Though I’ve taken my fair share of physical risks throughout my life, I had managed to reach a mature middle age without a broken bone, until this Thanksgiving. While my husband was at a friend’s turkey fry that morning, I had time for a walk before we were to travel the hour’s drive for our Thanksgiving meal and celebration. An ordinary three or so mile trek, mind you, no risk involved, on the same route I’ve walked for more than 25 years.
It was a sunny, mild morning with not a cloud disrupting the blue canvas above. All was right with the world. Then, walking along a short rural stretch between neighborhoods, I saw a chocolate brown vehicle approaching at a good clip, coming at me over the white line along the road’s edge. My thoughts vacillated absurdly between wanting to yell at the car—or it could have been a small SUV—to move over, and telling myself to jump.
Within what I’m sure wasn’t more than one or two seconds—though in reflection it seems much longer—I pivoted to the left and saved my life. My instant turn at an angle to the left meant instead of the vehicle flinging me head-on into the road, it pitched me off the road when it struck my left leg. I watched my snugly tied shoe fly off my left foot through space and land a few feet away from where I lay. Vaguely, I heard the vehicle continue down the road, never slowing to see if I was alive or dead.
For a few minutes I lay where I’d alighted about eight feet from the pavement. A couple of cars went by, but they didn’t see me among the weeds and vines. When I could, I crawled to retrieve my cell phone, not far from my shoe which I glanced at but didn’t have the strength to reclaim. While I waited on my husband, I tested my foot which had started hurting terrifically. I tried to move it back and forth with my hands, but it moved like a doll’s head attached by rubber bands to its plastic torso.
To bring this ordeal quickly to its physical conclusion for you, I report that my ankle was broken in several places, and my leg was a sore, awful mess. My husband said it looked like someone had taken a fish scaler to it. He’s good like that with descriptions.
But a skilled surgeon has put my ankle back together with screws, pins, and a metal plate, and I’m mending. The person who hit me will not be caught because I cannot identify the vehicle, nor could I have possibly seen the license tag as I was flung aloft. A lot of my friends have focused on the unconscionable wrong of the driver who hit and ran. It’s a situation that resonates, I think, because I was any ordinary person out engaging in an ordinary pleasure on a lovely day. And while I also would like to see the unknown driver made accountable, I’ve not concentrated so much on this aspect of the accident. I have focused on my life.
I realize now that being alive is a miracle every day. And I perceive some situations about my fellow men and women differently, too. Until now, I couldn’t possibly understand what it must be like to go through life—without hope of change—with a physical handicap. I think of my beloved Aunt Emily whose right leg had to be amputated in her later years. How she continued to think of others more than herself. How did she do that? Oh, what we take for granted.
I want to see justice, but in a much larger way than punishing one uncaring driver who hit me. Join me in advocating for safer conditions for all pedestrians, runners, and cyclists who have as much right to use roads as any motorized vehicle does.
And by the way, my surgeon says I’ll be on two feet when my book tour starts in March. How lucky am I.