Two Girlfriends, One Car crash, and Seven life lessons

Hi, Girlfriends and Guy friends.

Car crashes are NEVER good. 

Especially when your husband totals your girlfriends’ car.

I promise to tell the crash story (a.k.a. Part 2), but first, read Part 1 because it’s directly related to Part 2.

Oh, and then plan to read the finale, Part 3, to learn about John’s second cardiac event.

You’ll understand why I haven’t posted for six weeks!

March chest pain and my Girlfriend visit

It was a lovely Saturday morning on March 30th as John, and I began traipsing up Soldier Trail for a hike.  You’ll recall two months earlier we had unsuccessfully completed this trail because John had chest pain that led to his first cardiac stent.

Guess what. The chest pain happened again!

John placed a nitroglycerine tablet under his tongue- which erased the pain.

We turned around to go home, knowing a trip back to the Cardiologist was in order.  Since it was Saturday, John planned to call for an appointment on Monday. 

Coincidentally, my girlfriend Laurie was arriving in Phoenix from Wisconsin the very next day.  I planned to drive up from Tucson, pick her up at her hotel, and enjoy a girl’s road trip to the Grand Canyon.   

John assured me that he’d be fine almost pushing me out the RV door for my it’s-been-too-long-since-my-last-girlfriend-get-together-and-need-not-worry-about-John’s-health.

Northern Arizona Fun

Laurie and I reunited at her Phoenix hotel the next morning filling the parking lot with warm hugs and giggling.  I drove us north through Saguaro Cacti covered hills leading to our lunch destination “The Haunted Hamburger” in quirky Jerome, Arizona.   

Two hours later it was delightful hearing Laurie ooh and aah at the red rocks of Sedona.  Next, we passed Humphrey’s Peak in Flagstaff squinting at the bright snow cap.  Perfect timing brought us to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon just as the sun was setting.  After dinner, we retired to our hotel room for conversation and more giggles.

Girlfriends who care

I was having such fun sharing the beauty of Arizona with Laurie that I almost forgot about John’s chest pain the day before.

That night I updated Laurie with John’s health scare.  She offered huge listening ears to my babbling words.  Being able to speak of the scariness to my girlfriend seemed to loosen the grip that fears placed around my heart. 

Intoxicating vistas and dirty hiking boots   

The next day Laurie and I awoke excited to experience the Canyon on a hike.  Before heading down the South Kaibab Trail, we packed snacks into our backpacks, filled our camelbacks with water, and grabbed our hiking poles. 

Again, it was exhilarating to witness Laurie’s joy as we descended from the ridgeline taking in the dramatic panorama of this natural wonder.  Our 3.5-mile hike to our lunch spot and turnaround whetted Laurie’s appetite for the Canyon. 

Heading towards the Crash

Laurie and I had Tuesday morning to hike a bit of the South Rim, meet an adorable Sheepadoodle, and enjoy the vistas before heading back to Tucson. 

On our drive, my cell phone rang around 3 p.m., and it was John.  I began to share on speaker phone about our awesome trip when he interrupted me. 

“I’m in the Trauma Unit of Banner Hospital.  I had a car accident with Kathi’s car, and I think I totaled it.” 

I responded…. “WHAT?”

I took a sideways glance at Laurie’s stunned face which confirmed what we just heard. 

He told us what happened, but all I remember is “Big black truck,” “blind spot,” “T-Boned,” “Neck pain,” “CT Scan,” “concussion,” “no brain bleed,” “discharged today.” 

The Totaled Car

Here is a photo of what used to be Kathi’s car.

Crisis Mode kicks in

Laurie asked me “Do you want me to drive?  Do you want to pull over for a while?”  My response was no.  My M.O. is always the same when a crisis arises.  (Probably from my nurse’s training).  I stay calm, focused, and begin doing mental checklists and triage to move towards solving the problem at hand.  I’d be fine to drive. 

(Truth be told, it’s 3 or 4 days later when I fall apart.)

2nd Time to this Trauma Unit in 3 months

Laurie and I drove straight to Banner Medical Center’s Trauma Unit.  It was Deja-vu.  Just three months earlier I was with my friend Kathi (yes, whose car John crashed!) in the same Trauma Unit after her biking accident and head injury. 

Luckily John had no broken bones, a few skin lacerations, and would certainly be sore for days.  The airbags had done their job protecting (perhaps saving?) his life!

Laurie Ubered it to her hotel from the hospital as I went in to attend to John. 

How to tell Kathi?! 

Honestly, this was the most stressful situation knowing that John was responsible for destroying our friends’ car! 

Before I arrived at the Trauma Unit, John left a voice mail with Kathi for her to call him.  She had been out with friends all day, and John was also supposed to be watching her cat, Lilac.

I too called Kathi’s cell phone, but she did not answer.  I left a general “hey, as soon as you get this message give me a call.”  My memory is a bit blurred, but around 5 or 6 Kathi did call us back telling us she and her friends were heading home. 

I was so grateful that she was not alone and had her best friends with her when she got the bad news. When we got home to the RV Kathi and her friends greeted us with nothing but concern and love. 

Fast Forward

I’m going to end this story now because the next two weeks were basically full of the post-trauma stuff you must do after accidents.  There was lots of contacting insurance companies, mixed with watching John’s deep bruising appear, whispering heartfelt apologies over and over to Kathi, and hourly thanking God that John was not seriously injured or dead! 

Ending on the positive

Here are some truths that I’ve walked away with from this car crash story.  These are gifts from my two girlfriends that I’d like to share with the world.  I am forever grateful for their maturity and friendship.

  1. Being on the receiving end of Kathi’s grace was humbling.  She could have been derogatory, scolding, belittling, tossing contempt our way, slamming John’s reputation, or gossiping about us.  Instead?  Her concern ran deep and wide as she continued to check on John and saying things like “cars can be replaced, people cannot.”  Thank you, Kathi.
  2. Shared misfortune can deepen friendships.  The car accident necessitated having some conversations about health and finances that you usually don’t have with your RV’ing buddies. Kathi and I had also enriched our relationship a few months back as we processed her bike accident and some other health issues.  We have a new special bond.
  3. Humor and forgiveness are priceless.  Kathi’s first words upon hearing about the accident were “Well, I didn’t want to pay for new tires on that car anyway!”.  This comment was a balm to our devastated ears and hearts.  We kept repeating how sorry we were, and “please forgive John” for this accident.  She accepted our sorrow and replaced it with forgiveness.  One sure way to strengthen a friendship is to be supportive- even when it hurts. 
  4. Healthy communication decreases stress.  To avoid the rumor mill going amok at our RV resort, Kathi offered to communicate to our peeps through email and face to face with friends. She could have turned it into a gossip mess or worse yet, internalized her anger, frustrations, and fears and stressed her body.
  5. Authenticity trumps platitudes.  Kathi and I had to practice real-life discussions on insurance claims and legal stuff which is entirely mentally draining.  I was honored how she walked toward the dialogue, not backing down.  At times it felt like we were unwrapping trauma bandages but luckily only to reveal the healing wounds underneath.  The good news?  She got a new car in the process, and all the insurance stuff is a thing of the past.
  6. I’ve lost all faith in coincidences. Laurie’s trip to Arizona was perfectly timed and medicinal for me.  Additionally, we had my friends Beth and Randy coming the week before John’s second heart cath.  Again, the timing of these friends’ visits proved helpful in distracting our stress from the moment.   My advice to my readers is to trust your gut when spontaneous travel plans arise.  There are going to be undeniable blessings that come out of it. 
  7. Seeing gifts in painful moments.  As Laurie and I received the news about John’s accident and continued our drive towards the hospital, I glimpsed her quietly clasping her hands together and just being still.  I knew she was praying for me right at the moment.  As I witnessed this gift that only she could give it brought tears to my eyes and strength to my resolve.

Your Turn

  • Have you been in a traumatic situation like this one? Who can you identify with?  Kathi? John? Laurie? Or me?
  • Is there someone who needs your forgiveness for a mistake they made?
  • Have you been able to verbalize your fears, frustrations, failures lately? 
  • Who would you be if you took out that one stressor away that clogs your brain?
  • Who is that friend or family member who you can go to in times of stress?

Whew!  We’re not done yet, Girlfriends and Guy friends.  There is one last (I hope!) chapter to this saga. 

Click here for part 3 of John’s second cardiac procedure and how much it cost!  Plus, you’ll learn about our health sharing co-op that we are a part of. 

Click here if you haven’t read part 1; John’s first cardiac event.

Click here to read about Kathi’s traumatic bike accident.   

Click here if you need a good laugh about our dog, Penny.  She promises to write another post from a dog’s perspective of life on the road- now that Johnny is done having cardiac events.

Love,

Gretty

4 unexpected biking lessons with my girlfriend!

Hi, Girlfriends and Guy friends and Happy New Year!    

Accidents can happen so quickly!

Last Sunday was a beautiful day here in Tucson, Arizona.  John and I had just finished eating lunch and I decided to take a spin on my mountain bike around The Voyager RV resort.  My girlfriend Kathi (who is parked right next to us) was available to ride along so we headed out onto the street together. 

We rode side by side around the resort chatting away about all those things that girlfriends talk about when they have a half hour bike ride ahead of them.  Mind you, the two of us had done this ride at least a dozen times.  We began our usual route taking the streets on the outermost loop of The Voyager.  

Without warning

There we were.  Pedaling along without a care in the world.  About 10 minutes into our ride we made the usual left turn onto 18th Street which is a long straight stretch about 1/3 mile long.  At this point, Kathi slowed a bit and tucked behind me since a car was approaching from the opposite direction nearly 4 blocks in front of us.   

All of a sudden I felt a thunk on my back tire.  Before I knew it, my bike was falling down. 

We were probably only going 8 miles an hour and I easily side hopped off of my bike in order to avoid falling to the ground. 

But here’s the thing.  It’s weird what goes through your mind at a time like this. 

In that split second, I thought it odd that Kathi had not shouted any warning like “Oh crap, I’m falling” or “Watch out, I’m going to run into you”. 

As I’m thinking all this, my peripheral vision saw her on the ground- still straddling her bike. Arm flung over her head.    

Busted, literally!

Bad us.

Kathi and I never wore helmets when biking inside the RV resort.  Ugh.  And now I was staring at my girlfriend lying in the street with a head injury!  

I quickly knelt beside her.  She did not respond when I called her name!  She had hit her head on the asphalt and blood was beginning to pool under her head. 

My years of nursing training kicked into gear.

The longest 30 seconds ever

Again, I called her name.  Again she did not respond to my voice.  I noted her breathing was labored.  Her eyes were rolled back.  Her glasses and hearing aides had flown off and were a couple feet to our left. Her left leg was twisted and caught under her bike.  

I grabbed my phone from my bike basket and called 911.  At the same time, a neighbor stuck her head out her door.  I requested wet washcloths and a towel to place under Kathi’s head.  Two people in a golf cart drove up and asked what they could do.  I told them to call the guard gate and inform security. 

After about 30 seconds, Kathi started moving her arms and moaning. 

I was so relieved! 

Keeping calm

She instinctively reached for the back of her head and attempted to raise it off the ground.  Her hand came away covered in her blood.  

As I wiped her hand I began assessing her neuro status. Her pulse was steady but weak, her breathing was now regular.  I continued with; “What is your name?” “Please squeeze my hand” “Stick out your tongue for me”  “Can you smile for me?” “Wiggle your feet” “What day of the week is it?”  “Where are you?”    

Kathi was able to follow my directions but failed the last two questions.  She had no idea where she was or what day of the week it was.  

Meanwhile, a crowd had gathered around us there in the middle of the street.  Several people told me to move her to the side of the road.  Without taking my eyes off of Kathi, I stated. 

Nope.  She is NOT moving.  She is going to stay right here until EMS arrives.   

“What about Lilac?”

As I shaded Kathi’s face she began to talk and ask questions.  “What happened?” “Do I really need to go to the hospital?” “Lilac needs to go inside my camper”.  “This is so embarrassing!”  I and the crowd reassured her as we waited for EMS.  

I called John my husband.  He put Kathi’s cat inside her coach, grab Kathi’s purse, bringing our blood pressure cuff, and my purse.  

It only took him 5 minutes to arrive in our Jeep.  Kathi’s blood pressure was high.  I felt better having John with me!

6 more men to help 

EMS arrived in about 15 minutes and quickly took over the scene.  The team leader asked me dozens of questions as the other 5 assessed Kathi’s condition.  

The drive to the trauma unit of Banner Health Care took 25 minutes.  I was grateful to ride along in the ambulance.  Sitting shotgun up front with the driver I listened as the paramedics cared for Kathi in the rear.  I was impressed with their focused attention; continually assessing Kathi’s level of consciousness and her vitals. 

Impresssive trauma unit 

I walked behind the paramedics as they wheeled Kathi into trauma room #3.  

There to greet her were 9 trauma team members.   Yes, 9! 

What followed was like watching a choreographed dance team.

Each person had their assigned duties and position.  Within 2 minutes they had Kathi on IV fluids, monitors, all tests ordered and fully assessed. 

From the outside looking in

I stood outside the room watching.  Suddenly I was approached by the trauma unit social worker and chaplain.  They stared into my eyes asking questions with such concern for Kathi that I burst into tears.  Apologizing for my emotional reaction I attempted to describe the relief I felt watching my friend being attended to.  Their response was simply to hug me, which naturally caused me to cry some more!

By 6 p.m. a room was ready for Kathi.  She had sustained a concussion and luckily her CT scan was negative for additional trauma.  We helped her get settled then headed back to The Voyager to check on her cat and close her windows for the night.  

The next day I spoke to Kathi’s nurse on the phone to see when discharge papers would be ready.  John and I drove down to Banner medical center and brought Kathi home around 3 pm.  What a relief she felt!  

It’s a week later and we’ve kept a very close eye on my dear friend.  It is a pleasure to see her feeling better with each passing day.  

Lessons learned

  1.  Helmets.  We will now ALWAYS wear helmets, even if we are simply biking three blocks to check our mailbox.  Remember, your head doesn’t know the difference between a fall at 8 mph or 50 mph.  Please learn from my stupidity!  Begin 2019 by wearing a bike helmet or order one below.  Your head is worth protecting!  
  2. Education.  I’m sharing this story so you won’t experience what Kathi and I went through. Please spread the word
  3. Eat food before biking.  We are still not sure what made Kathi fall off her bike last week.  She cannot remember if she lost her balance after feeling dizzy, or if she got distracted by something causing her to wobble and fall.  What we do know is that she had not eaten yet and that might have been the cause for her lightheadedness. 
  4. Listen to a friend’s knowledgeable advice.  I was grateful Kathi was not alone when she fell.  I’m also thankful she listened to me when I insisted she receive an evaluation at the hospital.  It wasn’t until arriving at the trauma unit that she recognized her symptoms were serious.     
  5. It’s important to replace your bike helmets about every three years. Did you know that there is new helmet technology that addresses “concussion-mitigation”?  Read about it here.  

How about your story?

Now that you’ve heard my biking boo-boo do you have one to share?  

What other advice do you have to share that would be helpful to us all?

Do you wear a helmet when biking?  If not, why not?  Will you order one in the links below?  

Wishing you all a safe and adventurous 2019!

Your unlikely RVer,

Gretty

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