On Friday, March 30th, 2012 Teresa was in a serious car accident on the way to a rehearsal for a wedding she was shooting the next day in Pinehurst. A distracted driver in front of her braked too quickly to avoid hitting a truck turning left and Teresa swerved around the drivers to avoid a collision. She lost control of her car on the soft shoulder and hit a tree at 35-40 MPH. Unaware of her injuries, Teresa climbed out of the car and waited for help from first responders (who were on the scene within minutes). Teresa suffered a butterfly fracture of her proximal femur (the part closest to the hip joint) and a broken left thumb. Teresa’s neck was cut from the seatbelt and her knee, elbow and thumb required stitches. Teresa’s sternum was bruised by the airbag but thankfully there were no other injuries. Inches away from the bone fragments in her leg is the femoral artery which (if hit) would have likely killed her. In surgery the next day Teresa’s femur was repaired with a titanium rod and screws. The day after surgery Teresa stood for the first time. Two days later she walked a few steps. After 9 days in the hospital and 6 days in inpatient rehab learning to walk she was discharged on Thursday, April 12th.
(The car that saved my life, a few days after the accident at the junkyard)
At the beginning of this year I declared it “The Year of Teresa”. Yesterday I turned to my husband Justin, tears in my eyes and asked him if it was still possible this is the “Year of Teresa”. With my broken right leg propped up on pillows to ease the pain, a left arm in a cast, and hot tears burning my cheeks it just didn’t seem possible that it could be anywhere close to the Y.O.T. He reached over to grab the four chubby fingers sticking out of the top of my cast and told me it most definitely was. Because I was alive. Because I was finally home from the hospital. Because I got the rare opportunity to see how many people love me. Because we still got to lay in bed together every night and wake up together every morning. Because if I hadn’t made it out of the car accident alive my family would never be a whole family ever again.
Those are my broken moments. The moments when a deep ache sets in my upper femur, right at my hip bone and refuses to let me roll over, lift my leg, or walk to the kitchen. The moments when I want to throw my walker against the wall in frustration that something as small as a bread tie can be an obstacle to walk over/around. The moments when I can’t wash my own laundry, get dressed by myself, or carry a glass of water. The broken moments when I think “why did this happen to me?” or “how much longer can I take this?”. Hearing a doorbell ring and not being able to greet a friend stopping by to say hello. Desperately wanting to be independent, to drive my car to Starbucks, to go out with friends to dinner, or just to go grocery shopping for Justin and I. Asking for help putting on my workout tennis shoes for PT and regretting every time I grumbled about going for a walk or jog. Staring at my camera bag, still packed for a beautiful wedding I never got to photograph. These are my broken moments.
But hidden in the twisted steel and deflated airbag of these broken moments there are the most beautiful moments of unbroken-ness. The day after I got home I asked Justin to help me sort through all the gear he rescued from the crash site. Like my right femur, the new Paul C. Buff lightstands I was pumped about using for the first time, were snapped in half. But like the soul of me: the energetic, fun-loving, joke teller. The trusted friend. The quoter of random 90s TV episodes. The wife lucky enough to still be madly in love with a husband she can’t believe loves her more. The daughter who got the chance to spend a week as helpless as a kid in mom’s arms and under mom’s care. The persistent, fiercely determined woman who can run her own business at 28 (or struggle walking up four steps during Physical Therapy and go back an hour later asking to try it again). The wide-open lover of life . . . the soul of me . . . was like the lightbulbs I unpacked from my gear that second day home. Wrapped carefully in bubble wrap, tucked neatly away – completely unbroken.
So today it is a month after my accident and I’m just riding the waves of feeling very broken and very, very unbroken. Thank you needs to be said to so many of you and yet “thank you” doesn’t seem a strong enough phrase to express how completely grateful I am for my family who was with me 24hrs a day for 2 weeks in the hospital, for friends from all over the United States who sent cards and flowers and food, for you just taking the time to read this post. It is is the Year of Teresa after all and I am excited there are so many of you cheering me on to one heck of a comeback. Thanks to some aggressive PT and a lot of determination, I’ll be back to shooting sessions July 1st!