There’s really no easy introduction on this one… so let’s leap straight into the painful truth. I wrote this 48hours after the life altering accident that continues to unfold and forces me to lead through uncertainty. Here’s what I journaled at the Royal Brisbane Hospital just over a week ago.
I was washing my car. It was parked on a hill. The hand brake failed. It ran over my ankles.
I know… take time to draw a deep breath. It was, as you are probably thinking… horrible!
The feeling of a tyre and 1.5 tonne of vehicle running over my legs is something I’m still processing. My cheek flat to the bitumen I watched my car as it slammed through the fence across the road.
Oh my god! That is going to be bad… Oh my god! Is anyone home? Oh my god… My legs? Oh my god… that just happened… a car just ran over my legs, oh this is bad… oh my god, this is bad. I did not lose consciousness. I was both witness and participant to this freak accident. A 5 second moment of chaos unfurling like a slow motion reel of wreckage. This was actually happening to me. ….I’ve been run over by a car. Oh my god, S***! This is real…
The road was hot, all points of contact were burning. I could not move my ankles, knees or wrists and I could feel something wet running from my chin down the front of my neck.
How still and quiet it seemed after the whirr of the car reversing and building up speed on the incline, the effortless bumps of hard rubber over flesh and the final crack of metal through wood.
The next I heard was – “Darl, oh god… don’t move… don’t move – I’ve got you.”
I said “Get me off the road – I’m burning, get me off the road.”
He said “I don’t want to move you, your back, your neck. Stay still… don’t move.”
This is a message of gratitude… To the builder working next door who had just completed his first aid certificate, to the woman who stopped her car to sit beside me with her open umbrella shading the harsh sun from my disbelieving and fearful eyes. To these two strangers who spoke to me in assuring tones. Everything is OK… Bodies heal… that’s it, you’re doing OK. Stay with me, what’s your name?… The ambulance has been called, everything will be OK.
To the man who held my leg steady and wouldn’t let it touch the ground and the woman who kept a hand on my arm under the shade of her umbrella. I thank you. The literal protection of strangers at a time of extreme vulnerability and need. They both spoke such clear and optimistic words, kind and simple words. There was a lot that happened in the next 14 minutes and 24 hours. There is a lot that has happened since…
You see, I was at the complete mercy of people and processes set up for this very type of accident. I am very lucky to have received immediate care and attention. It is not lost on me and I am deeply moved and grateful to every person who supported in the act of stabilising my body. They didn’t know me but they knew what to say. They kept their heads though they were speaking from the hearts. From that place of pure humanity and helping even though, no doubt, their hearts were racing like mine. There is nothing quite like the intense eye contact you make with people when you are frightened, when they are frightened and you all stay deeply rooted in reality, humanity, courage and just sheer hope.
So since then I’ve been on bedrest and laying next to uncertainty. An uncomfortable bedfellow that has stolen my sleep, chattered too loudly and a couple of times whispered some really scary thoughts into my ear. Those thoughts call for forbearance and for the night to end quickly. One morning, post hospital and in Marina’s gentle care, the dawn light was filling the spaces between the foliage and the birds began to call in the new day. I was reminded that there is a certainty to life and a cycle that continues regardless of your current circumstance. Emily Dickenson wrote:
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,
I know that life and beautiful moments continue to cycle around me regardless of my physical condition. I know I have support from strangers and from people who know me well. I know the next stage is going to be challenging but I also know that faith and hope and a considerable amount of courage, will serve me well in my recovery. Whatever my new path looks like, I’ll walk as slowly as it takes and as a full witness and participant. There are tears and the road burns when you fall unexpectedly but help, hope and simple words can make it easier to deal with the uncertainty.
I am so grateful to be writing this, truly… thank you for your support. I look forward to seeing you for International Women’s Day at State Library on the 8th for more courageous conversations.