Welcome back, and thank you for following my blog. I have tried to write this a few times but my memories often go black when I try to recall what happened and I can’t usually recall how things felt, so instead it becomes a bit of an account of how things happened.
This story doesn’t really start on the 18th January 2016, the day of my accident. Of course there was a lifetime of experience that had led me to where I was that day, both in terms of physically being in that spot on that road, and in terms of my relationships with the people I love, that are key to this story.
I woke up that morning excited, but like every Monday morning for the last few weeks I was also feeling a sense of dread. My boyfriend Lewis and I had been together just 6 weeks but that is only a tiny part of the story. Having been best friends for 24 years, we had done everything together since we were just 7 and 10 years old. Living difficult childhood years for different reasons we were two and the same and we loved each other whole heartedly. Other than a bit of pre-teen hair pulling and the odd awkward teenage fumble we had never been together romantically because neither of us had had the balls to do anything about it, even though there were times neither of us were in relationships and so free to date each other. It’s fair to say that we buried our feelings and were happy to settle for the friendship we had to ensure we could always be together. It was clear how deeply we loved each other but the thought of getting together to potentially lose each other had always been too devastating to risk rocking the boat, so we lived our lives along side each other but with other people.
That was until November 2015, both our relationships had ended months before, and he found his balls. As did I! At 31 years old I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Plans were in motion for an extraordinary life together and we spent those 6 weeks smiling at one another hardly able to believe it was each other we were waking up to. And would be for the rest of our lives.
There was one small barrier to our relationship however. My job required me to work away from home all week. I would leave on a Monday morning and work on the other side of the country, staying alone in hotels every night until Friday when I would return home. I absolutely loved it. It was my dream job and one I had worked extraordinarily hard to get.
Leaving for work on a Monday however had just got a lot more difficult and we spent a lot of time sending a nauseating amount of messages and selfies to each other in an attempt to lessen the distance between us. We both lived for Fridays and would cram our world into two days per week, the happiest and most excited we had ever been.
The other relationship I feel is important to my story is the one with my sister, Michelle. Michelle and I are inseparable. Just 16 months apart, she’s my big sister but only just. Parentless since we lost our dad aged 20 and 22, we have a bond unlike any other. Both independent to a fault, our only dependency being on each other. We speak every day and barely a thought passes through each of our minds that we don’t share with each other.
To offer some context, she spent her first evening meal on her honeymoon on the phone to me telling me what they had just ordered and excited by how beautiful their destination was.
She has spent her whole life worrying about me and despairs at my lack of consideration to safety, and I’m sure working away on my own did nothing for her nerves. She was delighted about Lewis and I; she worried about me a little less now.
I cried that morning before I lifted my suitcase into the boot of my car. The 4 hour drive always gave me time to re-focus though and 3 hours in to my journey I stopped at a service station for a break and a drink. I phoned Lewis who was out with his sister and after a brief chat, I set off again for the last half hour or so. Driving conditions were good, it was dry but we were approaching road works and the traffic was heavy. The rest of the details from now are from a mix of my own memory which is still not complete, some accounts from Lewis but a more detailed account from his sister.
I was driving in the middle lane of the 3 lane motorway, having just been cut up whilst in the outside lane making it necessary for me to move in to be in a safe amount of space on the busy road. It was about 10.30am, my music was on and despite the busy time of day, the good conditions meant traffic was moving freely.
Concentrating but relaxed I was looking ahead when my body was slammed into the drivers side door. I don’t remember hearing the sound of an impact but my arm and shoulder had been pushed hard into the door and I was being held there.
My view out of the front windscreen was changing and it took me a second to realise; my car was spinning. I remember taking a sharp intake of breath and getting a hot sense of panic as I frantically tried to control the car bracing myself to be hit by oncoming traffic. Not knowing what was causing the spin I instinctively put my hand on the horn to warn other drivers, and by now I was almost horizontal across the inside lane but still moving.
Then, something changed about how the air sounded inside my car.
I looked left through my passenger side window and heard somebody scream. It wasn’t a scream I’d heard before and as it went on, it sounded like it was coming from a deeper and deeper place. I had been hit side on by a lorry and it was pushing me, and it was not slowing down. Completely horizontal and facing the hard shoulder, the screaming stopped and I was quickly realising what was happening to me. The full length of my car on the passenger side was pressed up against a white grill which extended up and over me, and I was being pushed at speed sideways down the motorway. Happening in real time, I expected to come to a stop but there was no change in speed. Unable to look away from the grill of that lorry I could hear car horns and the squealing of tyres outside.
The nauseating rush of adrenaline made my heart feel like it was beating in my stomach and my arms felt heavy, and it felt like a split second and a lifetime all at once; we weren’t stopping.
I heard a faint creaking sound.My car was starting to slip. Everything around me slowed down and the world outside my car faded away. I could feel the rubber of my tyres catching on the tarmac making the car shudder sideways across the surface, and the front left hand side of my car was getting caught underneath something. Something was catching and the bottom corner of my car was being pulled inwards to the lorry and down, then let go, then it would catch again. I could hear something cracking and the shuddering was becoming more violent; and to me the grill of that lorry at my window was getting bigger and closer. The world outside the car faded out further and I understood the severity of the situation. I was going to die like this.
I was angry at my dad, who had died 11 years earlier, for letting this happen. The world closed in some more and I was no longer aware of anything outside of my car other than the front of that lorry and the noise inside my car. I clearly remember thinking that I can’t believe it. I can’t believe after everything I’ve lived through and everything that is to come, that this is it. I turned my head to look behind me to my left, and I remember sizing up where exactly the lorry would go over my body. I was scared. In a way I had never experienced before, and the fear was completely overwhelming. I didn’t want it to just take my legs and crying now, I was repeating this in my mind.
Don’t just take my legs, don’t just take my legs.
The wheels were level with my chest and I hoped it would be instant. My mind turned home to Michelle and Lewis, and my heart broke. It broke for them and for what this would do to them, and I was sorry.
With a jolt the world got wider. It completely opened up and I had a sense again of my surroundings, and I felt angry and focussed. The car was shaking now as it was being pushed and it had slipped further along the white grill of the lorry meaning the end of my bonnet was level with its edge. I thought of my dad and could hear a voice in my head calmly saying “get yourself out of this”. Repeating, “get yourself out, get yourself out”. Clearly and precisely I thought about how I needed to set my car into a spin in the hope of spinning out from under the front of that lorry. I remember repeating in my mind, “don’t brake, don’t brake,” knowing that I shouldn’t offer any resistance to my momentum. Remembering that to control a spin you turn in to it, I did just that. I turned my wheel hard into the lorry and pushed my right foot to the floor. There was a snap, and I felt the force of a spin. I don’t remember anything else.
Lewis’s phone rang and seeing my picture on his screen, he answered. There was a silence, then a scream. A scream he had never heard before and unfortunately will never forget. I was screaming and screaming and he was shouting my name. He was stood in the street shouting my name down the phone asking what was happening. I told him I’d been hit by a lorry. I told him over and over and he was asking where I was. He asked if I was hurt and I started to cry. I told him again I’d been hit by a lorry and I was hurt. He asked where I was hurt and I said my back and my head were hurting. Shaking, he told me he was on his way. He was 150 miles away but crying now, he told me he would be there soon. I started to mumble and my words became incoherent and quiet. He was shouting my name louder down the phone, telling me to wait for him, but I wasn’t responding any more and the phone went dead. It breaks my heart to think of him in that moment.
His legs gave way and he fell to his knees screaming “no, no, no!” over and over at his phone as he tried to call me back but all he was getting was my voice on my answering machine. It was 12 minutes before I came round and called him, by which time he was on his way to me, and for those 12 minutes he thought he had just listened to me die.