July 13th, 2013 - Rose Gebken
Shocking: Most people don’t know this. Ten years ago, I was t-boned, crawling afterwards from a crushed tiny car with multiple fractures in my pelvis and sacrum. Two days later, a doctor in pale green scrubs and a clipboard came into my hospital room and told me that there was a good chance I’d walk, but likely not run. “Will I be able to dance?” I asked. He pursed his lips; the upshot was they weren’t sure what my mobility would be, and the outlook wasn’t good.
Funny: Laying in the hospital bed that week was a trip. Literally. High on pain meds, I heard my own voice, sailing through spirituals, folk songs, old choral lines, and Phantom of the Opera. The ceilings in the hospital were high, my room not a room at all, but a curtained-off section of an open space. I saw pastel-colored unicorns and rabbits frolicking with birds in the air. Those are not real, I told myself with a giggle. To make sure, I asked with the next person who walked by.
Pain: The next day after the accident, they made me get up out of bed and use a walker to HOP AROUND on my broken pelvis. The goal was to see if any of the breaks would displace or if my muscles would hold them in place, eliminating the need for surgery and metal pins through my hip. I hated the doctors with every cell in my body as pain ricocheted through me. But the fractures did not displace.
Guilt-ridden: During the accident, my next-youngest sister was in the passenger seat next to me. She remained conscious throughout. After I woke up, my brain wound itself in circles looking for the chain of events, trying to piece back together what happened. Was it my fault? What did I do wrong? How could I keep it from happening again? What could I do to make everything right again? Sometimes an accident means it is just that, my aunt said on the phone. It is no one’s fault. This interpretation was incredibly hard for my brain to process. My sister slept in the hospital chair next to me that first night. When I asked for Twix and Cheez-its, she looked disgusted, but got them for me. The next day, my cousin drove down from D.C., and my sister left with her that evening, saying she needed to be home to heal. That she had done as much as she could for me and I would be fine. I knew she was right and I didn’t blame her. After she was gone, I missed her terribly.
Forgotten: My return to consciousness felt like swimming up through a deep pool towards light at the surface. Probably thanks to the concussion, at first I thought I’d fallen asleep at the wheel. But then I remembered when we left the rest stop, after stopping for a snack and coffee, it was the middle of the afternoon. I couldn’t possibly have been tired enough to fall asleep at the wheel. And then I remembered screaming that I was slamming down the gas pedal to the floor and couldn’t get the car to accelerate fast enough, that the oncoming car was going to hit us. I do not remember crawling from the car. I do not remember my sister getting our wallets and phones from the crumpled metal that used to be our rental car. I do not remember her begging the medics to let her ride along in the ambulance, since we were on a backroad hours from civilization and my friends up north in D.C.
Friends: My friends came to visit me in the hospital. They paid to have me transported in a private ambulance to a rehab center in Maryland, so that I didn’t have to spend my first five weeks out of the hospital in Norfolk, Virginia, two hundred miles to the south. However, the EMT who was on driving duty had “avoid highways” selected on his app. So I spent over five hours jolting over back roads with only a hip brace and no pain meds (due to paperwork), his partner seething alongside me.
Family: I told my mother she couldn’t come out across the country to see me. I think back to myself then, and my stance seems so extreme, so intense. But I couldn’t manage her emotions about me being so broken and manage to get myself better. When, years later, she asked me why I told her she couldn’t come, I tried to tell her something gentle.
Awkward: My friend came to pick me up for my doctor’s appointment—but in her family’s 15 passenger van. I looked up at the height of that passenger seat, wondering if I could balance on one foot and pull myself up with my arm strength. (Thankfully improved by my time in a wheelchair.) We somehow got myself and my walker in and out of that vehicle, through several doctor appointments and errands. I continued to marvel at how we take mobility for granted.
Slang: One term for bachata follows (or routines) in my dance group is hip-killers. This might be employed as an adjective to describe a dancer, depending on how much accentuation is given to the characteristic “pop” of swiveling the hip up on the fourth beat. As I dance, now, I forget that I once couldn’t bear my weight on that hip for more than twelve weeks.
Something old, something new: I still love to dance. I pop my hips, both of them, on the regular. Last night, I was dancing with new friends on an AstroTurf lawn in 95 degree weather, my dog watching and my heart full. I am not the woman I was at 27, before my accident. I am me, now, and that is more than enough. That is everything.
Rose Gebken uses language to communicate and inspire. Even after 12 years as a writer and editor, she continues to be fascinated by the power of narrative and always seeks to better understand the ways it affects our daily lives and relationships. Her first collection of poetry is forthcoming; updates can be found by following her on socials: @rosejadestonemedicine. Rose currently lives in San Antonio. When she’s not writing, she’s out hiking with her blue heeler, drinking copious matcha lattes, or popping her hips to some bachata at a local dance venue.
She encourages you to learn more about Operation Underground Railroad, an organization that fights against child trafficking and exploitation.