Getting hit by a truck: Gratitude in the face of adversity

“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.)

Me slingin’ gratitude

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.


18 Replies to “Getting hit by a truck: Gratitude in the face of adversity”

  1. Glad you came out with your skull and bones intact!

    You are forgiven for your months of silence. I respect your attitude and gratitude when you have every right to be upset about being struck in a crosswalk. Was the driver cited for failing to yield to a pedestrian?


    1. I was definitely upset a few times! I wouldn’t exactly thank the guy but I may say some strong words that I wouldn’t mind my kids hearing.

      He was cited for failure to yield. Why do you ask? A few people have asked. I’m not too familiar with these things.

  2. I am glad that you are ok. Crossing the street can be hazardous to ones health. Who knew? I look forward to reading some more posts now that you have recovered.

    1. Apparently a few healthcare workers have died in the past few decades at the intersections around my 2 nearby hospitals. We move a lot between buildings so they are like hospital hallways with traffic!

      I’m glad you look forward to my posts, keeps me motivated to write. We’re moving back to Louisiana in a month, so I’ll be closer to your neck of the woods (Alabama I think).

  3. I ‘preciate your sharing this story and perspective with us – sounds truly frightening.

    One of the hard parts of a career of delayed gratification is acknowledging there is no guarantee we’ll be around to see the upside. Most of us put on blinders and assume it’s a given we’ll get to enjoy it.

    Enjoy your baby, your wife, and all those precious interstitial moments.

    A speedy recovery,


    1. Well said CD, interstitial moments, I like that.

      Your point is well taken. It’s like Matt Damon’s character Rudy Baylor says in Rainmaker: “We make choices as if we’re going to live forever.”

      Well, I guess nothing good would have come out of human endeavor is we all just carpe diemed all the time and lived hedonically. But sometimes you’ve gotta live, hence my interest in financial independence!

  4. Crazy story GLMD! Glad to hear that you are ok and came out relatively unscathed. Had a similar experience happen in our household a year ago, except that it was bike vs car. Mr.Wow suffered a few scrapes and bruises, as well as a hefty concussion, but for the most part, he was ok (at least we think so far, memory is a strange thing). The worst part about it has been dealing with insurance and healthcare costs. After settling with the driver’s insurance (it was clearly deemed her fault), we received a letter from our own insurance company seeking out reimbursement for the bills they paid. Its utter nonsense if you ask me! Hopefully yours goes much smoother than ours has been. Prayers for a speedy recovery!

    1. Oh man, glad he’s ok (so far…). It’s Workman’s comp for me since I was at work. Few hours paperwork and snafus aside it’s been smooth enough.

      Thanks for the prayers, especially at Easter : )

  5. Amazing story and glad you fared no worse than you reported. Did things slow down for you perceptually? I was in a dust storm once with 30 cars pilled up in front of me so I had nowhere to go but into what was in front of me. I remember seeing the hood slowly crumble and the slo mo rotation of the fan blade as I came to a stop. It felt like it took a minute, but probably more like a second.

    1. Dust storm sounds surreal, panic would set in for me. Sound like total lack of control.

      Things did slow down for sure (except the actual truck speed) until the adrenaline set in after the syncope (you could probably tell me more about adrenaline as an anesthesiologist). After that it was no pain and damage assessment.

      In retrospect I keep filling it details Im not sure actually took place. Eventually I will have stopped the truck with my massive shoulder causing it to flip over me without a scratch on my body, Bruce Banner style. As a Radiation oncologist Im a fan of the Hulk.

      Such is memory!

  6. heard about your truck accident via your post. So happy that you are on this side of the grass and are in recovery.
    hope the move is going well. I wish I could have helped you “negotiate” crossing the street as well as you negotiated you contract!

    1. Lol! Yeah, there is no negotiating with large trucks. Thanks again for the help with negotiation! I’ve used those skills in other smaller cases too, like party prices, car repairs, etc.

  7. Glad to hear you are recovering and doing okay. I haven’t experienced anything nearly as traumatic as this, and I can’t imagine how I would feel.

    Whenever I can, I make some effort to express gratitude. The deep appreciation of all things positive is one of the keys to sustained happiness.

    1. Amen to that!

      I’ve found that balance is key with gratitude. I’ve certainly overdone it and lose mindfulness of the moment. When it strikes me, I just take a moment and then move on.

  8. I really respect your attitude of gratitude in the face of such a traumatic experience. Keep up that positive energy and I hope you have a speedy recovery. Looking forward to reading more of your posts.

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