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What happened to your face...!!??

How We Survived a Car Accident
      (excerpted from an email)

January 16, 1998

Typical of me, I sit in my cluttered but home-like study on a beautiful Monday morning, with the sun sparkling on clean deep snow outside, and – in perfect calm, now that the shouting and drama is over – tell you about our car accident.

It’s hard to notify one’s friends and acquaintances when sitting in a hospital emergency ward, or when trying to get food in through a facefull of bandages, or when trying to see to it that Sunday services go alright...  but I’m calm and laid back now, and able to reminisce.

I had been away on retreat.  A wonderful week of silence, reading, rest, and long walks.

Heather came to pick me up at the retreat house on Friday afternoon, and we were off home, then to dinner with friends.

I was in a great – indeed joyful and serene mood – and Heather had lots to tell.  But, on impulse, she decided we should drop in at the place of business of some friends, and turned up a small street not far from where we used to live.  We continued chatting as she proceeded northward, though we both calmly noticed the intersection ahead, where the green light was in our favour.

As we entered the intersection, it became appallingly clear that a car coming from the left was not stopping.  There was then one of those single seconds when time slows down, as we saw without any doubt that we were going to slam right into the side of that car.


With a sound like gunfire, my world went black.  When I came to, I figured the window must have crashed in on me, because something had struck me in the face, and I couldn’t see.  My face was wet.

People rushed around and I heard Heather calling, and someone said “He’s bleeding” and “Are you alright?”  Someone else said “I have a cellphone.  I’ll call police and ambulance.”

I turned out to be really quite marvellously alright, but there was a tremendous pandemonium of rescue trucks and serious uniformed people, before all this was determined.  My vision came back, but I sat there in a kind of daze, eventually feeling for my teeth, and my nose, and my glasses.  Someone handed me a bunch of pads to hold on my face, and no wonder – they were instantly soaked in blood and lymph.

It was determined that the air bag had gone off; it had ripped a layer of skin off my chin and lips, then went on to punch my nose, and quietly deflate, filling the car with a noxious powder.  I had no broken bones, and no broken teeth.  But I looked like a defeated prizefighter! swollen bleeding nose, blood in mustache, and my lips and chin appeared to have been rubbed with a vegetable shredder!  Paramedics solemnly studied this mess, and eventually concluded I need not be rushed by ambulance anywhere.

Later – when Rachael and Jeremy had come to pick us up – Heather and I were able to go on our own steam to the Grace hospital emergency ward to be salved and x-rayed and bandaged.

Heather had also been struck by the airbag in front of her, and, judging by bruising on her left arm and knuckles the bag probably threw her arm against the door; but she thinks the device saved her from being impaled on the steering column.  She was not knocked out, and had no bleeding, although now, three days later, she’s pretty sore in many places.

Our beloved Nissan Altima may never drive again.  Which we regret, because it was the best car we’ve ever owned.

The other guy’s car was even worse, and, being a ‘85 model or so, will definitely be written off.  But the driver himself – a youngster, perhaps in his twenties – was not hurt.  In fact, when I was still bloody and dazed, he was one of the ones peering in at me and was almost in tears with concern and solicitude.  He also phoned the next morning to ask how I was.  I’m glad he wasn’t hurt, and feel for him in his devastation, but confess that I find myself hoping that his evident sincerity and candour will stay by him when it comes to admitting liability to the adjuster.
Tony's face, lacerated by an airbag
The Face
lacerated by an airbag

The costs and irritations of dealing with the insurer and replacing, or repairing, a much-enjoyed car, really don’t have either of us twisted in a knot.  We’ll do what has to be done.  If we’re out of pocket, or if we can no longer drive a car as nice as the one that’s wrecked, it’s no big deal.  We are overwhelmingly glad to be alive, and whole, and completely able to do what we normally do.

Except I look pretty awful.  My friends laugh, and strangers’ heads turn.  The swollen and bleeding nose and mustache have now resumed a more normal size, but they’re black and scabulous.  My chin is also black and scabbed, but hides under a gauze bandage which looks like a peculiar goatee – though someone also rudely suggested that I should not try to wear a jock strap on my chin!

I was too self-conscious to keep an appointment to be the visiting preacher at the Cathedral, but otherwise did everything normally in the next two days – our friends in St.Chad’s being particularly sympathetic and supportive (though there were also many delightfully rude remarks once it was known both Heather and I were okay).

So now it is a quiet Monday – Heather has our remaining car at work, and Rachael has taken the bus to her various activities – and I thought I might send this out to a variety of friends and relations, and then post it on the website.

Some people just have these peculiar ways of recovering from an injury!

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