“Oh no, oh no! Oh my God, look at that car! It’s a rollover!”
Looking up from my phone, I gasped, “There’s someone lying on the highway!”
Seconds later, our truck is in park just past the battered now windowless Honda Civic angled diagonally across the slow lane, the front end resting on the guard rail. A motionless woman lies partially across the dotted white lines in the fast lane.
“Stay with the kids. Call 911!”
I dial with shaking fingers, window rolled down to try to see where we are at almost 9 o’clock at night on westbound interstate 44, not even feeling the frigid wind blowing into the cab. I had been fiddling with my phone trying to get a signal, trying to find a vacancy in Joplin on New Year’s Eve’s eve, when I looked up to see a movement so wrong your brain can’t comprehend why a car is flipping end over end towards you on the freeway.
We shouldn’t have been there at that exact moment. Our drive out to Michigan had been so uneventful, I wondered why we’d been so leery to drive across the country for Christmas before. Beautiful weather, no construction barrels or traffic slow-downs–it was truly a blessing.
Then, on the way back from the night session of snowboarding at Alpine Valley, a trans line blows, leaving him and the kids stranded at the end of an exit ramp on I-275. We brought 12 quarts of transmission fluid to him, covered in dirt, oil and trans fluid from crawling under the truck to patch the line, shivering violently in the dark in -4 degree weather.
8 quarts was enough to limp home, then the next day he spent repairing it properly in the warmth of his old firehouse thanks to the brotherhood of firefighters, his buddy towing him the rest of the way when it broke down again. He gave my husband some gloves in case it broke down again.
I worried afterward, though it ran smoothly, that it wouldn’t make the 2 day trek home.
“It shifts a little funny, but it should be ok,” he said. We should have left an extra day early because he’s on shift New Year’s Day.
Because I was busy talking with my brother’s new fiancee, we finally left 30 minutes later then usual from my mother’s to head back home. As we left Michigan, I saw tucked in the clouds a tiny square of a rainbow.
“Look, kiddos, it’s a rainbow cloud!”
“I see it, Mama! That’s so cool!” my son said. I’d never seen such a tiny little square of rainbow before and because of the way my brain works, I wondered at the significance of the symbol of God’s promise peeking at us at the start of our trip, but it was quickly forgotten in the squalls that hit us as we crossed into Ohio. We slowed to 40 mph in the near white-out conditions. We made more stops after that then we normally do, because we had used up all the windshield wiper fluid, for bathroom breaks, for wrong exits, and for fuel while trying to find a decent price for diesel, then sat in traffic in Indiana because of a semi-truck accident being cleared. He grumbled at the delays, mad at the GPS spinning wildly in unmapped, un-updated territory, amazed at the audacity of uncaring gas station clerks who couldn’t figure out how to set the gas pumps. Without all those delays, we would have made it all the way to Tulsa to find a place to sleep.
Instead, we were 40+ miles outside of Joplin, in 16 degree weather, first on scene for an ejection rollover.
“Help, I need some help! Please help me get up and off the road!”
“Ma’am, please don’t move! I’m sorry, I can’t move you until the ambulance comes. Everything is going to be ok,” my husband reassured her.
The other lady had some back pain, but he told her to stay in the car out of the wind. There was surprisingly less side damage to the car so he was able to wrench open the door to the backseat where she had crawled to get out since the crushed front end had damaged the front passenger door. He stayed crouched at the side of the woman on the street trying to keep her from moving and helped to coordinate with the sheriff’s deputy all the people who stopped to help.
Because of the snow and salt, the windows in the back of the truck were opaque enough to block the view of the poor moaning woman in the road from the kids. They were worried and scared for the people, but calmed after I pointed out all the people who had stopped to help.
Within minutes, other people had pulled over to help, a man in a puffy ski jacket crunching through the debris, cell phone to ear. A older woman in a hat with a pompom on top asked me, “Is that a dog?”
“No, it’s a person,” I replied, while trying to give our location to the 911 operator.
“I’m going to connect you with Lewiston,” the operator said.
“A police car just arrived, but we need an ambulance right away. Please hurry. There are 2 patients, and one was ejected from the car and is laying in the road. My husband is a paramedic, but she needs to get to a hospital,” I said, breathless with worry.
He headed back to the truck to get the coat he’d left behind when he threw it into park. “I need gloves, honey. Amazingly, they are both conscious and moving,” he reassured the kids. I handed him 3 or 4 pairs of gloves, and he headed back into the cold.
Someone found a blanket and jacket and covered her. Another person brought him a C- collar, and a travelling nurse helped him fasten it. The ambulance arrived, parking far away, until my husband motioned the rig closer, directing the EMTs and helping to gently load her from the split/scoop backboard onto the stretcher. The sheriff’s deputy and a thin brunette with a flashlight helped to keep control of the scene, and a friendly state trooper arrived to assess the situation.
Both people are lucid and were on the way to the hospital when we left. Please say some prayers for them, and please, please wear your seat belts.
If you doubt there are good people in the world or that things don’t happen for a reason, at least 9 people stopped to help in blowing wind and below freezing temperatures. The semi-truck travelling behind us saw us pull over so he was able to avoid running over the woman, then parked his truck to block traffic and protect her. One of the people who stopped to help was an off-duty sheriff’s deputy with his wife who is a dispatcher travelling eastbound, and they were able to call it in as they were turning around so the ambulance arrived quickly. Several others who stopped were EMTs. All of these people melted back into the dark anonymity of night, headed back to their destinations, glad to be in the right place at the right time.
Happy 2017 everyone. May you always be exactly where God needs you. I pray that 2018 is filled with blessings for you and yours!