Off to class, but not quite making it
A stressful event has just occurred, and once the dust has settled and the adrenal rush quiets down, next comes the inevitable question. Will my lupus flare? Traumas, losses and major life events have an effect on everyone experiencing them, but the impact can be more intense for someone with an autoimmune disease like systemic lupus. Only time will tell, but I will do what I can to help prevent it.
Earlier this week, like every Tuesday night, when 5:00 p.m. arrived, the computer at work shut down a couple of hours ahead of normal schedule, and a current project file stashed into a waiting tote, along with cell phone and a note or two about calls to make from home the next morning. atypically time conscious on Tuesdays, the quick dash to my parked PT Cruiser takes three minutes flat. The seat belt “clip” sounds at 5:05 and soon the little PT is off and rolling!
On schedule, but alerted by a sound from the gas gauge, the little PT must first head off toward a gas station on the way to the outer loop freeway. With plenty of time to spare for the stop, it feels good to be on schedule. Soon we, driver and PT, are merging onto the highway, on our way across town for a 6:00 p.m. degree completion class.
The Bluetooth cell phone speaker rings on the visor. My boss calls for a quick conversation about the status of a pending job offer to a prospective employee. That done, thoughts turn to the leadership topics we have studied at school, and the joint presentation my group will complete tonight. We are nearly ready to present it to the class next week, and just need a little more time after class to tweak content and coördinate our plans.
Silence, sounds and a sigh
Leaving the radio off, the silent noise of my thoughts is plenty of company. Up ahead, lanes are full and alarmingly tight with traffic. Suddenly, the PT brakes must slam down very hard and fast, quickly stopping behind the forming traffic jam. After a little controlled skidding, we came to rest a safe distance from the car ahead. The sighing thought forms in silence, “It is a good thing my little PT likes hanging back from the crowd of cars ahead, so there was room enough to make this urgent stop.”
The jarring sound of metal on metal instantly shatters the silence, and a millisecond later overwhelming force pounds through my body from behind. Still gripping the wheel, startled and shaken, awareness shifts to assessing emergent issues in a mental checklist: 1) am I okay? 2) get out of traffic 3) how bad is it? 4) how is the other guy? 5) call 9-1-1. By the time I got to the end of my checklist, I was in the emergency lane, out of my car for safety’s sake, leaning against the barrier, and put down the cell phone when I looked up at the other car and realized highway patrol was already on the scene.
A little bumped and shaken (okay, a lot), and very frustrated missing my college class, I was just grateful and thanking God it wasn’t any worse. Stinging, quickly tightening muscles in my back, neck and arms made it clear that going to class was no longer in the evening’s plan. After the officer pushed the man’s disabled pickup to the emergency lane behind mine, we answered questions and the officer returned to his patrol car with our licenses, insurance information and vehicle registrations.
Both drivers turned to cell phones to reach out to family, and in my call to contact my professor. The officer returned, offered to call paramedics for me, and held out a printed preliminary police report to me, and still holding the other copy in his hand, told me I was free to go. I heard him turn the gentleman that hit my care and start what sounded like a more intense conversation. I presumed to give him a traffic citation for causing the accident.
Back in the saddle, sort of
Back in the saddle, and merging back into traffic and exiting the freeway, the side streets seemed the most welcoming route home. My house was only five minutes away, so after driving with much trepidation, arriving home was a relief. I met my husband at home and he took me to the E.R. for a check up. After my spine x-rays were reviewed they gave me a muscle relaxer (Flexeril) and instructions to take Ultram for pain. I took the next couple of days off from work to rest and let my hurting neck and back recover. The day after the accident, the man’s insurance company contacted me to assure me they were accepting full liability, and would take care of my car repairs, a rental, my medical expenses and any other impacts from the accident.
We are unable to choose what life or traffic throw at us, but we can do what it takes to care for ourselves once it does. After a couple of days resting, I sat down at the computer and sent my two papers to my professor by email that were due to turn in the night I missed class. While resting over the weekend, the next thing was to finish writing the last paper for my class that ends next Tuesday night. The project presentation my team is giving on Tuesday was almost ready before my accident, so I am grateful we did not procrastinate on the project, so that I was able to fully rest when I needed it most.
The rental car will delivered early Monday morning, and then it will be back to work for me. Life moves on, trauma or not, so we slide back into the groove of daily life pretty quickly in the wake of life’s bumps and bruises. Perhaps because of the lupus, we can take these minor setbacks a little more in stride, after learning resilience from the stuff lupus throws at us on an ongoing basis. Just like lupus, so too with car accidents. We cannot pick the traumas and challenges we will face, but we can be grateful for what is good in our lives, and make the best of what is, without worrying too much over what we do not have or may have lost along the way.
And meanwhile, let’s be careful out there!