In February of 2013, I was headed home to Deforest on Hwy 51 and a drunk driver came into my lane hitting me head on. The impact often replays in my head when I’m in a car. I was 10 weeks pregnant.
The drunk driver lost his life and it would have been his 4th OWI. I was pinned in my car as my driver’s side tire had crushed my left foot. I remember feeling so terrified, the smoke and chemicals from the airbags made me think my car was going to start on fire and I couldn’t get out. Other drivers pulled over, but no one came to me as I was screaming out my window. I had no idea what had happened and all I could think about was losing my child. Eventually, a sheriff arrived and then they used the jaws of life cut my vehicle, and got me out. I was very lucky.
I had emergency surgery and was put under general anesthesia and had to take narcotic pain meds. My only injuries were 3 shattered metatarsals, a broken and dislocated talus (ankle) bone of my left foot. I had 2 plates and 14 screws placed in my foot to put it back together. My surgeon said he had to collect all the bone pieces and then piece them together to make a bone from point A to point B.
In the hospital, I waited for days wondering when and if I would miscarry. I never did. Today, she is a spirited 3 year old who reminds me every day of what I could have lost.
I spent the next 12 weeks unable to walk and every time I did need to move my foot would get this intense pressure, feeling as if it was about to explode. I woke up in night sweats after nightmares of the impact and me being unable to get out. Sheets completely soaked and I would scream and wake my family. I couldn’t have the hardware removed until I delivered my miracle. For 9 months I was either in a cast or a boot, with crutches. I had graduated from nursing school 2 years prior. 4 years later and I deal with chronic pain everyday. I was unable to return to my job that required so much waking and was recently blessed with a job working for my local school district as a nurse, where the patients mostly come to me. I went through a deep, dark depression and struggled for a long time, requiring 3 different mental health medications to get me through.
Today, I wear a semi colon tattoo on my wrist to show mental health issues are real and can happen to anyone. While I never thought about suicide, I struggled with PTSD, my life completely changed and not understanding what to do. When all the sirens, casts were gone, I was left with so much to deal with. On the outside I looked healthy but inside I was full of pain and feelings I didn’t understand. Today, I am doing much better.
I have come to accept a life of pain and refuse to take narcotic pain meds. I have went through a ton of PT and finally found a doctor who has made a difference in my pain by injecting my scars to loosen them up. These painful procedures have come from heaven as has this doctor. This week my provider and I presented to a committee with my insurance to appeal their denial to cover prolotherapy for my foot. Although they cover knees and elbows, they don’t cover ankles. They denied it again. I don’t drive much and when I do, it’s a pretty big deal. It was struggle to get me in the car, home from the hospital. We bought our house 2 months before the accident moving from Madison and after the accident I told my husband we had to sell and move back, I couldn’t drive 51 again. Luckily, they have changed it to have 2 lanes each way separated or I would have continued my move plan. I’ve lost friends, a job and other things as a result of my pain. But I am blessed to be here as so many don’t make it.
– Colleen Ehle