Friday night, my parents and I were in a wreck.
It was by far the scariest moment of my life.
First of all yes, I spent Friday night with my parents. We went to Wake Forest to get dinner at the Olive Garden with my college roommate. After a quick stop by Krispy Kreme, the three of us were extremely full, and headed back to Durham on highway 98.
Secondly, the events of Friday night have been replaying in my head for the past 64 hours.
Padre was driving, as he usually does, and mom was shotgun playing solitaire on her phone. We were all quiet and tired and full. We were about halfway home and had just passed through an intersection when I hear mom say, “David, you’re getting close to that car, slow down.” This isn’t an unusual phrase to hear her say when anybody is driving. Typical
A few seconds later, she whacks him on the arm and says, “David, slow down!” As the says it, she looks over and realizes he is passed out. We hit the car in front of us before any of us took action.
It all happened SO quickly, but here’s what I remember:
Mom screaming “DAVID!!!” and “CALL 911 NOW!”
With shaky hands I tapped the numbers on my phone and before she even got the words, “what’s your emergency?” out, I was saying, “my dad passed out behind the wheel, we just hit a car, he’s still passed out!” And then I froze up when the dispatcher asked our location. “uhh, on 98. Going back to Durham.”
I was sitting there in the backseat, unbuckled at this point trying to help mom steer/stop the car, and some of the thoughts running through my head were “oh my gosh we’re going to die.” and “Lord, help us.” I mean, what else do you think about during an intense moment like that???
I don’t remember if I yelled “put the car in park!” to Mom before or during the phone call with 911, but I do remember her screaming “David!” the whole time and “we need an ambulance NOW!“ That was the most panicked I have ever heard my mom.
The dispatcher was extremely calm the whole time and insistent on me staying on the line until someone arrived. I didn’t want to though, I wanted to jump out of that car and go help wake Padre up. After we miraculously got the car stopped on the side of the road, (seriously, it was a Jesus thing… He took the wheel) Mom was still yelling trying to make sure Padre was ok, and seconds later he came to.
“What are we doing? Let’s go home.” he said, looking at our stopped & steaming car, I’m sure wondering why in the world Mom was yelling.
“We were in a wreck. We hit a car. Are you ok?” Mom answered.
“Turn on the flashers” I advised from the backseat. “so they can find us easier… we’re on the side of the road with our flashers on” I told the woman on the line.
Just then, when we thought it was over, his eyes started rolling back again, and he started breathing really weird. I told the dispatcher it was happening again, and she kept asking questions. All I know is that I was trying to keep mom calm the whole time. I don’t even know what I told the dispatcher… “he’s 55…. NO this hasn’t happened before…. we are all ok but he’s passing out again…”
After what felt like hours, a man came up and knocked on dad’s window. Mom immediately unlocked the doors and started yelling at him to “get him to a hospital!” Little did we know, this man wasn’t a paramedic or first responder, just an innocent driver offering his help. I don’t know if he saw the wreck or just the flashers, but he stood there ensuring Mom that, “help is on the way, ma’am.” And sure enough, within seconds, a firetruck was there and first responders were coming to check Padre out. At this point, Padre was awake and somewhat stable, just confused about what happened. As questions were asked and answered, the man who initially stopped to help, was standing out in the road directing traffic with his heavy duty Maglite. Talk about being a servant!
Padre seemed back to normal while all his vitals were being taken. Mom was still freaking out though. “It’s ok Mom, calm down…we’re all ok.” I told her. When a deputy came over to ask what happened and check on the status of the driver, she went into allll the details again. He left, and another paramedic came up and asked Padre the same questions the other one had. He felt fine despite his low blood pressure and high sugar level (157). Padre was insistent on going home, but Mom and I insisted that he go to the hospital. She was to the point of tears, trying to convince him to go and I told her to stop.
“Padre. Please. For me. You passed out while driving… we were in a wreck… it was really freaky… please go to the hospital. Just let them run a few tests and see what happened. Please, Padre.”
“Ok sir, what do you want to do?” the patient paramedic asked.
He sighed and answered hesitantly, “I’ll go.” Thank you for listening to your loving daughter, Padre.
After they loaded him up and drove off, the firefighters left as well, leaving Mom and me with the deputy and the man directing traffic. We looked at each other and asked, “now what?”
That was just the beginning of the long Friday night spent waiting for a tow, and in the Emergency Department. Just the beginning. The wreck happened around 8:40pm, Padre was en route to the hospital a little after 9:00. 9:54pm we were still waiting on a tow, and I was traipsing around in the tall grass around the car, packing my stuff into my bag. (in a maxi skirt…not the best choice. You better believe I tied that thing up!) 10:14pm I was admiring the beautiful full moon. 10:57 we walked into the ED. 11:30pm Bro and I were mistaken for a couple…so awkward. 1:12am I realized it was SEPTEMBER! 3:29am Mom and I were walking out of the ED and heading home. It was definitely the longest night ever! (I spent a lot of it filling in the gaps for Mom, and vice versa while we told Padre & Bro everything that happened. And after 1:00, when Bro left, and while Mom & Padre tried to sleep, I read Anna Karenina. Yes, this nerd carries a book with her everywhere these days.)
Although it’s only been two days since the wreck, I doubt I will ever forget certain scenes from it… seeing the trees and road in front of us and not thinking we would be able to stop… hearing the desperation in Mom’s voice pleading Padre to wake up, “stay with me David!” … all the people who came to our rescue including the man who directed traffic, the first responders, the paramedics, the officers, the tow trucker, the nurses on staff, the doctors… feeling the car come to a stop after what felt like ages of plummeting forward… the face and voice of the man who we hit, who said he hoped my dad was ok…
That was the first wreck I had ever been in, and I am so thankful it happened the way it did. It could have been much worse, as everyone has pointed out. Thinking back on it now, I wonder what we should have done differently, if anything.
Sometimes, my own strength surprises me. And I’m not talkin’ physical strength. Mom has even said I was extremely calm during the whole thing… while on the phone, while yelling orders to her to “put the car in park!”, and while helping explain what happened to the people who came to our aide. I felt strong. Despite the thought that we were going to die ran through my head, I wanted to be strong for Mom in case something worse did happen. And looking back, I am thankful that I was so calm and strong during the wreck.
And really? I’m thankful for social media and a cell phone. Mom called my grandma to come give us a lift. She called the pastor, youth pastor, and family friends asking them to pray. My brother posted it on facebook that his family had been in a wreck, and the number of people who commented offering prayers & support was surprising! I got texts from close friends saying they were praying, and offering their help. And I’m thankful that I had friends from all over who I could text to ask to pray. I apologize if I was a drama queen or annoying on social media Friday night/Saturday morning but it was a big ordeal…. my dad passed out while driving. We could have been seriously hurt or even killed, and something could have been wrong with my dad.
Friends have stopped by checking on Padre, and someone from church who we hardly ever talk to offered to let us borrow an extra vehicle of theirs until mom gets a new one/rental! Wow. The love, encouragement & support from people has been great.
I didn’t post this to let everyone and their mom know that my dad passed out behind the wheel Friday night, and doctors still don’t know why. I didn’t post this to let everyone know how scary it was. I didn’t post this for anyone… I posted this for me. Although I doubt I’ll ever forget snapshots and of the wreck, I want to remember it. I want to remember how God was looking out for us Friday night and stopped the car. It was such a God thing, and I’m so thankful He spared us (and the man we hit.) I want to remember how thankful I’ve been the past 64 hours… for everything and everybody. I want to remember the wreck.
Because for me, sometimes remembering makes it easier to forget.