Through My Eyes: The crash

Two days before Christmas I wake up to this Facebook message from my boyfriend’s sister: “Have you heard?” These words caused the bottom of my world to drop off. It was one of those things that knotted my stomach and constricted my throat. I knew something was wrong.

My boyfriend had always had his own problems and my mind jumped from possibility to possibility. I had been texting him the night before just after 1:00 am.

The car hit him at half past.

I text to say be careful walking home that night. And then as I slept he almost bled to death from being crushed into a wall by the front of a car.

I don’t really know much about the actual accident and he doesn’t remember it at all. It’s probably for the best really. All I know is that he was walking home and a car crashed into him and crushed him into a wall.

When the car hit him it crushed his lower legs. He lost a lot of blood because of the trauma and his injuries. He received roughly 20 units of blood. The body only holds seven.

What followed was an induced coma and almost two weeks of surgery. His legs were really badly damaged and, in the end, both were amputated at the knee. He got to look at the x-rays afterwards. The largest piece of bone left in his lower legs was roughly the size of your thumb.

When we first found out, Dad drove me to the hospital to find out what happened and to see if Alex was ok. I got all the way into the door of the intensive care unit. Standing in the empty corridor, his mother told me over the intercom what happened. Half way though she choked up and hung up. I walked out of the hospital in a daze. Through tears, I told Dad what happened and he had to pull off the road. We both held each other and cried.

I cried for the full two hour-drive to Westmeath that Christmas on the way to my uncle’s.

I cried for him. I cried for the unfairness of it all. I cried for the loss of his legs.

And I cried for the death of his old life. Everything was changed forever.

During his first two weeks in hospital, only his family were allowed in to see him. Despite going out with him for over a year, I was excluded and had to rely on his sister for updates on how he was. It was the hardest two weeks of my life. On Christmas day, two days after the accident, the one o’clock news on the radio announced that he had died of his injuries. It took two hours for his family to reply to tell me he was ok.

Because his family were basically sleeping in the hospital I took on the unofficial role of telling people what happened and updating them on his progress. He was under anaesthetic eight times in the first week so there was plenty of news to keep feeding out. He goes to college in England so I had to contact his house mate over Facebook and tell him. It was hard to know what to say. He was still unconscious and I didn’t want people to know he was a double amputee before he did.

He woke up two days after Christmas. He still had a tube down his throat so couldn’t speak. His sister told me that he kept pointing down to his legs and looking at them. They all reassured him that it was all ok, just to get better and they would deal with that later. He told me later he was pointing to his dad’s phone. He wanted to type questions to them.

But what people don’t think about is: what happens after the accident? He was almost eight weeks in hospital. For the first while he was dosed up on morphine so was having a great time but as he got better they decreased it. He had really bad withdrawals and suffered panic attacks as his body went cold turkey. He lost 35 kg in about three weeks – about half his original body weight. His body was drained by morphine and surgeries.

Another problem he had was with phantom pain. This is pain in a limb that is no longer there. So he felt a lot of pain in his right foot – even though he didn’t actually have one anymore.

Physical symptoms are one thing but the physiological effects are an injury in themselves. When he was in hospital I didn’t want to force him to talk. There’s not much to do in hospital but think so I wanted to be a distraction more than anything else.

When we did talk I told him that if he wanted to be upset it was ok, he was allowed to be upset. He was surprisingly upbeat about everything. He said that he was being positive for others as much as himself in that if he pretended he was ok, maybe eventually he actually would be.

Each time I was driven home from the hospital I cried the tears I couldn’t cry when I was with him. My brave face crumbled the second the door closed behind me and my tears stung almost as much as the hospital sanitiser.

Life changed forever that Christmas but as Alex says himself – everything comes to an end, even legs.

Eimear Phelan

Image: wikimediacommons

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