Sunday, June 5, 2016

rethinking my 'dukes of hazzard' moment

Until I looked down and saw a deflated airbag in my lap, I had no idea I had just crashed or that my car was destroyed.

This was three weeks ago.

I was driving on the freeway, less than a mile from my house, heading downtown, when I suddenly knew that I was blacking out.  I recognized the sudden, overwhelming dizziness because I had just blacked out the day before at the gym, bloodying up my hard head, which led to the onset of paramedics and an ambulance trip to the E.R., where they tested me for stuff and decided that I was just super-dehydrated.  Good guess, but wrong.

These blackouts were not your run-of-the-mill fainting spells, where you have some idea that your head is spinning and something ain't right and you better sit down fast.  In both cases, there was, out of nowhere, maybe ten seconds of warning, which, when you happen to be driving a car at 60 m.p.h., isn't very long -- for me, just enough time to see that I was at an exit.  The last thing I saw was the exit sign.  I was unconscious almost immediately, but my foot, unfortunately, was still on the accelerator.

At the scene of the accident, it took me a while to realize that amazing passersby had stopped to help me out, that something really bad had happened, that I couldn't just put my car in reverse and drive off.  Cops were there, the paramedics (again!) were on their way.

It wasn't until later, when I was in a hospital bed, that I was told what had happened.  After I had turned onto the exit, my car kept moving at a high speed, zooming through an intersection, knocking down signs, jumping curbs, then careening off a hill, "Dukes of Hazzard"-style, and landing in a clump of trees and bushes, pieces of my car's engine scattered behind me.

My injuries from the accident were minor, but I was kept in the hospital for observation to figure out why the heck I was passing out.  They hooked me up to monitors, and it wasn't too long before I had another blackout, lying there in bed.  This time, thanks to the monitors, they had the answer:  my heart had stopped for 18 seconds.  Obviously, a problem.  When I came to, the nurse said, "Looks like you'll be getting a pacemaker!", which I did, and I'm doing fine now, have a beautiful new car, and life goes on.

But an incident like that will make a person a bit more introspective, sort of a wake-up call to how vulnerable we are all and reminder of how everything can change in a second.  As I now think back to the whole dreadful experience, these are the thoughts that haunt me or encourage me:

-  Considering what my car went through, it's amazing that I was not more injured that I was.  Kudos to Volkswagen engineering for producing well-designed and relatively safe vehicles!
-  How thankful I am that my out-of-control car passed through a busy intersection without hitting anybody else.
-  That North Memorial in Robbinsdale, Minnesota is a great hospital... and these words are coming form me, who has a general distrust of the U.S. medical establishment.
-  That there are a lot of wonderful, helpful people in this world.  The bystanders -- all strangers to me -- who stopped to help -- they were so kind and patient and caring -- both the people at the accident scene and the guys the day before at the gym.  If I were a person who believed in angels ......
-  That I have more friends in my life right now than I have ever had before, and I felt their support and love through all of this.

Okay, that's enough of that.

The "General Lee" -- minus the Confederate flag, of course.