249 Days ’til 40: Extremely Thankful (For Second Chances)

17 Jun

First of all, I think only I would start off a post about second chances by accidentally publishing an empty blog entry!  I suppose I need a second chance writing this entry!  I can’t even blame that on it being a Monday morning. 🙂

I think that we often get second chances, in life, in love, in business, and in many other areas.  I always feel so very fortunate when I am given the grace of being able to have a second chance….. and I like to believe that I rarely take those opportunities for granted.

In September of 1997 I was given a second chance at life – on September 27, 1997 to be exact.  I was driving home from my job at a small school in northern California when a tire blew a few cars ahead of me.  This caused all of the cars to need to break suddenly, with very little room.  Unfortunately, the vehicle behind me was not paying close enough attention to the events unfolding with the cars ahead.  I believe he said he had turned his head to comment to his passenger, and in that split second the accident occurred.  He was driving a one-ton truck, and he hit my Nissan Pathfinder at 55mph.

I could not speak in complete sentences for @ 6 weeks and I mis-conjugated verbs for almost a year.  I had post-concussive syndrome, otherwise known as MTBI (Mild Traumatic Brain Injury).  I reversed my letters, writing Zs and B’s and other letters backwards.  My brainstem and my frontal lobe were affected by the accident……. the brain stem injury caused issues with my blood pressure and it would go from 160/100 to 90/60, sometimes in a matter of minutes…… I was exhausted all of the time and literally could not be awake for more than 6 hours at a time…… I would then need to sleep before I was able to function for another 4-5 hours – I slept over 12 hours a day as my brain slowly repaired itself.

I also suffered neck and back injuries, with over 250 physical therapy and chiropractic appointments needed in the first year after the accident, but the brain injury was the most difficult for me to deal with.  The crazy thing was I looked perfectly okay after the accident – all my injuries were muscular or internal… which made it hard for people to understand how hurt I was (it would have been easier if I had a big cast on my arm).  They were not always patient with my sudden fatigue and my inability to follow conversations or instructions.  I was also not patient with myself – it was very hard…. how could I go from Mensa member to incompetent overnight?  It happened so fast.

Most days were really bad at first…… then I was lucky enough to have one good day in a week, a day when I almost felt normal for an hour or so, or maybe even for three or four hours.  Over time I increased to having 2 good days a week….. it was a long process.  Suddenly my main goal was to make it through a full day without feeling like I was going to pass out from exhaustion.

It took about five years of healing for me to get to the point of functioning close to the levels I had been pre-accident and ten years to make an almost full recovery.  I have a permanent small disability (5%) in my neck and when I am sleep deprived I can still mis-conjugate verbs or use the wrong words in a sentence.

My life today is much better than it was when I had that accident almost 15 years ago.  The experience was highly traumatic, but also a huge lesson in perseverance and appreciation for the fragility of life.  In a split second reality as we know it can be shattered.  When it is, we learn how thankful we are for the little things… like speaking in complete sentences and writing Zs correctly.  While I would never ever EVER want to go through that experience again, I am grateful for the appreciation for life that it gave me.  The important life lessons we learn are usually not gained in moments of serenity – it is the moments that challenge the depths of our soul that build strong character and bring us to the place where we either break, or learn how to bend and find ways to adapt and grow into our new reality.

Today, 249 days ’til 40, I will always be thankful for second chances.  Thankfully, I seem to learn from each experience life has given me and as I have learned and grown I have found more happiness, more joy, more love, more purpose, and more meaning.  Has life given you a second chance?



Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

45 responses to “249 Days ’til 40: Extremely Thankful (For Second Chances)

  1. saymber

    June 17, 2012 at 01:30

    What a journey you had! Turning misfortune into a positive learning experience….a teaching opportunity that hasn’t been lost on you. I am sure I am not alone when I say I’m glad you survived the crash and overcame so much and with such a positive outlook. I think positive attitudes really promote faster healing. Thank you for sharing this very personal part of your life here.

    • 400daystil40

      June 17, 2012 at 01:31

      You are welcome! 🙂 Life is always full of challenges….

  2. yalotar

    June 17, 2012 at 01:32

    Hi there! I have nominated you for The Versatile Blogger Award.
    If you’d like to accept this award then please take it to your blog and pass it on – if this is not your cup of tea then please accept this as a compliment on your blog. Cheers!

    • 400daystil40

      June 18, 2012 at 00:03

      Thank you so very much! This is so kind of you!!!!! 🙂

  3. delemares

    June 17, 2012 at 02:16

    Reblogged this on MMM… Meditation, Mental health, Mindful crochet and commented:
    Second chance? I believe that God has given me a second chance after I felt I had totally blown it and wasn’t a proper Christian (whatever that is). The God I follow is the God of the 2nd, 3rd…. nth chance. He never gives up on us. He’s always waiting for us with open arms, ready to throw a party – as in the parable of the prodigal son.

  4. walkwiththerabbi

    June 17, 2012 at 02:41

    Superb as usual. I can relate – this time however, receiving several kicks to the lungs from a horse 11 years ago, starting to bleed internally and shutting down a month later. Thank G-D for GRACE!

    • 400daystil40

      June 18, 2012 at 00:03

      Yes! Wow, you went through a scary experience too. I am so glad that you lived through the horse injury…

      • walkwiththerabbi

        June 18, 2012 at 00:14

        So is my wife (and the people I have my life insurance with). Knowing you a little through your writings, if you haven’t already, allow me to invite you to read my post today. I think it will speak to you. I ‘d love your comments.

        • 400daystil40

          June 18, 2012 at 00:26

          Thank you!!! I look forward to reading your post!

  5. Mark

    June 17, 2012 at 02:52

    Hey 400 days… You and I have known one another nearly 20 years and I had NO IDEA that this happened to you! It must have been during the times we were out of touch with each other (pre-Facebook.)

    I’m stunned to learn about this and am SO GLAD that you got a second chance. I’d hate to think about what could have happened instead.

    • 400daystil40

      June 18, 2012 at 00:00

      Wow, Mark, so crazy that you did not know! For about five years after the accident EVERYONE endured hearing the stories… I guess by the time we caught up again I was far enough past it that it was no longer relavent – it was a very scary time, and I am so thankful that I got through it. Life is a precious gift.

  6. viveka

    June 17, 2012 at 02:54

    I think everybody deserve a second chance … or given a second chance, but life isn’t that easy .. when we think about all the children that die still kids, they never got a second chance. Personal I got a second chance when they found my tumor – I got a brand new book with empty page to fill and it’s overwarming sometimes – even if my life has shrunken with 30% because of problems the treatments given me. Sad to read that you still suffer with your back after so many years – you got your second chance to life too and I suppose there is a price to pay for some of us, but we are still here. Still alive n’ kicking. Thanks for sharing your story and journey.

    • 400daystil40

      June 17, 2012 at 23:59

      Yes, it is so very true…. my best friend died when I was 16 (she was 15) of cancer……. she never got that chance, which makes the fact that I did get a second chance all the more powerful…. you realize that you cannot take it for granted.

      • viveka

        June 18, 2012 at 00:06

        So true and us that have got the second chance should value and cherish … that chance.

  7. thelastsongiheard

    June 17, 2012 at 03:16

    Wow, that’s incredible. I can certainly understand how frustrating and upsetting that must have been and I admire your strength and courage at being able to get through it. I’m also constantly amazed at the body and soul’s ability to heal itself. Sometimes it can take years… sometimes, to some extent, it might never completely heal… but we can learn to adapt and to survive.

    I’m really looking upon my impending divorce as a second chance… it’s going to be incredible painful in some aspects… but potentially liberating in others. I’m looking forward to the next adventure 🙂

    • 400daystil40

      June 17, 2012 at 23:58

      Yes, I too agree that our body really is amazing… the healing that can occur is unbelievable! I was once in a bad relationship and I can relate to what you are saying – getting out is indeed a freedom that creates a second chance – often a much-needed one!

  8. craftythriftydecoratingwifemom

    June 17, 2012 at 04:34

    While I can’t even begin to imagine the horrors of the accident and your slow recovery I can say I’d never guess you had a TBI reading your blog. And I can say I know the judgement you felt from people who saw you looking normal and didn’t understand that there are such things as invisible disabilities, temporary as yours primarily were, and permanent, as my son’t autism is, and somewhere in between as my back problems and severe respiratory issues are. Second and third and fourth chances are all around us. And for that I am most grateful, as I know you are. Thanks for sharing your personal story.

    • 400daystil40

      June 17, 2012 at 23:57

      Thank you so much for saying you would never guess I once was struggling with a brain injury! It can be seen more in my speech when I am really exhausted… not so much in my writing (at least, not anymore!) I am very fortunate. Yes, it is so hard when you have a child with autism and people judge but often are not willing to take the time to truly understand. We have had autistic children at our school and it is always interesting to me which parents are supportive and which are not…….. It sounds like you have had to deal with many new beginnings in your life – keep on keeping on!

  9. buckwheatsrisk

    June 17, 2012 at 05:25

    wow what a strong woman you are and an amazing writer too! i’m trying to think of second chances i’ve had???

  10. Lady T

    June 17, 2012 at 05:48

    You’re a fighter for sure!

  11. Laura

    June 17, 2012 at 06:34

    My son was involved in a fatal car accident. The driver from the other vehicle was at fault and did not survive. My son was critically injured but given a second chance. Many years later, he still has emotional trauma, but healing is within his grasp. He has gone on to have a wonderful family of his own. Life is fragile…we must all learn to appreciate the gift of each day that we are given.

    • 400daystil40

      June 17, 2012 at 23:54

      Wow, how very scary. I cannot imagine what that was like to go through as a mother. I can understand a latent trauma from the accident. I was a horrible driver for years after my car accident and even now can have a very strong reaction to something on the road……. trauma is such a powerful force….. I think understanding it helps with easing its hold.

  12. Tess Ross

    June 17, 2012 at 10:37

    What an amazing journey you have been on! Let me just say that if you figure out life before you turn 40 what will you do for the next 30 or 40 years?! am in my sixties and I’m still trying to figure it out! But, like you, one learns and one grows. Well done!

    • 400daystil40

      June 17, 2012 at 23:53

      Ah, yes, what will I do for 30 or 40 more years???? Good question! Maybe all that will be left is to sit and knit….. then again, maybe not!!! 🙂 I think if you are not learning and growing you are not living.

      • Tess Ross

        June 18, 2012 at 02:47

        I cannot see you sitting and knitting somehow! Still, it is nice to be retired and have the time to choose to do so if you wish.

        • 400daystil40

          June 18, 2012 at 22:19

          That’s so funny! I actually love to knit and to quilt, though I do not have much time to do either…. one of my summer goals is to get baby hats knitted for all my staff members who are having babies in the fall! 🙂

  13. writerwannabe763

    June 17, 2012 at 16:36

    Life indeed has given me a second..and then a third and so on. I went through so many times in my life of stress and difficulties that I would have to just press on and get past them and go on again….God has been my mainstay through it all….Diane

    • 400daystil40

      June 17, 2012 at 23:52

      It is wonderful that you have continued to press through all of the challenges that have come your way.

  14. Food n Thought Peddler

    June 17, 2012 at 17:49

    I totally get the part where you say even though you’d not want to go through the experience, you’re glad it happened. I always say I’m glad I had cancer (even though I totally hated going through the experience and the side effects that still linger, 5 yrs post-cancer). Your post gave me hope and a reminder to be patient as the recovery may take longer than I expected. Thank you!

    • 400daystil40

      June 17, 2012 at 23:52

      Thanks for your comment! Yes, the recovery process is long and hard and our bodies are a bit peculiar that way. I would have thought I was done healing at the five year mark post-accident….but it really was another five years until I felt almost as healthy as I was pre-accident… now I am not sure if I do not feel as healthy as I did then because of the accident or because I have aged 15 years!!!! 🙂

  15. anotherthousandwords

    June 17, 2012 at 18:44

    So glad you survived…if only to realize life’s simple pleasures!

    • 400daystil40

      June 17, 2012 at 23:50

      Yes, and those pleasures are the most important part!

  16. The Quiet Borderline

    June 17, 2012 at 21:07

    I very much admire you.

  17. Anonymous

    June 17, 2012 at 22:22

    May 9, 2006. The day they found my lung cancer. If it would have been even a month later……

    • 400daystil40

      June 17, 2012 at 23:49

      Wow, those are the most scary moment… when you realize 2-4 weeks could have been so much more disastrous. Glad you are still alive and kicking!

  18. narf77

    June 17, 2012 at 23:55

    I think that every morning that you wake up is a second chance. I am reading “Tuesday’s with Morrie” (again…) at the moment and your post comes at exactly the right moment to complement my thoughts about life and death and making our lives actually worth living. Thank you for sharing what must have been an incredibly traumatic experience with us. I love the power of blogs! I hope you have a great day today and that your verbal conjugations are appropriate to your wishes 🙂

    • 400daystil40

      June 18, 2012 at 00:27

      Yes, that is definitely true too! I also love the power of blogs – you can let me know if my conjugations are off!!!! 🙂

      • narf77

        June 18, 2012 at 23:32

        (that is IF I could be bothered to check what they were in the first place lol 😉 )

  19. Tess Ross

    June 18, 2012 at 08:18

    Hi 400 days, it is Tess again. I am going to write about this topic on my blog today. I had forgotten about an accident I had in 1980 and the effect it had on me for the next 5-10 years also. thanks for the inspiration. I will put a link to your blog and acknowledgement also. Thanks again!

    • 400daystil40

      June 18, 2012 at 22:15

      I loved reading your blog today!!! 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: