In an Instant

It’s true that life can change in an instant. Even when you’re lucky.

Last October Laura and I traveled to Colorado Springs to see Kyle play soccer. We had also gone the year before, a quick, exhausting in-and-out trip to Denver that wore us both out and led to the decision that we should try a more extended, relaxing trip next time.

So we doubled our days from two to four. We arrived in time to tour Garden of the Gods.

We met up with Kyle, and later his family to see the first of two soccer matches.

We visited Pike’s Peak with Kyle’s family. Cold, crazy experience. I was so light-headed at the peak that I staggered into other sightseers. Not that they weren’t staggering too! Brrr.

Sunday morning, October 22, we decided to visit the zoo before Kyle’s matinee game. I was excited to see the giraffes. We checked out of the hotel on a lovely, clear morning. We left the hotel parking lot and headed toward the thoroughfare.

The next thing we knew, the car was no longer moving and full of airbags. I don’t remember feeling or hearing the impact. I asked Laura if she was all right; she was asking me the same thing. She did not want to get out of the car because we couldn’t see where we were and didn’t know if it was safe, so we stayed inside the car.

Within a couple of minutes someone was banging on my car door asking if we were all right. I said that I thought so. A man opened the door and we both exited on the driver side. Immediately I asked if the occupants of the other car were all right. The man told me that he didn’t know because the driver had taken off. I got a good look at the rental car, and it looked terrible.

The whole front end had been taken off and bits of Jetta were scattered everywhere. The windshield was broken on the passenger side and I began to worry that Laura had hit her head, but she assured me that she hadn’t. About this time an off-duty EMT stopped by and asked to examine us. Starting with me because I was driving, she asked me a bunch of questions, including who was president of the United States and how many quarters were in $3.50. Fourteen, by the way. I was correct and she stopped worrying about concussion. She asked me about pain and I realized that my shoulder was tender. We both touched it and found a bump on the collarbone – likely fracture.

She then checked Laura over, who had spent the intervening time contacting Kyle, his mom and Phil.

The first responders arrived and ordered an ambulance. The firefighters were great. They found our eyeglasses in the wreckage and loaded all of our personal gear in the ambulance, even the wine and hard cider we had bought for Christmas gifts, which was somehow still intact after the collision. They did say that one second further into the intersection and I wouldn’t have been walking away – they would have been extracting me with jaws of life.

The ambulance crew called to find out the least busy ER and we were off. Once there Laura and I were separated for our respective exams, which I found very stressful. I was taken to Xray, and was diagnosed with a fractured left clavicle. The Colorado Springs Police caught up with us at the hospital and interviewed us separately. The officer told me that they thought they knew who had hit us, that he had stolen his ex-girlfriend’s car and had fled the scene. Our hit-and-run was just one of many charges pending against him.

After Laura was interviewed by the police and released by the hospital, she was able to rejoin me. I called Hertz to report the accident. They asked me to contact them once I knew where the car was towed, and also asked if we needed another rental, but we would have to come back to the Denver airport to get it. Since that was our final destination anyway and neither of us felt like driving, we declined and told them that we would find alternative transportation to the airport.

Although the hospital staff originally told us that their goal was to get us on our 8:00 p.m. flight home, we were released in time to try to make Kyle’s afternoon soccer game. Laura called an Uber to take us there. October 22 turned out to be a big day: first broken bone, first ambulance ride, first Uber. We met up with Kyle’s family at the soccer field, loaded our stuff in their van, and headed to the game, missing only about 10 minutes. By this time my hospital meds had kicked in big time and I don’t remember much other than an egregious incident involving the other team pulling Kyle out of the box by his jersey with a resulting score that the officials let stand. Bummer!

After the game, Kyle headed back to South Dakota with his team and his family kindly drove us to the Denver airport. We left almost all of our luggage with them, and made it through security and to our gate with about 10 minutes to spare. Sadly, I had to give up my exit row seat with extra leg room because I was not physically able to open the exit hatch should it be necessary. But the gate attendance kindly sat me next to Laura, who took prodigious care of me during the flight. Just so you know, turbulence and broken collarbones do not make for a happy combination.

By about 11:00 p.m. we were home in Jefferson City, Laura ready to head back to Truman for the rest of her final semester, and me to deal with my fractured collarbone.