It was a week ago today that I was in the ski accident. The ski accident where I lost control. Couldn’t gain control.
The ski accident where I hit a tree. With my face. Whiplash. Lost consciousness. Blood everywhere.
The ski accident when I broke my nose and cheekbone and bit through my lip.
The ski accident that gave me my first IV. My first CT scan. Two CT scans. The first when they thought there was bleeding in my brain. Where they might have to drill.
The ski accident where I was taken down on toboggan, driven in an ambulance to the hospital in Bozeman, driven in an ambulance to the airport in Bozeman, flown to Missoula, driven in an ambulance to the hospital in Missoula.
Right after the accident, there is a lot I can’t remember. There is also a lot I do not want to be reminded of about that day. That accident. The ski accident.
But there are some moments I don’t want to ever forget.
G E T T I N G T W E N T Y S H O T S I N M Y F A C E
The pain of the actual accident was actually surmounted after the fact. After realizing what had happened to me, that it was serious, that I wasn’t going to make happy hour, that I needed to get about 40 stitches in my face; I waited for the plastic surgeon to come sew me up. A man walked in and looked at me. Just stared at me. Turned around.
– Hi, I’m Rachel. Who are you?
– I fix things like this. [stares at me again.] I think I can fix this.
And then he turns around again.
I give Evan the WTF? hands and he just shakes his head in confusion. The doctor prepares the needles and adjusts my bed so that I’m laying down flat.
– I’m going to numb up the area and then I’m going to stitch you up.
– Okay. I’m very scared of needles, but I think I’ll be okay.
I am scared of needles. When they put morphine in my IV, I asked, “Will this make me less scared of needles?” It didn’t. I don’t think it did anything, really. My adrenaline was too high.
This doctor did not care about my fear. He was so cold, he felt heartless.
He started putting the needles in my cheek. I tried to be brave; I really did, but it hurt so bad. And there were just so many needles in my face. So aggressively.
It wasn’t long before I started crying and it wasn’t long after that, when he started putting shots in my nose, that I started bawling.
He stood there silently, relentless, and stuck me over and over. It felt more aggressive with each needle.
By the time he got to my lip, I was begging. I was pleading with him to stop. It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt and it felt like an attack.
Blood and tears streamed all over my face and I begged, screamed, as I sobbed, for him to stop. And he wouldn’t. Not for a second.
– Please, No, No, No, Please stop. STOP! PLEASE! NO MORE! PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, please, please, no, no, no, no…
As I cry now, remembering it, I try to figure out why, why exactly, I want to remember this. Why do I want to remember?
Do I want to be able to compare every little pain I complain about to it? Remember what real pain feels like?
To realize that it was all worth it? In the end, the doctor did an incredible job stitching me up. His work was beautiful and those shots were ultimately a part of that.
To find faith in compassion? As I begged, he pressed on silently. As I bawled, he didn’t flinch. A hand on the shoulder or a “there, there, I promise it will be okay” would have beamed a bright light into my life. Empathy. Compassion. Something I want to remember.
T H E S T A R S I N B O Z E M A N T H E S T A R S I N M I S S O U L A
The bathtub keeps bringing me back. I can’t take showers right now, to keep my face dry. So I take baths. To wash my hair, I have to lay my body down, my head horizontal, to dip it in the water. I’m rarely ever that flat, with nowhere to look but straight up. But recently, I was like that for a very long time. And these baths bring me back to the stars.
In Bozeman, they told me that there might be some bleeding in my brain and they were going to fly me to Missoula to get checked out. I cringed as they brought the backboard in. They put a neck-brace on me, they rolled me over onto my side, slid the board under me, rolled me back, and strapped down every part of my body, including [especially] my head.
The ambulance was ready in a parking garage, so it wasn’t that cold, it was nothing to see [upwards, at least].
When we arrived at the Bozeman airport, they opened the ambulance door and the cold took me over. After wheeling me out, I could instantly see the fog of my thick breath. But beyond that were the beautiful stars. So gorgeous in their perfect, comforting placement. It was like they were the only ones really [really] looking at me, understanding. We stared at each other with a pumping vein of tenderness and then I was lifted into the small plane.
The plane ride was almost miserable. I couldn’t move any part of me and every part of me hurt. Claustrophobia set in quick. A man who was flying with me, making sure I got everywhere safe, noticed my tears and rubbed my arm. When I told him my head hurt from the board, he loosened my head-strap and massaged the back of my head. I would have never guessed that the reassuring touch of a stranger would be so comforting, but it saved me.
We landed in Missoula. As they opened the plane door, the cold consumed me again. When they lowered me down and started rolling me to the ambulance, there they were. In the same exact place, the same exact pattern, like they had waited to make sure I arrived safely, the stars were there. And I realized that this was the same sky, these were the same stars, that shine on everything, everyone that I love. Everything can look up at these stars and find the encouragement of love, hope, and beauty.
This huge world filled with so much that I love, so much that I don’t even know yet, can all be united under this gorgeous blanket of stars. As they put me in the ambulance, my third ride of the day, I realized I want to be a part of that world.
Something I’ve never had to worry about wanting before, something I’ve never had to question, something I’ve had the privilege of being a given, suddenly became a question. And I answered with a feverishly adamant, “YES.” I want to be in this world.
I want to be here.