So what the bloody hell happened to you?
Updated: Oct 12
Hi, it's amazing to have you back here at Everyday Extraordinary! Here, especially for your peepers, is the next post which details exactly what I remember from the day my life was forever changed. It's all a bit bonkers if I'm honest, and the chances of it happening are so slim that it's often difficult to believe I've not just watched it in some TV drama. I assure you though, it definitely did take place, and one thing I promised myself when I decided to write this blog, was that honesty, detail and integrity would be at the foundation of what I write. With that said, 'What the bloody hell happened to you?’ I hear you ask!
If you were to take the Daily Mail at face value, they’d tell you I was a ‘Mother dropping off her son at nursery [who] has amazing escape when a piece of metal smashes through the windscreen and nearly DECAPITATES her!’. They always have been one for a sensational headline. I guess it is one interpretation of what happened and is actually true. I prefer to see it like this:
I'll tell you exactly what happened
The early morning of Tuesday, 11th July 2017, was like most other working Tuesdays; I was doing my best to get my son dressed, much to his opposition. Eventually, I wrestled him into some suitable attire and strapped him into his car seat so that I could drop him off at nursery in Bourne before heading to work at the grammar school. Nothing interesting there, then.
The A1 road sits at the side of the village I used to live in, and I drove on it every working day. It’s a horribly aggressive road and I’ve never been a fan, but after two and a half years, I was somewhat hardened to its hostile attitude. At the minuscule slip road, I pulled into the 7.30 am traffic. As usual, lorries were the staple vehicle, so I moved into the outside lane to overtake a couple of the trundlers.
Tootling along at the speed limit, sun shining, radio on, Hugo, my son, singing at the side of me, on my way to a job I loved, could life get better?
“Mummy, why has that red car in front just turned that way?”
Now, you should know something about my son at four years old - he had to have an answer. ‘Maybes’ and ‘I don’t knows’ just didn’t cut it with him. “Just tell me!” would be his frustrated response. It really didn’t matter to him if you didn’t have a clue; he knew there was a definitive answer somewhere and he damn well wanted it. Once he had what he sought, he generally accepted it as the truth, even if you had just told him that the man in the red car was turning that way because he’d got to see the doctor about his itchy bum. He’d got an answer and that made him happy. Happy son, happy mum, a not-so-happy man with an itchy bum.
Why is my car thumping along the central reservation instead of on the tarmac? Why can’t I control the steering wheel? Why can’t I open my eye? What the hell has happened? I need to stop the car. Bloody hell, my head hurts!
“Mummy? Mummy, are you going to die?”
Fortunately, that time I did have the answer. “No, Hugo, I’m not. Sit back for me so I can see out of the wing mirror.”
Traffic was still whizzing past Hugo’s window, and I had to get him out of harm’s way. I couldn’t open my right eye; no matter how hard I tried, the eye wouldn’t work. Panic gripped me; it was all so confusing. I just about had it in me to put the car back in gear and steer us across the two carriageways to the grass verge, where I knew Hugo would be safe. My survival was irrelevant and would have meant nothing to me if anything had happened to Hugo. I attribute his brilliant coping strategies to his need for an absolute answer. I told him I wasn’t going to die, and he accepted that. He had no reason to be scared. In fact, when he first came to visit me in the hospital, my bleeding head was, at that point, secondary to having been in a police car and the fact he had eaten two rounds of toast while watching Scooby Doo at my friend’s house. Legend.
Damage to the car was minimal, considering I had been driving at 70 mph
I remember seeing, and can still see clearly, splatters of crimson on the steering wheel, each drop shining in the morning sun. I then caught sight of my face in the rearview mirror. Scarlet mush covered most of my forehead, apart from where my skull cut a creamy band in between it.
Fear flooded me. If these were my injuries, what state was my little boy in? Even thinking about it now causes my heart to race all over again. I turned to him in dread; his gorgeous face was still gorgeous and unblemished; he was moving. “Are you ok?”
“Yes Mummy, that metal just fell on me.” He had small scratches on his right arm and ear. He was fine. I followed his index finger to the passenger foot-well and to the piece of rusty metal at least the size of a sheet of A3 paper. The puzzle pieces fell into place: the pain, the shock and the realisation of what had just happened to me. My body’s reaction? Vomit! The same dark, scarlet liquid that covered my steering wheel and dashboard rushed from my stomach.
I have no idea how much time passed while waiting for an ambulance. Thinking back, it really doesn’t seem like much time at all. The grass was damp and coarse, and I was vaguely aware of people around me, questions, traffic, blood, but time seemed to be fleeting. Hugo was safe, being looked after by another driver who had witnessed the accident, and I was being asked for the code to my phone in order for the police officer to contact my next of kin. I guess not all of my brain had been knocked into my steering wheel because I was able to give it to them. Then things started to happen – a First Responder told me they could do nothing for the pain because they didn't carry morphine; luckily an ambulance arrived soon (I think) after, and I was placed onto a stretcher. Finally, I could close my eyes and put my survival in somebody else’s hands. A paramedic warned me that the ascent into the ambulance might feel a bit bumpy, which seemed like a funny thing to say in light of what had just happened. From there, my good friend morphine took over, and the journey to the Queen’s Medical Centre was nothing but sweet, unfeeling unconsciousness.
Before they fixed my head, I looked like this. Images courtesy of Professor Andrew Sidebottom (actual surgical legend)
Waking up in the resuscitation room, the faces of people I loved most in life bubbled into view: my friend, my then-husband and most importantly - I would realise - my twin sisters Lindsey and Lucy. My parents had flown to Spain for their summer holiday that morning and wouldn’t be back with me until the next day. I hardly had time to try and say hello before my stomach lurched once more, and up came the now familiar shiny, deep red liquid. The darkness of it still haunts me, as though in that liquid was my life force, but there was nothing I could do to stop it from escaping. I couldn’t hold on to it; what did this mean? Something dropped off my head. Thankfully, it was the dressing on my wound, not part of me. My fractured skull and all were exposed for everyone gathered, though I had no idea about the gruesome extent of my injuries at the time. “Bloody hell Katie, some people will do anything to get a day off work.” Lucy always has been a funny bugger.
Too glamourous for surgery
The next thing I knew, I was having my head lifted and placed on some sort of support so I could be put into a CT Scan machine. Claustrophobic and uncomfortably hot, but in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t the worst thing that had happened to me that day.
One incident I can definitely remember from that day, is the nail polish debacle. Did you know that your nail polish must be removed to use the pulse oximeter? Neither did I. (For those not up to scratch on their medical lingo, this is the thing that measures the oxygen in your blood. Don’t be impressed that I know what that is, I totally Googled it).
In normal circumstances, polish remover would do the trick, but these were not normal circumstances. This was when the real horror of the day happened…Lucy had to peel the polish from my fingers and toes. To her credit, she didn’t hesitate, not even when holding my “mushroom toes”, as she calls them, in her hands. She did, however, complain. Even in the state I was in with a cracked skull and visible brain, I was still amused by Lucy’s moaning and martyrdom at having to touch my toes, touch them and ensure all the polish was removed. I can’t remember her exact words, but I can picture her screwed-up eyes and downturned mouth as she held my feet at arm’s length, frantically picking and peeling. I might have heard her utter, “You owe me big time!” between dry heaves.
It makes me smile still. My sisters, mum and I have always used humour in difficult times, and while it didn’t solve the problem of me lying in a hospital bed with my brain on show, it helped us to smile while we were there, and the importance of that should not be sniffed at.
And that's the real takeaway of this post, I suppose, as well as clueing you in to my series of unfortunate events. I had no choice over what happened to me; I had no inkling that the morning of 11th July 2017 would be different from any other morning when driving to work. I couldn't have done anything differently to prevent what occurred, but I had a choice over how I reacted to it, and so did Lucy. It would have been so easy for her to break down in tears and let the fear get the better of her.
My other sister, Lindsey, did just that. According to both of them, she was shaking and crying uncontrollably because she had succumbed to the fear of what all of it might mean for her older sister. In fairness, hers was a human and understandable reaction, though I thought she would have known I am mighty! And I was not about to let a rusty sheet of metal get the better of me. I'm also really stubborn when it comes to getting what I want; I didn't feel like dying that morning.
So how does this help you?
The main thing I'd like people to learn from this is that whatever dire situation you may currently be tackling, you definitely do have a choice in how you react to and handle it. You can choose to find the best thing about the circumstances, even if the best thing is that you can still talk and think when your brain is literally falling out of your skull. There will be something, no matter how small. It might just be that you're still here, breathing. It's not much, but it's one step better than the alternative.
I firmly believe there will always be a positive and a way forwards. Perhaps not the one you want or were envisioning, but it will be there. And while it's often nigh-on impossible to believe that, especially when you're at your lowest, you must remember never to quit. Quitting is the most lethal thing you can do. Never give up, and take the best choices available to you – that's my advice. If you're not sure what those choices are, speak to someone: a friend, colleague, your GP, Citizen's Advice, or a Facebook group. Write your problems down, maybe in a journal (I use this one) and see what your brain comes up with. If like me, you have a brain injury, be sure to get in touch with your local Headway branch; Try it- what have you got to lose?
PS There are always dog cuddles. They ease the pain.