the other side of the coat

“23 yo F, no PMH, victim of high velocity MVC. Was driving on I-95 from Bethesda to Philly when got cut off, lost control of car and swerved into median. Air bags deployed. Sole victim. No LOC; pain scale 9/10. On physical exam, vitals WNL, AAO x3, Full thickness laceration from the upper lip to the nose and a laceration on the R eye between the cornea and sclera; vitreal hemorrhage visible. Extensive hyphema on R; fundus unable to assess. Vision in L eye is 20/20; R eye is hand motion. CT scan shows bilateral nasal fracture. No lens visible in the R eye. No other cervical, spinal, rib or extremity fractures. “

*abbrev: F = female. PMH = past medical history. MVC = motor vehicle collision. LOC = loss of consciousness. WNL = within normal limits. AAO x3 = awake, alert and oriented to person, place and time.

Last summer, I was on trauma call at Christiana Hospital, mind racing through mental checklists as the nurse in charge shouted “MVC, middle-aged male, arriving in Trauma Bay 3.” The doors flew open, it was ABCs, Glasgow coma scale, primary, secondary and tertiary surveys; the paramedics telling history on one end, the police interrogating on the other end, residents and attendings throwing orders overhead. I barely had time to LOOK at the patient when, in a matter of minutes, he was whisked off to CT, admitted to the surgical service, prepped for OR.  I remember being struck by the cacophony of firm, direct voices and the rapid pace at which things were accomplished with machine-like efficiency. Strict adherence to protocol was vital to ensure the chance of recovery was maximized, but at the time, I couldn’t help but imagine the chaos our patient must have felt, going through so many sets of hands, instruments, rooms, and procedures in a half-conscious fog, covered in blood, stripped of clothes and possessions and left only with a tossed-on hospital gown and blanket.

Little did I know, I didn’t have to imagine for long. Just over a year later, I found myself reliving my entire surgical rotation from the other side of the stethoscope. It was very lucky that I rotated in ophthalmology and anesthesia as a 3rd year, because it certainly helped me somewhat keep track of what was going on, regardless of whether or not I was informed (which sadly, was more often not the case). I am also thankful to have been taught during my rotations that:

1) doctors don’t have a lot of time, simply because they have so many responsibilities
2) we as medical professionals tend to forget to tell patients things, for the same reasons as in #1 and
3) patients know their bodies the best, but not speaking up means we (med people) can’t use it in our assessment and plan.

My background was both a blessing (enabling me to stay adequately informed and ensure recovery was maximized) and a curse (plaguing me with questions to EVERYTHING). I am thankful to my physicians for being patient and accommodating to my borderline-OCD and constant questioning. heh ^__^’

They say sometimes life throws you lemons, and I had always understood the importance of optimism when those lemons come, but I really do believe that if an accident were to happen at anytime, this was the best possible accident. I am so thankful that I was doing research this year, and not applying for residency or stressing at an away rotation during this time. I am thankful that my accident happened about 15 minutes away from Hopkins, quite possibly the best hands by which to have been received.  I am thankful that no one else was hurt in the collision, and that though I was alone, my phone still worked. I am thankful that my L eye was completely spared, and I was able to dial 911. I am thankful that beyond facial trauma, the rest of me is fine.

I am thankful that my eye repair surgery went well, without complications. I am thankful that the recovery from nasal surgery was also relatively uncomplicated, and though it was 10x more painful, I had medication. I am thankful that resources were not an issue; also that I was not unknowingly allergic to any medications. I am thankful the prognosis looks promising in my R eye.

I am thankful that two weeks into my medical leave,  the government shut down, so my fear of missing work or lectures was literally eliminated. (confession of my borderline-unhealthy restlessness/fear of being unproductive ^__^’)

Most of all, I am thankful for PEOPLE–for a ridiculously amazing and patient family to take care of me, tolerate me, and relay the message of what happened to others for me. My mom and dad were true heroes for driving me 3 hours back and forth between multiple appointments, and my brother a hero for flying in and helping me restore my phone and everything tech related. I am so thankful for awesome friends, you guys, who have been absolutely incredible with your barrage of texts, facebook posts, voice messages, emails, phone calls, food, flowers, cards, prayers, and visits…you guys who continue checking in, sending words/prayers of encouragement. I was blown away. I still am blown away. An eternity wouldn’t be enough to thank you guys, and special shoutout to those who have been there from the start (you know who you are 🙂 <3) . I seriously wouldn’t be where I am mentally without all your support. Love you all!!

Finally, I am thankful for having this accident occur at a time in my own Christian walk where I can actually confidently say that I have joy in Him, regardless of the circumstance–that I truly have had a peace that passes understanding. I am so thankful that my faith rests completely in a God who is sovereign, has an ultimate will and plan, and never fails to provide–as evidenced above. I am thankful that because of Christ, I can never be NOT thankful. God has been so good during this healing process, and it wouldn’t have been possible without all your prayers!

I decided to share these details about my journey not in want of pity or sympathy, but rather, to share the importance of being thankful in the little things. They say it isn’t until you lose something that you realize its true value; I would also add that it also helps you realize the true value in the things that still exist around you. I would admit I did have some low points during the course of the month, but what kept me going was this quote, that

The true key to happiness is gratitude

It doesn’t take an accident to remind ourselves of things to be thankful for, however small, and I certainly hope no accidents happen. But we cannot predict the future, and regardless of whatever may come, being thankful can make situations more bearable.  This experience has taught me that more than anything that people are the best reminders of encouragement and thankfulness. No matter what, love people, and keep them close : )

As for me, the good news is that I am finally well enough to (almost) fully function normally! Now I just need to wait for my body to heal over time. There is at least one more surgery I will have to undergo, but that won’t be for another couple of months. I am excited to say I return to work tomorrow.

Life, I’m back 🙂

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One comment

  1. Sharon, I’m in shock at how much adversity you had to face, and yet I’m not surprised that you handle it with such poise and optimism. You’re really an inspiration!

    Call me when you get a chance (I wanted to get it touch forever, but thought to wait till you felt better!)

    Much love,
    Sowmya

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