Today is an important anniversary for me. Thirty four years ago I survived a tragic accident that sent my life in a new direction. I was 19. I took my first motorcycle ride with my boyfriend. It was a fluke-Ray’s car wouldn’t start and he asked if I’d mind going to a picnic on his motorcycle. We were broadsided by a car on the way home, and catapulted over 30 feet into a ditch. Ray was killed instantly. My head slammed into the windshield of the car which likely slowed my flight to the ditch and spared my life. The accident occurred in the middle of nowhere & we were lucky to be found.
I’ve been blessed with an incredible family. In the ER, I was blessed with an incredible orthopedic surgeon. I believe few surgeons would have considered, let alone attempted, trying to salvage what was left of my leg. A plastic surgeon worked on my face and arms, while my orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Donald Lyddon Jr. began what would be a long process to treat my leg injuries and save my leg. Along with a broken femur, my tibia and fibula were broken in numerous places. Due to the severity of the tissue damage to my lower leg, the ER did not realize until after x-rays were taken that the distal third of my tibia, a 6 inch piece of bone including my ankle, was gone. The sheriff’s department offered to go back to the accident scene to try to find it. What a grim task. I remember someone at the hospital telling me that I’d been in an accident, and that my leg was broken in many places and part of the bone was missing. I remember them telling me that even if they found the bone, it may not be in a condition to be put back in my leg. They told me even if my tibia was found and reinserted, my body might reject it. They were preparing me for losing my leg. I remember wanting to scream and cry, but realized that even if I did, it wouldn’t change the outcome. When I went into surgery I didn't know whether or not I would wake up an amputee. I could only wait. A feeling of peace washed over me that I’d never experienced before. I knew there was nothing I could do but wait. It’s hard to describe but it is a source of strength and spirit I’ve experienced since that night during times of extreme duress.
I’ve had a lot of struggles as a result of my injuries, but prosthetics in 1981 were not what they are today. I’ve been frustrated by what I haven't been able to do, but there is much I have been able to do. I'd had over 30 surgeries on my leg to try to salvage and make it more functional before my amputation earlier this month. I wrote in an earlier blog how I was unnerved before the amputation as to how I would feel the moment I woke up from surgery and realized my leg and foot were gone. It was not traumatic as I expected it would be, but instead a relief. In these past few weeks I have felt whole for the first time in a long time. Ironic, yes, to feel whole after losing something I thought I needed, but I believe it was an obstacle I needed to clear from my life to move on.
There’s a lot to fill in between that day 34 years ago and today, but that is for future writing. Years ago I remember my Mom asking me if I wished the accident had never happened. I remember telling my Mom that I’d rather be who I am today than who I’d have been had it not happened. As Viktor Frankl wrote, “What is to give light must endure burning”. I have had many bright lights in my life since my accident. I survived an accident that a wonderful young man who cared deeply for me didn’t. I suffered his loss as did his family and friends. With the leg we saved I was able to walk, and have 4 wonderful pregnancies that resulted in 4 beautiful healthy children. I know I did everything I could to try to salvage my leg, and am grateful I came to the realization it was time to move on. There are many situations and relationships in my life I wish were different. I’ve learned I can only act with truth and best intentions without expectation of a result. I’ve been given an opportunity to appreciate life, health, and relationships in ways I wouldn't have otherwise.
1981 x-ray Deborah tibia & fibula
1981 xray Deborah femur