Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Car Accidents and Playing It Safe.

Last night, driving home in the dark, my mind blanked from the phone conversation I was having as I noticed a car's headlights do a complete U-turn in the middle of the eight lane highway. What in the world, you can't just do that, you're going to get hit. Cars were sliding off the entrance ramp on my right, to the shoulder with their hazards on. I strained to make out dark shapes yards ahead of me, wondering why there would be mis-matching headlights and tail lights on both my side of the highway and the other.

A blanket of glass and debris suddenly appeared in front of me, washed across every single lane, as well as three obliterated vehicles spun backwards and facing me. And even more cars on the other side. Oh, that's why. I tried to explain what I was seeing on the phone and ended it quickly, as soon as I realized I had to figure out how to come to a complete stop, back up, and cross a few lanes sideways before dozens of other cars behind me slammed into both myself and the wreck. In the dark.

I normally do 80mph right here, and now I'm doing -12. It's always an odd feeling, coming to a complete stop in a place that is never still.

I debated with myself for all of four seconds. I could keep going. I could. I probably should. Or I could park half on concrete, half on mud, and make my way through four lanes of the outerbelt in the complete dark with no guarantee of not being hit, and make sure the drivers of these crushed vehicles were alright.

Not like I could do anything if they weren't. But God smacked me in the face. Lauren, you do what I tell you. You stop. And you go. And you Be. And you pray.

The only thing more strange than driving backwards on the highway is running across it, glass crunching under your boots, as you try to explain to yourself the eerie silence and stillness of half a dozen men on the other side of the concrete wall, while a woman wrestles her body against a car seat, a twisted frame, a door that no longer exists, and an airbag, looking like someone tossed a bucket of blood at her face.

There are two cries I cannot bear. An infant who cries not to be heard but because he is alone, and a woman in pain who doesn't know who will come for her.



Keeping one eye on the oncoming cars and one eye on the SUV I was making my way to, I tried to piece together the hysterical screams of another woman standing on the side of the road. God, woman, stop waving your cell phone and arms and mixed up words. Unless you're the one with metal digging into your flesh, you shouldn't be the one screaming in a crisis situation. Rule number one in dealing with trauma. Do not do anything that induces more panic.

Shouting towards the men standing against the concrete divider, I made no attempt to hide the frustration in my voice. "Get over here. Why are you not helping her. COME ON. We have to move her!"

A car's brakes screamed as it flew through the middle of the accident, trying to slow down as the glass ground into his tires - the driver obviously not seeing the vehicles in enough time to stop and maneuver around.

Dear God, some car is going to plow right into this woman and end her life.

The men glanced back and forth, first at me, and then at the woman on the opposite side of the road, still screaming directions and telling everyone to "get the fuck back in all your god damn cars!" Half of them chose to listen to her, the other half to me.

Another car slid sideways as it stopped just in time, avoiding the whole mess of us.

With half the men finally at the SUV, doing their best to calm the blood soaked woman, I ran back across a few lanes to the screamer. Half because she was really pissing me off, and half because I wanted to make sure I wasn't missing something important.

"Hey, calm down. Seriously please stop screaming. It's going to be fine."

Another car flew through the middle of two of the backwards vehicles, missing one of the men by less than two feet. Okay. Maybe it's going to be fine.

"THEY HAVE TO MOVE. THEY ARE GOING TO GET HIT. NO ONE CAN SEE THEM. THEY'RE GONNA GET HIT."

"I know, ma'am, but that's why they're trying to get to her. They're out there helping her because if she doesn't get moved, she's going to get broadsided by a car and die instantly."

"THEY NEED TO GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE ROAD THIS IS NOT THEIR JOB."

"I understand. And what they're doing is dangerous but we're more concerned with her right now. We don't know if she's alright."

"OH MY GOD WHY IS NO ONE LISTENING TO ME. THIS IS NOT THEIR JOB. YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO ENTER THE SCENE OF AN ACCIDENT. YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO LEAVE IT."

I gritted my teeth as I realized how many times I'd heard this in my life.

In a mess of words I lost my patience and explained to her that she should just stay on the side of the road where she wouldn't get hit, for the love of God stop screaming, and to let the men make sure the other woman was okay; that I wasn't willing to stand there on the side of the road and watch her die in front of my eyes because it was too dangerous, too unsafe, or not my job.

Unzipping her jacket, she just about punched herself in the chest as she pointed out the EMT emblem stamped into her t-shirt, and stepped up to my face.

"LISTEN TO ME, BITCH. I AM A GOD DAMN EMT AND THAT WOMAN SHOULD NOT BE TOUCHED. THIS IS NOT YOUR FUCKING JOB TO TELL ANYONE WHAT TO DO IN AN ACCIDENT. EVERYONE NEEDS TO GET THEMSELVES OUT OF THE WAY."

Wow. Alright. So we have an EMT at the scene. I caught myself getting angry as I realized she was the first person who should have been putting her life at risk - not us - to make sure this woman didn't need CPR, a tourniquet, or glass pulled out of her face. And instead, I'm the one doing it. Trying, anyway.

I should say something right here. Generally speaking, if you scream, "listen to me, bitch" in my face, I'm most likely going to do exactly the opposite of whatever it is you suggest. I'm human. And I really just don't do well with people commanding me to do things while yelling. Sorry.

I should also say that this woman had a damn good point. I realize that as an EMT, she's been trained day in and day out to get as many civilians out of harm's way as possible, and knows the risk involved with trying to move someone who most likely has a spinal cord injury.

But I also know that in that moment, I would have risked my life to stand in the middle of a freeway, in the dark, to simply pray over a woman whose life will never again be the same.

To sacrifice my safety in order to comfort a woman who never again will be that terrified, in the center of death's grip, to fight in her behalf in front of the throne of a God whose hand could stop a wave of armored artillery headed right for us.

How many times, as Christians, have we left someone paralyzed in the middle of the road, because it's too dangerous for us?

How many times, as righteous people, have we abandoned someone blinded by blood and tears, because what made the most sense was to keep ourselves safe?

How many times, as good men and women, have we tended to "our jobs," safe on the side of the road, while we wait for God to show up?

How many times, have we been qualified EMTs, trained for hours on the proper way to handle an injury within the Church, only to have it translate to walking away from a woman sobbing, screaming, crying, and begging for help?

This is what bothered me. What shook me up the most.

That we are trained to be safe, to let someone else get their hands dirty in the blood and the wreck, to be content with abandoning someone on the brink of emotional or spiritual death, simply because there is someone else who could handle it better.

That crazy, screaming, panicking EMT? She was probably right. We could have paralyzed her by moving her - and thankfully the medics showed up while the men were still getting to her through metal and glass.

And sometimes you need to step back, trust God, and let someone else do their job, because they can do it exponentially better than you.

But that never, ever pardons you from slamming on your brakes, putting your life on hold, and falling to your knees to put someone's heart, body, and salvation into the hands of the God of the Universe. That never pardons you from putting yourself directly in harm's way to come alongside someone and to provide comfort, love, peace - and whatever you've been gifted with for exactly those moments.

I will never know what happened to that woman. If she lived, if she died, if she's still in critical condition at the hospital. And that's okay.

What I do want to know, however, is how different the outcome would have been, had an army of men and women had gotten out of their cars, knelt on the wet pavement with gravel digging into their skin, and cried out to God in her behalf.

I would give anything to see that.

17 comments:

Jenna said...

this is going to haunt me all day. im sure it's haunting you too. so many levels of things to think about here.

Emmy said...

Wow. I'm almost in tears reading this. How is it that God always knows what you should write because it seems to almost directly affect what I'm going through at this moment? Seriously! Sometimes I feel like I'm the EMT. The one who is trained, qualified, and call to risk my own good for others. But I fail to do so. Because I'm scared. Just this morning my secretary was pointing things out to me of what I should be doing, showing me what I SHOULD do in my position and what she WANTS me to do for her kids and their friends...

And I fail all the time.

I'm so glad God puts people in our lives to point out what we need to improve on, and people like you who he motivated to step out of their comfort zone and help other people!

I'm glad that you are safe and you did that. :)

Michelle (michabella) said...

Wow. This was an absolutely frightening and amazing post! A slap in the face for us as Christians and for us to take action. Good for you for taking action. And that rude EMT...I can't believe she wasn't helping. I have many EMT friends...they should be helping or directing people away or SOMETHING! UGH! Anyways...I love you.

Sonny said...

If she was a real EMT, she was poorly trained. She should have been helping her. As a trained EMT, it is her duty. And a shirt that says EMT does not make an EMT; there are a lot of pretenders out there.

She should not have been screaming. You did the right thing. You were the rescuer. I would have lost it with her. Yes, by moving the victim, she could have been more seriously hurt. But when danger is imminent, as it was, moving them and paralyzing them is better than doing nothing and letting them die.

I'm glad you listened to God speaking to you; too many people chose to ignore Him.

iheartvegetables said...

Wow that's so crazy. It's amazing that you were able to listen to God and risk your life in that situation. It's also such a great reminder of how we need to take risks when we're trained to do so. I'll be thinking about this for the rest of the day

Han said...

I didn't witness an accident but two Octobers ago me and my friend were on the way home and there was an accident on the side of the road - I said I feel like I should do something as I'm a first aider and my friend kinda agrees but also leaves it up to me. I do a U-turn and pull up being the accident with my hazards on.

As I get out the car I give my phone and my car keys to my friend and tell her to call 999 - we got to the accident and someone had already done that but as there were no emergency vehicles there yet we had to presume no one had been called. There was one casualty but the car was upside down in the ditch a little bit further along the road.

I got closer and checked out the first guy he was bleeding from his scalp and needed something to stem the bleeding - I grabbed my scarf (I'd been wearing my favourite scarf that day) from around my neck and folded it up and put it to his head - it was more important the bleeding stopped - I could replace my scarf.

It was really surreal. I'd been in the car giggling away and laughing at something dumb I'd said but my friend said the second I stepped out of the car I was focused and all serious and getting it dealt with.

Okay I probably put myself at risk and stuff like that but I agree with you sometimes you have to put yourself at risk a little bit to solve a big problem.

Why was the EMT just stood there getting wound up? I get she has procedure but how could she stand there. (Maybe I'm not getting the point - I'll leave my comment there)

Anna said...

All I can say is, Amen. And thank you.

Leah said...

Wow. I'm floored. This was a great start to my day. Amazing writing, as usual.

Nicole said...

This is tragic and beautifully inspiring all in one. Thank you for sharing such a difficult night with us. Hearing God in all of that, knowing to trust that he would help, seems almost impossible and yet a completely natural response. Putting yourself at risk was brave, thank you for helping her in any way that you could.

Ari said...

This is exactly what I needed to hear today. Thank you for being blunt, honest and full of God's love.

J-Bird said...

If she's a "god damn EMT" then she's the one that should have flares in her trunk. She's the one that should have organized a safe removal of the woman in the vehicle. She's the one that should have been responsible for that woman's safety. I can't handle the "I'm on break/It's not my job/Let someone else do it" mentality regardless of the perpetrator.

You did the right thing, the honorable thing, the human thing. And even though you don't know the woman's outcome, you can trust that she will always remember you - the woman who helped her when no one else would.

Katherine Michael said...

Wow! Gripping story. I've heard of believers doing things like this where they pray people back to life after car crashes before the EMTs arrive. The accident talked about in the book 90 Minutes in heaven is a great example of a believer literally pulling someone from the grave through prayer.

Way to be bold, stay calm, and trust in God during a very traumatic event.

Peace, Love, and Critical Thinking said...

That last image- the army of people getting out of their cars to kneel before God- that is what we need. And all too often we have a society of people like the frightened EMT, screaming and cursing and panicking about everything going wrong. From the tiniest of life decisions to international tragedies. Please- we don't need more screamers. We need more pray-ers. Thanks for painting that picture.

ShineBright said...

Thanks for sharing! Wow, What an ordeal you witnessed. I, too, will be meditating on the questions you raise here for quite a while. Thanks for opening my eyes to the indifference that is so easy to be consumed with. ~Amy Welty

sasosafetysigns said...

Most of the road mishaps happen due to the causal behavior of the drivers such as answering phone calls, eating while driving other than focusing on driving and on the road play culprit to road accidents. Not observing traffic rules, drivers often disregard road signs, traffic lights and other road rules which results to accidents. This is the most common reason for the accidents, these traffic signs are must for every person while on the road. Thanks for sharing your views.

Road Traffic Signs

Sara Sophia said...

I love this. And whoah.

Kelsey said...

My tire exploded on the highway today and I was really scared but from the moment I felt it blow to 2 hours later, the moment I stepped back into my house I was thanking and praising God because I know I could have died today. August 7 at 8:04pm coming back form church, the day before my birthday. I am just so thankful to still be alive for my 20th today, earlier I was feeling indifferent. I just needed to say that.

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