I Was Fortunate – Issues #4

The first surgery that was performed on me was as a result of my blood pressure dropping.  The cardiac surgeon on call ordered me up to the “Heart Tower” as the orthopedic surgeon on call was still counting broken bones.   His experience would tell him that this type of head-on collision had caused a tear in my aorta, a common deceleration injury.

The two vehicles had collided driver to driver, and we were both traveling at least 50 miles per hour.  The driver of the other car was not wearing a seat belt, her car flipped over and she was dead on impact.  I had been wearing my seat belt, so I wasn’t thrown from the vehicle nor did I go through the windshield, but I did suffer near fatal internal injuries and massive collateral injuries from the engine being forced into the inside of the car where my legs were.

My right leg had an open fracture, the artery on the bottom of my right foot was crushed, my left femur had a closed fracture as a result of both the engine coming in and my lap belt preventing me from moving.  My left heel was crushed, my left forearm had two closed fractures, and the end of the humerus on my left arm was ripped off at the elbow, and my pelvis and ribs were broken.  Internally, my heart, liver, lungs and diaphragm were damaged, my face and head suffered lacerations from the windshield, my jaw had whiplash, along with many other minor cuts and bruises from the broken glass, which I picked out of my face, hair and belly button for months.

Even with the massive injuries I sustained, I had no damage to my back or neck or spinal cord, nor to my brain, which to me is amazing.  If you look at the photos my sister took of the cars, you would not think there to be room for me inside my car.

Dr. H. worked on the damage to my heart through my back.  He put me on a bypass machine while he repaired the damage to the descending aorta.  If the ascending aorta in the front of the heart had been torn, it would have taken a matter of a couple of minutes to bleed out and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.  I was fortunate, he said.

When the repair was complete, the surgeon came out to the waiting area to let Patti know it was successful.  He had repaired the aorta, which was held by a mere thread’s width.  Patti wrote down everything he said on the yellow legal pad, and then she called the Chicago Airport to let mom and dad know I survived the surgery.  They were grateful beyond words for her call.

Another surgeon, Dr. B., worked on repairing my liver and diaphragm and the pulmonary specialist took care of my lungs, which had collapsed due to the impact and my hitting the steering wheel.  This also bruised my heart in addition to the tear to the aorta.  They turned my over to Dr. D., who began the task of assessing and repairing the extensive damage to my bones.

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