19 August 2003 began like any other day. I got up around 6:30 (an hour that should be illegal!), got ready for my great temp job at a local insurance company, walked out to meet the bus. When the bus got to my stop, I began crossing the street for my 15-minute walk to work. I could’ve taken two buses to work (particularly because part of the walk was in a kind of seedy area), but I chose to walk because I love walking, and it was only 15 minutes.
It was about 8:00 in the morning, a bright, sunny day. I wore a long black velvet skirt and a blue and white checkered blouse with buttons and cuffed sleeves that went about to the elbows. I wore sneakers for the walk to work (I think they were black), but there were nicer shoes in my bag, to change into once I got to work.
I never made it to work, and never returned to that place. A permanent position was coming up in about a week, a position I’d planned to apply for and probably could’ve gotten, but in the blink of an eye, everything was turned upside-down, and, to quote Psalm 116, “The cords of Death encompassed me, the grave held me in its grip.”
The light changed when I was almost to the other side of the street, and an 86-year-old woman in a big black 2004 Chrysler immediately began driving. She didn’t wait for me to finish crossing the street. I went up onto the hood of her car, and she kept driving. I tumbled onto the road, and she kept driving. The car began going over me, and she still didn’t stop driving. In those moments, I truly believed I was about to die at only 23 years old. So many thoughts rattled around in my brain like crazed pinballs.
Then a miracle happened.
The Angel of Death passed me over.
If I hadn’t bodily stopped that car with my right leg, that old woman would’ve kept driving and probably killed me. My legs became lodged under the back driver’s side wheel, blocking the car from going any further. My right leg apparently used to be my dominant leg, and its final act of dominance was stopping that car. My left leg is now my dominant leg by default, even though I still physically have a right leg. Once you’ve been through an injury like that, you can’t regain all your former strength and mobility.
Both of my legs were locked under the wheel, but only my right leg broke. It rolled on top of the left leg and protected it. It was the most intense, excruciating pain of my life, as a 1,000+ pound car was crushing my legs and super-hot metal on the car’s underbelly burnt into my stomach and abdomen.
I firmly believe my uncle was watching over me. I also had an advantage due to my height and build. Being only 5’2 in sneakers, I had less distance to fall, and having a Southern Italian body type (barring my tiny little shoulders and arms!), there was more flesh to cushion the impact. A taller, thinner person might’ve been thrown or crushed.
I got off with first- and second-degree burns, a severely shattered tibia and fibula, a torn piece of kneecap, two teeth which needed root canals, and a lot of bruises, gashes, cuts, and scrapes. I’ve always been a bit of a bleeder and bruiser (to the point where I’ve speculated if I might be a hemophilia carrier), but on that day, there was no serious bleeding.
Finally, about 15–20 minutes later, a fire truck arrived and lifted the car off of me, and I was able to wiggle my toes. That was such a beautiful feeling, since I knew I wasn’t paralysed. But the pain in my leg was so intense, I just knew my leg had broken, and it was a terrible feeling. Then I tried to sit up to see if my back were broken, and the paramedics pushed me back down. When I fell off of a horse in September 2001, the riding instructor had said if I could sit up, my back wasn’t broken.
Between August 2003 and March 2009, I had seven surgeries, four leg and three plastic. I still don’t have full strength or range of motion in my right leg, there are still scars, and I have a limp, but there’s still breath in my body. I felt like garbage about having a limp until I discovered Curly Howard had a real-life limp. It was a huge shot of pride for me. Curly’s my limping hero.
I wish I’d never been run over, but my life wouldn’t be the same if I’d crossed the street normally. I would’ve evolved into a different person, with a different life. Everyone has their own version of normal, and this is mine.