January has been a stressful month, yesterday has been even more so. I was driving on the highway to work. Everything went as the usual, I was just two exits away from my destination when a vehicle decided to merge into my lane, a little too tight for my comfort. It was no big deal though, I decided to change lanes to the left. As I changed lanes I must have hit a slippery patch because I could feel my rear tires lose traction. My car started to fish-tail. Like a dog wagging its tail frantically, too eager to see its owner. My car bucked like a rodeo bull as I desperately turned my steering wheel to counter the swinging movements. I was but a foot away from the vehicle beside me, I remember thinking Don’t hit the vehicle! Please! As I tried with all my might to steer the car in the opposite direction. My hopes of getting traction back vanished as my vehicle just fishtailed even harder. I can visualize my car spinning out. This all happened in a matter of seconds, there wasn’t enough time to think as my car swerved towards the side of the highway. I didn’t have time to look in my side mirrors to see if there were vehicles nearby in the heavy traffic of rush hour. All I remember seeing were the bushes rushing up to meet my face as I slammed on my breaks in hopes to slow the vehicle down. I remember thinking Shit!! And hoping not to hit any rocks or trees or rolling over too many times. Next thing I knew, I was sitting inside the vehicle that has been tilted sideways onto its left side. My heart was pounding, I’ve never felt so much adrenaline in my body before. My hands were shaking. I remember trying to turn the engine off, but it wouldn’t let me. I tried a couple of times, not realizing that I was still in drive (thanks to the adrenaline), and gave up. I also remember being frustrated that the radio was still on and creating noise that I don’t need to deal with at the moment.
Instinctively I grabbed my cell phone, thankful that it hadn’t been flung away from me. My first thought was to call 911, then decided there was probably someone outside calling 911 right now. Besides, I’m okay, I don’t need an ambulance (also the thought of my colleagues coming to rescue me doesn’t necessarily strike a high note in my books). So I called my boyfriend instead as I unbuckled my seatbelt.
Me: “Hey…(in a slightly shaky voice)…I got in a car accident. I’m stuck and I can’t get out.”
Boyfriend: “Awww babe. Where are you?”
I attempted the side passenger door but wasn’t able to open it. I walked to the rear of the vehicle and managed to push up on the right rear passenger door and open it a crack.
Me: “I’m on the highway at xxxxx…”
Surprised, I saw a hand from the outside help hold the vehicle door open. Several witnesses had stopped along the highway and decided to help. One man held the door open as I pulled myself out of the vehicle. He helped me down from the car. Then they saw my uniform and I saw a surprised look on their faces. I’m sure I’ll make a great dinner time story for their families.
Me: “Did I hit anyone? Is anyone else hurt?”
Bystander: “No, it was just you.”
I breathed a sigh of relief, I was so worried I might have caused an accident behind me or hit another vehicle.
Bystander: “Are you okay?”
Me: “Yeah…thank you.”
I was shaking all over from the horrific event. I could have died, yet I got away without a scratch. One lady was on her cell phone talking to dispatch. When she saw me, she handed me the phone and told me to talk to them. I told them I’m a paramedic and that I’m okay as I stepped away from the vehicle towards the side of the highway. Then to my surprise I was greeted by two familiar faces. One of my colleagues who was also driving to the same workplace had stopped to help out. It was a relief to see someone I know, especially so unexpectedly. He sat me down in his vehicle so I could calm my nerves and spoke to dispatch instead.
Within minutes an ALS crew arrived, even though I told dispatch I’m fine and I don’t need an ambulance. Another minute later a BLS unit arrived along with three fire trucks, and a police officer. Gosh, what a mess! I went into the ALS ambulance where I met two fellow colleagues and introduced ourselves. He ran a set of vitals on me, as per usual standards. I told him I’m fine and I won’t be needing to go to the hospital, that I’m just shaken up from the incident. I remember seeing this medic the day before when I was working out of a nearby station. What a strange place and situation to be making friends.
Instead of tying up an ALS crew, I was left with the BLS crew who decided to wait with me until my boyfriend came to pick me up. We watched as the tow truck driver pulled my vehicle from its side onto its wheels then dragged up the ditch onto the road.
Firefighter: “So who’s car is this?”
BLS Paramedic points at me. The firefighter looks at me and chuckles, thinking it’s a joke (remember I’m in uniform so I blend right in with the crew).
Firefighter: “Wait, are you serious?”
I nodded thinking, gosh, this story sure is going to go around: Paramedic crashes vehicle.
It was not until later that I realized I just narrowly missed a concrete barrier and a pole when I plummeted into the ditch. It took a miracle for me to have been going 100km/hr in rush hour traffic to spin out, not hit any other vehicles, nor cause any accidents behind me, and to be able to walk out with no injuries aside from a stiff neck. If there was such a thing, I crashed into the perfect place. A nice muddy ditch, moistened by rain, and then into a soft bush. There were rocks and trees around, and somehow I missed all of those and landed in the perfect spot.
I’ve seen many motorvehicle accidents on the highways, I know what could happen. In fact, I did a really bad call two weeks ago where my patient had died despite everything we did to save him. That could have been me. I could have died. I could have suffered serious injuries. I could be celebrating my birthday in the hospital right now. But I got lucky, God must have been looking out for me.
It was such a stressful event, I remember breaking out into tears when my boyfriend came to pick me up and he gave me a hug. Just the thought of all the possibilities that could have happened. It was too much to bear.
I suppose the accident gave me a new perspective. In life, you just never know. I’ve driven in way trickier conditions. Driven on roads where there was snow, ice, poor visibility. Yet it wasn’t in those conditions that my vehicle decided to slip, it was on a relatively good visibility day, with light rain, no snow, relatively warm temperatures. I had snow tires on, I was driving within the speed limit, I had enough sleep…what happened was so unpredictable. It really made me appreciate everybody close to me, everybody I love and cherish, so much more. Life can change in just a split second, it was a good reminder to never hesitate to do a good act, or to forgive someone, or tell them how much you love them or care about them.
I want to thank the crews that came out to help me that day. They were all very professional and fun people. I look forward to working with them on the street in the near future, as a fellow paramedic and not as the patient.