“Hey are you ok?” I heard as I came to, hand numb from lying in the snow. A slightly familiar face, the guy who hit me, faded in, his voice slowly muted by the nearing ambulance sirens. “I got hit by a truck!” I thought as a wave of nausea gripped me and I swallowed it down before taking inventory of my body.
I haven’t posted in a while due to a cross country move we are making in April. more than that however, I got hit by a truck about a month ago. I haven’t exactly been “laid up” physically, but psychologically its been a strange month.
Gratitude….. For me, the word used to conjure images of me saying “Thank you”, or as we say in the South “I ‘preciate you”. In the past year, I’ve been learning about sustainable happiness, reading books and getting to the literature at the source. As Chris Farley came to learn in Black Sheep (see blog theme pic), in the face of adversity such as sliding down a mountain, being grateful is key.
Crossing the street a month ago between the outpatient Radiation Center where I spend my days and the hospital, I was having a quick noon inpatient consult for a newly diagnosed metastatic lung cancer. Drivers here run the caution light in my small Northern town, and it’s about the only traffic law the rule following German/Scandinavians routinely break. So, I waited for the walk signal and stood a few seconds before crossing.
I looked left and saw a large Dodge farm truck starting to make the turn toward me. Walking into the street I focused on the more immediate potential danger, cars stopping on ice in the far 2 lanes. From my left came the sound of a diesel engine being given gas and getting closer. I turned my head left and the large Dodge Ram with brush guard was accelerating into me and closing fast.
Instinct took over and I think I’ve pieced together the next 3 seconds accurately, but who really knows. I wanted leap onto the hood but the truck was 4 feet tall to the headlights so that wasn’t happening. I thought about diving forward but figured that might leave my legs behind to get rolled over, not good for my hobby – running. Ultimately, my brain decided to get as far over as possible and at the last split second crouch and turn my back left shoulder into the collision. I suppose this protected my head, chest and spine. I looked up as he hit me, he was looking over the hood as had no clue I was there. The sound of the collision made him stop, but not until I was thrown a few feet over into the opposite lane.
As I stood up, an intense left scapular pain gripped me, accompanied by the familiar waves of intense nausea that come just before I pass out. I must have the thickest vagal nerves because I’ve had vasovagal syncope since I was 5 years old. (Dad, thanks for the slightly athletic physique and really good memory, but no thanks on the syncope or somnambulism.)
Long story longer, I fainted in the snow (saw it coming so no concussion), was taken to the ER (which was across the street) by ambulance, had no fractures and was discharged with a contusion. I self diagnosed a contusion of the teres major and minor and rhomboids. Recovery will probably be full after a headache with bills, workman’s comp and physical therapy.
A year ago, I would have been woe-is-me, and I did have a few blue periods this past month. The overwhelming balance of feeling however has been a spike in my daily gratitude thanks to the reading I’ve done this year.
Gratitude is much more than verbal thank yous. It comes from Latin gratus, meaning pleasing, thankful. Gratitude is not taking things for granted, having enough money/stuff, seeing the beauty in the 4th snowstorm of March, acknowledging that your crying 4 am baby is nonetheless a healthy baby. It’s lying on the trauma code table in the ER and being glad your friend is the trauma call surgeon and will extend you the courtesy of not examining your rectal tone. Gratitude is getting hit by a truck and being glad you didn’t wake up 10 hours later after a marathon trauma surgery with real damage and a hysterical wife.
I have recollections of the truck just before impact, and think of how bad it could have been. The white Dodge Ram may as well have been 100 feet tall from my crouched position. The tires were huge and would have rolled me over, chewed me up and spit me out. There was enough metal on the brush guard to twist some limbs awkwardly, crack my skull or thrust vertebral fragments into my spinal cord.
The most valuable takeaway of all for me is this. Gratitude and negative thoughts are mutually exclusive. They simply cannot occur simultaneously. Everyday is brighter since the accident and I especially focus on the small things because that’s what makes of the lions share of life.