so proud to be your sister. I can't imagine how scared you were for your wife and son. I could see the pain in your eyes when I'd visit at the hospital, but you remained strong for Barbara. All of us thank you.

Big hugs and kisses to all of you,
Auntie Bean.

Melinda said...

Hi there, I'm from the BBC CP board, and I wanted to leave a comment to let you know how closely this hits home with me. Brianna's CP is due to a MVA we were in when she was ten weeks old. Unlike you, I don't remember everything. I remember parts of it. There are times something just pops into my head, out of nowhere. But thankfully, I don't remember it all. "Just" most of it. I came out of the vehicle with barely a scratch. My daughter was thrown from the vehicle.

Anyway, before I get sidetracked, I wanted to let you know that I've been touched by your blog. A part of me wants to know the rest of the story because, as a writer, deep down I can't help but hope for a happy ending. But an even larger part of me wants to identify with you in some way and let you know that you're not alone. It sounds like you have a wonderful, supportive family about you, which is the biggest help you can have in the months to come. I look forward to reading more from you on the board, and send our prayers your way.

Melinda said...

Honestly, I think not remembering is probably preferrable to remembering. At least when you don't remember, you don't have those images running through your mind. Then again, I have a vivid imagination, so even the things I don't remember, I still see. But counseling and time has helped me learn to deal with it all. I still have my bad days. Some are worse than others. But I'm coping.

But I have to agree with others, you are strong, and you and Bennett are both survivors. I know things will get better for you guys. Watching the videos of Bennett in therapy, I have a lot of hope for him, and I hope you do as well.

Mummu and Poppa said...

Dear Mommy Barbara

Tears still flow as we remember that dreadful September day and the days that followed when we did not know if we would have you and / or baby for the rest of our lives.

Things happened that seemed so horrible, painful and unfair - we asked 'Why do bad things happen to such good people?' You and Jim had
everything falling into place - your dream was coming true - you were having a baby - all was well ... and then without warning everything took a turn for the worst.

In reflection we see you as a survivor with many gifts - especially a strong determination to witness your and Bennett's healing - whatever and for how ever long it may take. We are all here in your corner (Auntie Gaetan's cheering section) to help you as best we can. The Good Lord has many jobs yet for you to do.

Jim is a very supportive husband and daddy. He loves the two of you more than words can say. We remember his drawn look in the days that followed the accident. He has come along way to today.

We feel that without over-coming your many obstacles (and there have been many) you might never have realized your potential, strength, willpower and heart. You have truly been an inspiration to us all.

... Most importantly if you love someone tell them for you never know what today or tomorrow may bring or have in store.

... Learn a lesson in life each day you are granted.

... Forget about the plans that didn't seem to work out right, but don't forget to always have a dream and follow it. Send your requests to our Lord. He will answer you as he answered ours for you and Bennett.

Live Simply, Love Generously,
Care Deeply and Speak Kindly.

You and your 'little family' do simbolize the above.

Prayers, love, hugs and kisses
Mummu and Poppa
xxx ooo xxx ooo xxx ooo

Welcome Melinda.
Strange that your little one is wearing her 'sunglasses as our screen saver' is Bennett with his sunglasses.
Love and prayers to you and yours.

Bonnie said...

What an inspirational and blessed life experience. We sometimes wonder if there are angels? Well, I know some. They are called Adam, OPP, Ambulance drivers, nurses, docs, Mom & Dad Burke, Mom & Dad Radey, extended family, sisters, and Dad (Jim). I cannot help but stop for a moment to thank God for sending these angels to care for Mom and Bennett - when they needed it the most. Do you know how grateful I am to be your aunt? With love and support,
Auntie Bonnie

grandma said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Antie Gaetanne said...

Hi Barbara,

Like Grandma, the tears are pouring down my face.

The greatest reminder the accident provided me with, is that my love for you is 'Mighty'. The accident caused it to be 'Mightier' still! My gratefulness at your surviving this haunting accident was immeasurable.

Aunt Gaetanne

BusyLizzyMom said...

I always wonder how some people can sail through life with multiple healthy children and for someone who suffered years of fertility ended up in an accident while pregnant resulting a child (who is very cute) with CP.
It sounds like the people who came to your aid were amazing.
I found your blog through Barabra's, it is nice to see another Canadian mom.