Mary – Car Accident Survivor – My Story

On November 5, 2007, I came down the stairs of my sister Emily’s house as my husband, Carmine and I had done for many years. They were having breakfast and watching the weather on TV. The weather was important to Emily because of the Pumpkin Patch they ran on weekends on her farm in Fenwick, Ontario. If it rained, the attendance was poor. Carmine and I spent many vacations at Emily’s house. We love Niagara Falls and the casinos there. Carmine and I were planning on going home in a few days. Since it was a nice day, Emily and I decided to take some wreaths to the family cemetery before the winter started. Little did we know of the tragedy we would encounter that would affect us the rest of our lives. When we finished laying the wreaths and saying our prayers, we got back into the car and started to leave. That is all I remember until December 24, 2007.

A city truck and trailer filled with salt hit our car. Neither of us saw the truck coming. The firemen from Thorold were called to the accident. They used the jaws of life to get us out of the car. An air ambulance took me to the Hamilton Health Science Centre. Emily was taken to the Welland General Hospital where she was stabilized and later transferred to the Hamilton hospital. We were both in critical condition. They put me in an induced coma for 7 weeks. I sustained severe catastrophic injuries to my head, my brain, multiple facial and cervical spine fractures. I had a broken neck, cheekbones, jaw and paralyzed vocal cord. I had broken ribs, collapsed lung and internal bleeding. Both arms and shoulders were injured and both ankles were broken. The muscle in my right shoulder is torn and the rotator cuff is injured.

I had surgery on my spine to fuse a bone in my neck. The bone was taken from my hip. The doctors had hoped it would heal with a neck brace, but it didn’t. The surgery was necessary to remove the risk of paralysis. This surgery took 8 hours. I have a strip of titanium about 10” long from the back of my head down to my neck. Both my legs have 8” strips of titanium with 4 prongs inserted in my ankles. I have metal in my forehead, around my eyes, nose and mouth with staples, to keep my face together. I have metal and screws in both cheek bones and under my jaw. My mouth was wired shut and a tracheostomy in my throat to help me breathe. I had a feeding tube inserted on my side to my stomach to feed me. I can’t lift my arm above my shoulder and can only move my head at a 45 degree angle. If at any time I look up, I get extremely dizzy. Sometimes the dizziness lasts for days.

My children came from Montreal to see me. My daughter did not recognize me. My face was swollen like a balloon and I had 2 black eyes. She saw recognition in my hands. She came every 2 weeks to help her father cope with the situation. He was 80 years old and in poor health himself. He drove 80 km. every day for 5 weeks from Fenwick to Hamilton to be with me. He would hold my hand and talk to me, make me comfortable, hoping I’d open my eyes. He would loosen the boots on my feet because I kept on trying to kick them off. The doctors told Carmine they put me back together with God’s help. My brother Mike, said that half of Welland was praying for me and my sister-in-law, Lina, said half of Montreal was praying, too. The doctor’s in Hamilton are miracle workers. If not for them, I would have been paralysed, a vegetable or not here at all. They are my hero’s and I hope someday I can meet the doctors that saved me. The nurses in the ICU were super. They would dance with Carmine to cheer him up when he was down. I also had many hallucinations and nightmares. I dreamt often that I was hungry and thirsty and no one would help me.

On December 13, 2007, I was transported by an air ambulance with a doctor and nurse to Pearson airport. We were all put on a jet and flew to Trudeau airport in Montreal, where I live. An ambulance then transported me from the airport to the Montreal General Hospital. I spent 2 weeks in ICU, still in a coma. When I was finally put in a room, I saw my husband Carmine, for the first time since November 5, 2007. I saw my daughter Patricia and granddaughter, Alana, too. She asked me if I remember going to the cemetery with Aunty Emily. I said yes, but no memory of anything else after that. She said I was in a terrible car accident.

At the Montreal General Hospital, Carmine came every day to be with me. He fed me, put the bedpan under me and left after I had dinner. When I saw him coming in the morning, I was very happy. I knew I’d be taken care of. I needed special glasses because of my vision, my dentures didn’t fit any longer because of my broken jaw and I needed a haircut. Carmine took care of all this. It took a while, but I eventually got what I needed. I had a lot of visitors, but I don’t remember anyone. My grandson Daniel had taken a wooden popsicle stick with a sponge attached to the end and dipped it in cold water and then put it in my mouth. I couldn’t drink because of the tracheostomy. Carmine spent Christmas with me and the children came the day after. They brought gifts and a small Christmas tree that I light up every Christmas since. Carmine Jr., Tina and the grandchildren would come every Saturday night. Tina would make a home cooked meal that was soft enough for me to chew. The grandchildren told me that I had to get better quick and come home because they missed me. I had great support from my family.

On January 13, 2008, I was transported to IRM Rehabilitation Centre on Darlington St. When I arrived at the rehab, the staff came to see me. They were very friendly and helpful. The next day I met my physiotherapist, Maude. I had a one-hour session with her every day. She worked on my legs and arms and in no time, I was eating by myself with my left hand. What a great place to recuperate. In one month, she had me in a wheelchair, in two months, I walked with a walker and in three months, I walked with a cane. After four months, I was climbing stairs. She is a super patient and caring therapist. She used me for her demonstrations with students. She is another one of my heroes.

I met my doctor Jehan Dagher who took great care of me the rehab centre. She would come in to see me, sit and talk with me. When I had a problem she would send me to see doctors at the Montreal General hospital where they kept my file from Hamilton. She was surprised that I was improving so quickly. I told her that I was a healthy person who was never sick a day in my life. Dr. Dagher is also a hero to me.

I woke up one morning in April and noticed a lump under my right ear. The ENT doctor took a biopsy and it was benign. In September, I had a parotid mass surgery. After the surgery, the right side of my face was numb for months. I couldn’t close my right eye and to this day, my right ear is still numb! I also had some hardware removed from my right cheek and my ears had been drained several times. In May 2008, I enter Lucie Bruneau Rehabilitation Centre as an outpatient. I had physio three times a week for one year.

I still have a long way to go. I have difficulty breathing and speaking. My one good vocal cord is getting weak and I hope I don’t lose it. My throat is sore, hoarse and congested. I can’t lift my arms above my shoulders, so my daughter, Patricia has to cut, dye and perm my hair. I get headaches often and my ankles swell often. We don’t go out much because I get tired quickly and my husband isn’t well. I thank God every day that I’m alive and can keep Carmine company. He is my knight in shining armour. I am so lucky to have him. I know I couldn’t have made it without him. We never know what God has planned for us. We have to accept it and go on with our lives and every day that comes has new challenges for me. I’m ready for them, with God’s help and my husband’s …..


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