The driver and occupants of the car that stopped to help lived well beyond my great uncle’s ranch, in a geodesic dome. There was an Indian witch doctor among them. While that seems odd to write now, it was very calming at the time. He stayed with me, along with someone else from the car, while the others drove up to the ranch to get my great uncle and grandma. Even then I was dreading their arrival, fearing their reaction to seeing the horrendous accident scene and my brother.
I remember feeling like it was chaotic as they tended to me. They discussed trying to move me but felt they should wait for the paramedics. Everyone took great care not to jostle me because it was impossible to ascertain, at the scene, the full extent of my injuries. They were asking me basic questions to assess my mental state: my name, where I lived, what year it was, who the president was, my home address, etc. I remember being lucid and able to answer them, but also feeling a million miles away, disconnected from this new reality.
My brother was my mother’s biological son with her first husband. When she was told by her doctors at the time that she should not attempt another pregnancy, she and her husband decided to adopt. I was adopted at birth. My parents split up about a year later and my mom met and soon re-married. Because I was so young at the time, and through a series of events not completely known to me, my mother’s second husband adopted me and he has been the only father I have known.
My brother was my mother’s favorite. I don’t say that with any bitterness or resentment, but as a statement of fact. He was so much like her, not only in resemblance, but in manner, attitude, temperament, personality, and talents. He was, after all, her first born (son, no less). I never felt that I was loved any less and I knew from a young age that my parents wanted to have another child so badly that they adopted me. But he was beloved. So, as these horrific events were unfolding, I knew that my mother would never be the same, and I feared what that would mean.
It took some time for them to return from the ranch. As my grandmother stepped foot from the car, she began to wail an almost primal cry as her hand flew to her mouth to stifle it. I am sure the scene was beyond devastating to take in. I remember feeling heart broken seeing her in so much pain. I replayed the events leading up to the accident wondering if I could have done anything to prevent it and whether any one would think that I should have. I didn’t know it at the time but that feeling was survivor’s guilt. I somehow believed that it might have been easier on everyone if it had been me instead of my brother. I know that sounds awful and it brings tears to even write it, but it is true.
It took another thirty to forty-five minutes for the paramedics to arrive. Things happened very quickly once they did. They were swarming around me, each calling orders to the next. They were asking how long ago I thought the accident occurred, if I remember losing consciousness at the time or if I blacked out since, where did I hurt, what could I move. They were taking my vital signs, tending to my wounds, and talking amongst themselves in hushed tones about my leg. After all, it was still bent behind me in the middle of my thigh. Everything was very clinical and no one was tending to my emotional wounds. They gathered all their tools which included two wooden splints. Triage took about ten minutes then things grew quiet. One of them approached me and explained that it was time to move me off of the tire and that they needed to set my leg. In order to do that, they were going to have to lift me and bend my leg back into position. He said it was going to hurt, a lot, but just for a few seconds. He asked me if I understood and I must have nodded because the rest of the paramedics and the others gathered around. Everyone was given a task whether it was to lift me, or support and move my leg, or distract me, or position the boards. Even though it only took a minute or so, it was carefully choreographed as I believe no one wanted to hurt me further or exacerbate some unknown internal injury.
They told me it would happen on the count of three and to try to exhale rather than hold my breath when it did. He counted 1 – 2 – 3 and BAM! I felt a searing pain as they repositioned my leg, a pain so severe that it sent me into shock (if I wasn’t there already). The splints were placed on either side of my knee and bandages were wrapped around and around to keep them solidly in place. Because we were in a ravine, they carried me out by hand, interlocking their arms to form a stretcher, to a waiting gurney and ambulance.