In 1995, I was hit by a car. That’s what people say, “I was hit by a car.” In my case, it isn’t accurate. A car was hit by me. A minivan actually. Every morning I saw myself as a bike-commute warrior. Or maybe an urban mountain biker. I traded seamlessly from bike path to sidewalk to street. Shredding everything. Always looking for the cleanest, clearest line where I could gather the most speed. Every curb-cut, a jump; any other commuter, someone to race.
I started in apartment-land in Northwest Washington DC and seven miles later, landed at a beautiful, obscure, isolated building on the edge of Southwest. From my office window, I could see cyclists heading out to ride loops around Hains Point, collegiate scullers gliding their boats across the Potomac River, suburban commuters escaping the city to return to the safe confines of Northern Virginia, and airplanes fleeing the nation’s capital to pretty much everywhere else in the country.
Most of my commute comprised of bike paths and low-traveled roads adjoining park land, but one mile featured a fast, urban downhill on Embassy Row. The road, Massachusetts Avenue, was a biking nightmare—four lanes of zigzagging cars traveling up to forty miles per hour, aiming to shave seconds from their commute. But Embassy Row’s sidewalk was a cyclist’s dream. Eight feet wide, no pedestrians, and only three driveways to cross—the British, the Brazilian and the Bolivian embassies. I often raced the cars down the hill.
On a bright, cold December morning, a minivan made a fast, tricky left turn across two lanes of racing traffic into the Brazilian Embassy driveway. The driver braked hard when he made it safely across… right in my path. I barreled into the side of the van head first. I can’t remember the accident, so I can’t say if I slowed much before impact, but judging from my injuries, I guess not. I collapsed my lung, punctured a hole in my spleen, horribly separated my collar bone from my shoulder, and I didn’t record any memories for the next twenty hours. I was seriously screwed up.
It was a life altering accident with recovery measured in years. And while I’m a functional nondisabled adult, I definitely have some residual issues from the accident. My shoulder is visibly misshaped and prone to injury, I constantly pull the muscles between my ribs due to all of the chest tube scarring, and more recently, my brain doesn’t seem to be working right.
This is where Crustytuna, says ‘wait, not so fast…’ Who’s Crustytuna? She’s a blogger who happens to be a neurologist (and also a mountain biker). We’ve traded emails since my (possible) seizure last week. She would caution me that I’m making unproven connections that need to be verified by diagnostic tests. I say “my blog, my story,” plus I have too many brain injury side effects to ignore. I suffer from diplopia (double vision), hearing loss, difficulty forging relationships since the injury, and an increasing array of brain problems.
Over the years, I’ve developed a significant delay when asked a question. You might ask me “what do you think of that?” And my response will be to stare at something close at hand and not even try to think of an answer for several seconds. It drives my family nuts. A few months back I endured repeated dizziness, especially when exercising. I thought a blood pressure medication change took care of the problem, but just last weekend, the dizziness returned on a run. And now, I can add my (possible) seizure into the mix.
On Monday, after I scheduled a neurology appointment, I checked my insurance to see what sort of deductible I have on diagnostic tests. Two thousand dollars! The same amount of cash I just put down on my new truck because I thought the car payments sounded high. I’d like that money back, please.
I apologized to Susan for eating into still more of our savings for medical copays. It isn’t possible to count the number of surgeries, procedures, physical therapy appointments and diagnostic tests that resulted from that unfortunate accident—each with a copay, a deductible or both.
When I was young and stupid, I always said I have no regrets in life. Now that I’m old and wise, I know I have at least one. Susan wouldn’t acknowledge my apology for wasting money on a deductible. She offered a reality check instead. “Solving these problems throughout your life is the price we pay for you to be alive.” That’s a smart way to look at it. The alternative is unbearably worse.