It was like a giant hand reached down and grabbed my SUV as though it were a toy. Unable to control the steering or brakes, my out of control vehicle flew like an eagle from the left lane of the interstate, careened in front of cars in the right lane, flew down a ditch, and shot as straight as an arrow to a target no one wants to hit. The enormous oak tree loomed in front of me and there was nothing I could do to stop the impact. Thankfully the crash was witnessed by several other drivers in that right bound lane whom I’d narrowly missed. Cell phones in hand, they rushed to see if I had survived my battle with the tree. Before they reached me I had attempted to unfasten my seat belt and open the door. I couldn’t do either. The air bag had deployed and a smoky odor filled the space around me. Oh great, I thought, not only will I be late picking up my son and his family at the Mall of America, I will probably be burned alive in what I feared would be a fiery explosion of my vehicle. As the two strangers yanked open the driver’s side door, they quickly assessed the situation and told me the police and an ambulance had already been called. An ambulance! Oh good grief, I thought, it can’t be that bad. My stomach and chest felt a little sore where the seat belt had dug into my flesh, but surely there was no need to panic especially since I realized I wasn’t going to be burned alive. “Just help me out of here”, I begged the officer who quickly arrived on the scene. “Mam,” he said, “you won’t be going anywhere except by ambulance to the hospital. You have been seriously injured.” Still not realizing the magnitude of what had just happened, I quickly retorted, “you don’t understand. I have to rent a car to get to Minneapolis to the Mall of America to meet my son and his family!” Taking my hand gently in his, the officer told me again that the ambulance was almost there and I would be taken to the closest hospital. I don’t recall being moved by the EMS workers from the car to the ambulance, so maybe those folks who later insisted I had been in shock were correct in their evaluations. But I do remember lying on my back in the ambulance with two wonderful ladies, EMS staff, holding my hand and doing their best to engage me in conversation. Crazy as it seems, I still recall one of them complimenting me on my lovely eye makeup! She also admired my pretty pastel pink sweatshirt, my favorite one, that we had bought a few years earlier in Vail. I don’t remember arriving at the hospital emergency room nor the people carrying me inside on the stretcher. The next thing I do recall is the ER staff cutting off my favorite sweatshirt and favorite blue jeans. I cried out, “is it really necessary to destroy my clothes?” By that time, they all knew my name was Charlotte and they knew I had been critically injured in my battle with the tree. They likely also realized I was a little bit crazy worrying about clothes at such a crucial time! Unbeknownst to me, the impact with the tree had pushed the engine into the cab and snapped my right foot like a twig. Alas, it was over an hour before I could go into surgery since the hospital staff was waiting for an orthopedic surgeon who had at least a one hour drive from Minneapolis to the small town hospital. The attending physician apologized for the wait and engaged me in conversation. I recall he said one of the state’s finest surgeons would be operating on my foot and everything would be fine. Truth be told, that doctor really didn’t believe everything would be fine, but he did an excellent job of distracting me. I was told later that I joked with the staff and told the doctor to please not get in a tizzy after he yelled at the staff for failing to put enough blankets on me. My temperature was dropping and my teeth were chattering, but it really didn’t seem like a big deal to me. I was blissfully unaware just how serious the situation.
To be continued……..