Thursday, January 22, 2009

So, What Happened?

I've been asked that question a lot over the years. It's come in various forms - everything from the quiet & shy, "Um...if you don't mind, um...may I ask, um...why are you in that wheelchair?" to the bold & brazen (& usually loud), "So, why you in that thang?" Usually the question is asked by a virtual stranger in a store or restaurant or movie line or something, so I just give the soundbite, "I was in a car accident that left me paralyzed." (I have to admit that on a few occasions I've wanted to say something like, "Because I'm just too lazy to walk & I want the good parking & special attention," just to see the reaction.)

It's funny, really. The people that I'm actually connected to on a somewhat regular basis in some way - neighbors, church members, Facebook, etc. - don't usually ask at all. I'd like to believe that is due to the fact that my sparkling personality so overwhelms them that they simply no longer see the chair. Of course, the reality is that they probably just asked someone else who knew the story.

When I HAVE been asked & had opportunity to tell the long story, I've noticed that, over the years, my answer has changed. I find that interesting. The facts of the event haven't changed, so why is my story different? I believe it is because I am different. As I have aged & grown, my perspective has changed. The details that were once glaringly important to me just simply don't matter any longer. The things that I once glossed over are now the important standouts. I suppose that is true with all of life. I believe it would show us to be emotionally stunted in some way if our stories DIDN'T change.

So, here is what happened - the January, 2009 version anyway:

In the Fall of 1986, I was a 23-year-old college student who also held down a job as a Staffing Assistant. This was my, "get it right" attempt at college, having dropped out 2 or 3 times previously. This time I was doing quite well, having a goal & a plan...that is, until I let my social life get in the way. I became friends with a group from my Sociology class & started dating one of the guys. We all allowed our schoolwork to slip in deference to spending time with our friends. Because of this, on Thursday, November 20th, we had to stay up all night in order to complete the Sociology papers we had known (since the beginning of the quarter) were due on November 21st. We went to class that Friday & turned in our papers. After class, I, unfortunately, had to go work for 5 hours.

That night, exhausted, I went on a double date with my boyfriend & another guy from our group. The Lord tried in so many ways to stop me, but at the time, I didn't know about His still, small voice.
  1. I had to go by my dad's after work & he was nervous because I was late. (That was weird because I was always late.)
  2. My mom, who I lived with, fussed & fussed telling me I should stay home because we were going to my niece's gymnastics meet early the next day. (My mom never tried to keep me home on a Friday night.)
  3. Truth be told, I really didn't feel like going because I was so tired, but I didn't want to disappoint my date (stupid move).
  4. When we got to the concert we were attending, I actually tried to figure out a way to go home because it was so awful! (It was a punk rock concert - my first & only - & I spent the evening with my mouth gaping open in disbelief at how truly ridiculous the whole thing was.) I thought about calling my mom, but couldn't ask her to drive to downtown Atlanta at 11:00 at night. I thought about calling my dad, but didn't want a lecture. I thought about getting a taxi, but didn't have any money.
In the end, I stayed. On the trip home, well after midnight, I was so tired that I reclined the passenger seat of my boyfriend's Celica flat & went to sleep. We dropped off the other girl first. The other guy was asleep in the backseat. The driver, my date, knew he was tired so he said he couldn't turn the heat on for fear it would put him to sleep. Unfortunately, that trick didn't work & he fell asleep anyway. We ran off the road & flipped & rolled a few times. The guy in the back seat, who wasn't wearing a seat belt, was awakened by flying through the back window. His ankle shattered when he landed, but he was otherwise unhurt. The driver was unharmed. As for me, well, I took the brunt of it. Even though I was wearing my seat belt, because I had the seat reclined the shoulder harness was no where near me. As a result, my upper body snapped forward as the car flipped, my neck was broken & my spinal cord was compressed. I was paralyzed.

Well, this post is growing painfully long, so I'll end here for now. Next time I'll write about the events that took place immediately after the wreck.


  1. Good post, Sam. I've known the family for quite a few years and haven't heard all of the details. I'd love to hear your perspective of the weeks immediately following.

  2. Gripping post, Sandra: especially more so since I graduated with you from high school. You never think things like that are going to happen to you. How wrong we sometimes are.

    I look forward to your next posting. God bless!

  3. Hey, Sandra... very brave of you to put that all out here. I remember it all vividly even tho I only heard of it second hand. Reliving the story thru your words is really humbling. I know you well enough to know how the wheelchair doesn't stop you from doing what you set your mind to - I have always been amazed by your spirit, your strength, your heart. Whenever I think I can't, I just have to think of you and tell myself, "yes, you can." Take care!

  4. This is really good! I think you should write a book!

  5. Thank you for sharing what you have shared so far, Sandra. I totally agree with you about our change in perspective. It is so true that things take on such a different level of importance as we get older, and as we understand more about how God has a plan for our lives.

  6. Hey, thanks for putting this down. I can't imagine what all you went through. I love how you have relied on God.


  7. Sandra-
    Well written. I am not sure I had ever heard the whole story either. You are a great write. I look forward to reading more.

  8. No...keep writing!!! Don't stop now!

  9. Laurie Rivers ScottJanuary 23, 2009 at 5:54 PM

    Hey Sandra! Thank you for sharing your life, memories & perspective with us. I selfishly want to hear every detail...because I have no doubt that God is using you to drive-home a point...maybe that He is ALWAYS with us. No matter where we've been, where we are, or where we're going...He's there...wanting the best for us. Maybe to each reader...a different point. Please continue. With love, Laurie

  10. Great post Aunt Sam. I even learned a few things. And thanks for the "blog mention" for your niece. ;-)

  11. Hi Sandra, I saw the link to your blog thru the CCC newsletter. Great idea that "Get to Know you" spot! I'm one of those you referred to who you may see regularly at church but have never asked about your situation - but have wondered about your story. The evidence of a great writer is when the reader wants to keep reading. I just spent the last 2 hrs reading your blog posts! You are honest, tender, funny, real and I can tell you have a lot to give. I'll look forward to reading more of your story and be further inspired by YOU!! You may not know me by name but I'll introduce myself to you next time I see you in church. God bless! Carolyn Cataldo :-)