Earlier in the week, I mentioned that there is still glass in my forehead after a 1988 car accident that sent me through a windshield forehead first.
I want to assure all concerned readers that it’s fine. The glass poses me no danger whatsoever.
After the accident, I was sent to the operating room, where surgeons repaired my knees, lips, and jaw. They also attempted to remove the glass from my forehead. But because I was not awake during surgery and could not guide them to where the glass might be, it was hard to tell if they had managed to extract every shard.
As a result, I had several pieces of glass still embedded under my scalp following surgery.
The doctors told me that the glass would either migrate to the surface over time or remain embedded in my head forever, and they were correct. The first piece decided to exit my forehead in the midst of a math test about three months later, sending me to the school nurse and necessitating a brand new algebra test after I had bled all over the first.
Another piece decided to make it’s escape while I was driving to work one morning, requiring me to pull over as blood began streaming into my eye.
The piece of glass that I remember best left my body by force. On vacation in New Hampshire, one of my friends didn’t believe that there was still glass in my head, so I got very drunk and pulled a piece out with my hands to prove that I was telling the truth.
The bloodiest, most painful, and perhaps most satisfying “I told you so” of my life.
In addition to the glass in my head, surgeons also failed to fully seal the hole in my knee left behind when it was skewered on the post on the emergency brake release. For years, my knee would spontaneously gush blood if I struck the corner of a coffee table just right or fell on my knee while playing a sport. At Universal Studios, my knee hit the edge of the seat while riding in the gondola on the King Kong ride. As I exited the gondola, the families waiting to board saw a man limp off, his leg covered in blood. Small children screamed and at least one family turned around and refused to board to ride.
Two days later, my knee began to bleed again in the wave pool at Blizzard Beach, making it look like I was being attacked by a shark.
That is when I finally went to a surgeon, who corrected the problem via surgery, more than a decade after the accident.
Today I have two small pieces of glass in my forehead that I can feel only when I press down hard on my forehead. I have a scar on my chin that I occasionally nick when shaving, and a scar on my forehead where my head collided with the windshield. Before the accident, I had a scar in the shape of a cross on my forehead as a result of a childhood accident. That cross was obliterated by the windshield and was replace by a more amorphous mess, much to my mother’s disappointment.
I also have scars on my lips that only I can feel and large scars on both knees.
My bottom row of teeth were also knocked entirely free in the accident. Dental surgeons wired them down, and miraculously, they survived. But over the years, three have died, requiring root canals. The first happened back in 1992, when root canals were barbaric and endless. The second began to hurt on the final day of our honeymoon, and the third was required just a few years ago.
Thankfully root canals are painless procedure these days.
I also lost a tooth in the accident, so there is an empty space in the bottom row of my teeth. I also need to whiten my teeth from time to time because the trauma to them causes discoloration over time.
It’s likely that the PTSD that I struggle with was also primed by this accident and likely contributes to my struggles today. Though the true source of my PTSD was an armed robbery in 1992, my therapist suspects that I was likely already suffering more mild effects of PTSD before the robbery as a result of the accident, which makes sense.
I stopped breathing, and my heart stopped beating for about a minute in the back of the ambulance.
Doesn’t get more traumatic.
For years, I was terrified about driving in the snow until I forced myself into snow-covered parking lots, where I conquered my fear and gained some expertise in driving under slippery conditions.
It’s funny. I had started writing this post with the intention of dispatching the concerns of readers who were worried about the thought of my walking around with glass in my forehead. I began with the thought that I’m fine. The accident is more than 30 years in my past, the relic of a bygone era.
In writing this, it suddenly realize how much of the legacy of that day in December of 1988 still lives with me. My body is literally full of reminders of the events of that day. I can’t look at my body without seeing a reminder of the horrors of that accident.
Thankfully, when I look back on that day, which is probably more often than you might imagine, I have mostly good thoughts.
I feel lucky to be alive. Lucky that paramedics and doctors and nurses and surgeons were able to keep me alive.
I feel enormous gratitude for my friends, who arrived at the hospital before my parents that day and in many ways became my family on that day. They stayed with me for all of Christmas day when my parents only made a brief stop on Christmas morning. They created a schedule to ensure that I would never be alone during the week I spent in the hospital, recovering.
The room was endlessly filled with people, turning my room into a teenage hangout.
I had friends cuddled up beside me on my hospital bed overnight and multiple friends asleep in chairs around my room.
It was an oddly joyous time for me.
That is what I think about most when tracing a scar on my leg or nicking the scar on my chin with my razor. It’s those days and nights spent with friends, and the unbridled love and devotion that they showed me, that I think about when I press against the glass still embedded in my forehead.
So don’t worry one bit about that glass or anything else from that day, dear reader.
December 23, 1988 was a terrible day for my body but in many, many ways a wonderful day for me.