Saturday, 20 April 2013

This is how I roll(ed)

I had such a busy day on Wednesday!  Up bright and early to get the Little Big Fella to kindy, then off to a CWA meeting, then home to pack the car and collect the Little Big Fella from kindy, then driving 7 or so hours to visit my family in our old town, and my parents who had ridden their motorbikes up from Victoria for a big over 50's motorbike event.

Well, that was the plan, anyway.

Everything was going to plan - I was even ready early to go collect the Little Big Fella from kindy!  Then we were on our way.

There were lots of roadworks happening - repairs from the flooding earlier in the year - and I was relieved when we finally turned off the highway to the inland route.  We stopped in the next major town for fuel and food, including a blueberry muffin for the Little Big Fella.

The trip had been pretty pleasant so far.  The scenery was lovely and we were getting along just fine.  I'd noticed that there were some sections along the road where the grass was really long!  I'd been thinking that it would be a major fire hazard once the land starts to dry out.

About two hours down the road from there the Little Big Fella decided that he wanted his muffin.  I'd unwrapped it and passed it back to him.  Then, after a few minutes he decided that he didn't really like it.

As he was passing it back to me he dropped it, and the wrappers, on the floor.  I reached back and picked up the muffin.  Then I reached back to get the wrappers.  I couldn't find the wrappers just by feel so, given that the road was straight and there weren't any cars, I turned my head around to look.

And that's where it all went wrong.

I must have brought the steering wheel with my eyes because when I flicked my vision back to the road I only have a memory of seeing tall grass.  At that stage I'm pretty certain we were still on the road, but possibly on the shoulder.

I sat up properly and tried to correct our path on the road, but must have overdone it.  I think at that stage I pulled the car back to the left, again over-correcting, then to the right, definitely over-correcting.

I remember thinking, "steer into the spin" followed by, "which way is that????".  I touched my foot on the brake and then realised that was the wrong thing to do and took my foot off and just held on.

The car spun around 180 degrees until we were on the other side of the road, facing the way we had come.  We just about stopped.  Everything was nearly alright.  And then I thought, "oh shit!  We're going over".

The car rolled over onto the roof.

I was either very disoriented or passed out momentarily because I suddenly realised the Little Big Fella was crying.  I recognised it as a scared cry, not a hurt cry and started talking calmly to him, telling him that we were okay.

Then he said to me, "Mummy, we're upside-down".

"Yes, we are honey but I'm going to undo my seatbelt, then come and undo yours and we'll get out of the car."

And I did.  Initially I couldn't open the door, then realised that the driver's door was up against all that long grass.  I tried the passenger door and it wouldn't open either.

"Oh bugger!  We're going to have to wait in here until the rescue guys arrive with their big car-opening tools", I thought!

But then I tried again, with a little more oomph and it opened pretty easily.

We climbed out and I saw 4 or 5 people already walking towards us, seeing if we were okay or if they could help.  And I was overwhelmed by their kindness.  How could so many people already have stopped?  And have that much concern?  I could see it in their faces - they were honestly concerned!  And I was just so grateful that we weren't alone.

I told them we were okay, it was just the two of us and we were okay, but I had no idea what to do next.  I was pretty shaky and still mildly dizzy.

I turned around and looked at the car:

I needed to call the Big Fella and let him know.
I needed to call my grandparents and let them know we wouldn't be staying there that night and that we were okay.
I needed to call Roadside Assist and find out how we could continue our journey, or get home.

Who to call first?  And was there even any phone reception?

A lovely man gave me his phone to try calling people but, as I'd guessed, there was no phone reception just there.

By the time we'd realised this, the local policeman turned up.  He'd just finished work and was on his way home, amazingly along that particular road at that particular time.  This was within a minute, maybe two of us getting out of the car.

The policeman radioed for a tow truck and the ambulance ("just to check us out" he said, "he's pretty bored right now anyway").

While he was on the radio I discovered that I was bleeding on my legs.  Turns out I had a couple of really small scratches, but because I hadn't realised I was even bleeding, they looked terrible.

You can hardly even see these ones, half way down to my ankle.
These two stung a little in the shower that night and the following day and were the ones that produced the most blood. But they're so small it's not even worth counting them!
I also saw the Little Big Fella's bike in the tray at the back and hoped that it was okay (he'd have been so devastated if it was busted!).  I looked closer and realised that it was suspended by the rope the Big Fella had tied it in with.  I undid the rope and wheeled it out from under the car.  It wasn't even scratched!

The next 4 hours are a bit of a blur of questions and physical checks.  The policeman checked for alcohol (0.0 of course!  I don't drink and drive.), the ambulance guy checked our blood pressure and my sugar levels, the policeman took pictures and asked questions, the tow truck guy turned up.

Hang on!  I have to brag about all of these people for a minute!  The tow truck guy was so wonderful to us!  He climbed back into the car and pulled all of our things out.  Nothing was broken except for a couple of boiled eggs in the esky!  Including the Little Big Fella's DVD player!  Later that evening he even went back to the car to collect something important from the glovebox for me.

The ambulance guy was completely laid back and made the whole experience a bit of an adventure for the Little Big Fella.  He was very calming and helped me not feel like a complete idiot.

The policeman obviously had his job to do in terms of finding out what happened, but he was so lovely about it and ended up being particularly helpful.  And that's beside the fact that he'd already finished work for the day and suddenly had to do at least an extra four hours work!  And he never made me feel like a stupid, female driver or anything along those lines.

After about an hour at the scene (I think), the ambo was ready to take us to hospital.  We'd already determined that we were okay, but with this kind of incident they always want to make sure there's no internal injuries or bleeding.  So he got the Little Big Fella into the back of the ambulance while I took the photo of the car and grabbed my handbag.  The rest of our things went into the back of the divvy van.

The Little Big Fella in the back of the ambulance, with the lovely ambo himself.
The ride to the hospital (about 10 or 15 minutes) was kind of exhausting for me.  The Little Big Fella asked a million questions about all of the things in the back of the ambulance - some things several times.

Actually, it was my first ride in an ambulance too!  And my first car accident.  And my first traffic ticket.

As soon as we pulled up at the hospital, the Little Big Fella undid his "seatbelt" and was eager to get out.  The ambo came around and opened the door and was completely surprised to find my Little Big Fella at the door waiting for him!

"I guess you want to walk yourselves inside then!" he said.

So we followed him inside to their emergency room where the next hour or so was completely taken up with answering questions and being poked and prodded.  Being such a small hospital, they didn't have x-ray or blood testing facilities so they had to do things the old fashioned way - touch, response and time.

I can't remember how many times they took our blood pressure, checked our eyes and asked us to move this way or that way.

After a little while the Little Big Fella realised that we weren't going to get to Gran and Poppy's or home to our place that night.  He started crying and saying he wanted his Daddy.  I hugged him and told him we'd be okay because we were going to sleep in a room with beds next to each other (at this stage I had no idea if we'd be in hospital overnight, or if we'd end up in a motel somewhere).  He calmed down but obviously wasn't very happy.

The nurses then decided to move us into a room (it was about three hours after the crash by now) and I set the Little Big Fella up with his DVD player (thankfully it had plenty of battery power left in it) and some of the food from our box and esky (the kitchen staff had gone home a while ago), and he was happy and comfortable.

Somewhere in the middle of all of that, I'd been given a phone and a few minutes to call the Big Fella.  He'd gone to bed and was just about asleep in preparation for an early morning shift at work.  I felt so horrible, effectively waking him up with such a shocking conversation.

And I guess I was nervous - not because I thought he'd be upset about the car really, but he'd be worried about us, even though we were okay.  And I knew he wouldn't be able to go back to sleep.  Which made me worry about him going to work.

The Big Fella took it really well and once we got off the phone he started calling Roadside Assist and our insurance company (turns out you have to get a claim going with your insurance company for the Roadside Assist to be able to do much for you).  Throughout the evening the nurses were wonderful Personal Assistants, answering phone calls between us and taking messages!

Beside that, the nurses were absolutely wonderful and did a great job of standing in for my mum, as well as providing the necessary medical care.  I felt comforted and as comfortable as possible, and I knew that my little boy was okay in their care.

I also got to call my grandparents.  Again, I felt awful making that call because I knew that even though I told them we were okay, they'd be awfully worried.  And disappointed too.  We were all very much looking forward to catching up!

The policeman eventually got a chance to take a recorded statement.  I was kind of glad that it had taken that long to get to it, because I'd had a chance to remember more details than I could at the side of the road.  It also gave me a chance to thank him for all of his help, and for being so willing to do it out of hours.  He'd been exceptionally kind about it all and was part of the reason I was able to keep it all together.

Eventually it worked out that Roadside Assist arranged for the tow truck guy to drive us to the next town an hour closer to home (there was no accommodation available in the little town we'd crashed outside of) after we were released from hospital (and after I finally got cleaned up and had a tetanus injection - which caused me more pain than anything else over the next two days!).  We stayed in a motel room for the night and the Little Big Fella slept like a log!

Unfortunately, I didn't.

My brain kept running through everything that had happened, and how much worse it could have been, and what was going to happen next.  And then my body started to get a bit sore - not in any of the ways the doctor had said to look out for, just in a sore back and a stiff neck.

The next morning I woke feeling only slightly refreshed and unsure about what the day held for us, but so grateful for all the little miracles as well as the big one of being unhurt!

We had a slow start then went down to breakfast in the restaurant.  They'd even cooked the Little Big Fella's eggs without the yolk, just how he likes it, which helped start the day well.

I spent most of the next four hours on the phone to various people, attempting to work out what was happening and if we could continue our journey, or how we'd make it home.

After lots of to-ing and fro-ing, trying this option and that option, we decided that it was going to work out best if we made our way home.  That required a taxi to the next town, another hour closer to home, to collect a hire vehicle.  Then I'd drive us the two hours plus home.

Because of how small the town was, the taxi driver was painting under his house when I called.  He picked us up (we'd gone out for a bike ride so the Little Big Fella could get some energy out), took us to the corner shop that the taxi owner ran, went home to shower and change while we had a little bite to eat and relaxed, then took us back to the motel to collect our things.

We got to the town and eventually found the hire vehicle place (it was part of a tyre repair workshop with basically no signage).  As I headed to the vehicle I felt sick with nerves.  So I decided to stop at KFC for lunch before we drove the rest of the way home.

As we were coming out of the parking lot after lunch, I realised that I was driving like a nervous Nelly and needed to calm down so that I didn't cause another accident.  I had to suck it up and get back on that horse!

On the way home a car was overtaking from the opposite direction and I didn't think they'd get back onto their side of the road in time.  I braked (carefully) and they made it back with plenty of room, but it shook me up again.

I didn't turn around to the back seat for anything as we drove this time.  Every time the Little Big Fella needed something I found a safe place to pull over then dealt with whatever it was.  I don't think I'll ever take my eyes off the road for him again!  That extra couple of minutes on the trip, even if it adds up to an extra half hour over the whole trip, is not worth the fear and anxiety of having put my son's life in danger - even though it thankfully turned out okay.

My grandparents called me when we were nearly home.  I was SO tempted to answer the phone because I knew they were anxious about us.  But there was nowhere to pull over and I wasn't going to risk it.  I got to speak to them the next day (they were out that evening) and I think we're going to have to plan another trip down soon (maybe by train???).  I get the feeling they won't be satisfied that we're okay until they hold us in their arms.

We got home and the dogs barked up a storm, not recognising the vehicle.  We got upstairs and there was my husband!  Yes, that was a big hug moment!

By this stage I was completely exhausted.  My back was sore, my neck was stiff, (amazingly no seatbelt bruises though!), my tetanus injection site was sore, I was emotionally wrung out.  The Big Fella cooked us steak and veges for dinner and I was in bed just after 8.

I slept, only waking briefly once, for about 11 hours!  When I woke I had a long, hot shower and finally had a chance to cry out all of the tension that had built up over the past 40 hours.  I felt amazingly good after that sleep, shower and cry!

The Big Fella went to work fairly early, and the Little Big Fella and I went and visited his best friend.  It was exactly what we needed - the Little Big Fella got to play and I got to have a chat with a friend who didn't push me and let the whole thing drop when I needed to.  She also recognised the miracles in the whole situation, which helped me immensely.

I got to take a brain break from thinking or talking about the accident for most of that day and I definitely needed that.  It's the main reason this post is only just done now.  Then last night I got to catch up with a couple of other friends, briefly tell the story and then move on to other, much more fun things - craft and painting nails :-D

The car has been written off.  Amazingly, we'd actually signed a lease on a vehicle last month and asked them not to deliver it until early May.  We'd decided to keep the Rodeo as the Big Fella's car, because a man needs a ute. He's been in contact with the lease company and they're trying to get it to us by the end of the month.  Add another little miracle; we can have the hire car until the 29th of the month!  I guess the Big Fella will have to do with a trailer instead of a ute, but he's happy enough with that because he still has his family.

Our insurance company has informed us that we are eligible for emergency cost refunds, so our breakfast at the motel, the cost of the taxi, and possibly the cost of returning the hire vehicle to a closer town will be reimbursed.

I can't walk away from this without believing that we have been incredibly looked after!  From the tiny things like the DVD player working, to the major thing of coming out alive and uninjured, to the financial stress being practically nil, to the amazing people who helped us along the way... all miracles that make me so grateful for my life and my family and my friends and the way my life is.

So people, don't take your eyes off the road!  And hug your loved ones whenever you can - no matter what's annoying you about them, there are more important things in life.


  1. OMG how terrifying!!!
    I am so glad you are both OK, what a miracle!

    1. Hi Toria!
      Yeah, it was a tad scary... okay, it WAS really scary. But I didn't have time to be scared because there were things that needed doing and my son needed me to be his safe place. But whenever I think back I imagine all the things that COULD have gone wrong and it completely freaks me out! Obviously I try not to think about it much ;-)
      And yeah, the miracles have just been amazing! And they're continuing! I've had SO many offers from people here in my town to borrow their car, take the Little Big Fella to kindy, pick up stuff from the shops for us etc. etc. It's humbling and lovely.