The worst car accident I’ve ever been in happened in s Starbucks drive-thru. And it was all because of a bee. Or, at least that’s the story I’m sticking to.
Each morning before opening my eyes my mind searches for the same answers: Where am I? Where is Connor? Are we home today? After waking up next to Connor’s hospital bed more than half of my mornings, these are my typical first questions of the day.
On this particular morning I gain my bearings and through my mental fog establish that we are once again home from the hospital and “improving”. Life in the hospital holds its own set of challenges and urgency, while at home our life is no less critical. Once home, we are back on the rehabilitation track with therapy appointments (speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy), doctor visits, CT scans, blood tests, medication refills and home health supply ordering. There are two roles for me these days, critical care nurse and rehabilitation case manager, and only when I’m not playing mom-advocate or disgruntled “managed care member”. In a matter of seconds I realize that it’s time to hit the ground running with today’s therapy appointment, which is particularly important because his early childhood case manager will be attending.
On our way to the appointment, I feel that tiredness that has taken over my days so much that I forget how it feels to be fully awake. Because of Connor, my exhaustion goes so deep that not even 14 hours of sleep could shake it.
What I later find out is that what I’m experiencing is called “adrenal fatigue”. The trauma of Connor’s now four near-death experiences combined with dozens of high-risk surgeries, emergency room visits and insurance company brawls have left my adrenals so tired they can’t produce enough cortisol to get me through a typical day. My doctor later explains that it’s like someone held a gun to my head repeatedly, causing me to pump extra adrenaline over a prolonged period of time before eventually causing the gland to give out.
Unknowing of the cortisol deficiency, I pull into the Starbucks drive-thru like I always do when I feel tired. Even though my caffeine pit-stop will put me about five minutes late to Connor’s appointment, I figure a Venti Hot Mocha with an extra shot of espresso will wake me up and therefore be worth the tardiness. I would later learn that caffeine only makes adrenal fatigue worse as it stresses the overtired glands to produce more cortisol leading to even more fatigue.
As I roll down my car window to place my order, I notice a slight sprinkling of rain. I pull forward to hear a boy’s voice, “Welcome to Starbucks, may I take your”….and just then a bee flew in my window.
“Just remain calm”, I tell myself. “Shoo. Shoo”, I say out loud to the bee.
Each time I shoo the bee, it comes closer to me.
Feeling something else is wrong, I glance up to realize that my Ford Expedition is slowly creeping forward and about to bump into the small truck in front of me. The panic I’m suppressing from dealing with the bee is instantaneously combined with the acute alarm of potentially hitting the vehicle in front of me. I slam hard on my break, or at least what I think is my break. As I push down on the accelerator with all my strength, my 4,200-pound SUV peels out, and while burning rubber, slams into the truck.
I still can’t figure out why my vehicle isn’t stopping. The lack of cortisol from my adrenals is preventing my brain from realizing that I’m still flooring the gas pedal. The more I push on the gas pedal without being able to stop my vehicle, the more I panic… and the harder I push.
As my tires screech and shoot clouds of rubber in the air, I slowly push the small truck in front of me into the car in front of him, and finally pushed that car into the vehicle in front of her. Connor, unharmed and shielded in our ton of steel, sits strapped in his car seat and unaware of the chaos occurring outside his window.
While I’m pushing with all my strength on the gas pedal, I look up and catch a glimpse of the driver of the small truck in front of me in his rear-view mirror as he distinctively mouths the word, “STOP”. All the while the sound of screeching tires combined with colliding metal can be heard throughout the parking lot.
After what seems like way too much time, my brain finally catches up with the situation and I’m able to remove my foot from the accelerator and transfer it calmly to the break. Once I put my SUV into “P”, I sit quietly to take in the mayhem that lay before me. The truck in front of me had both rear and front-end damage along with the car in front of him. And now, people are emerging from cars and vehicles to confront me.
The man in the truck is surprisingly kind to me and we began to talk. “There was this bee…” I start to explain. The woman from the car in front of him interrupts us, “How in the hell fast were you going!?”, she yells. With her “up-do” and business suit I remember wondering what career would allow such inexcusable grammar. My apologetic demeanor is instantaneously gone as I respond to her harsh enough to send her back to her car without another word.
The boy from Starbucks emerges from the back door and begins to recount the event from his perspective, “First I heard ‘shoo’….”, he recounts as he hands the man and me complimentary cups of coffee. Another woman approaches from the parking lot, “I saw the whole thing…” she went on. Everyone was talking at the same time. I’m dazed but thankful for how kind and understanding everyone is, sans the cranky businesswoman.
As for the bee? Well, the bee is nowhere to be found.
Because of Connor, and a bee, I realize this is the worst car accident I’ve ever been in.
Read more about Adrenal Fatigue and my treatment here.