What It Feels Like to Be Hit by a Drunk Driver
Most people know what it’s like to drive, and a good percentage of those even know what it’s like to drive after a few drinks. I know I do. I can still remember my light-headedness, my slow reactions, and my exhilaratingly mixed emotions of driving drunk. However, most of us never get caught for driving while tipsy. I never did.
However, aside from dwellers of dense urban environments, most people don’t know what it’s like to be a pedestrian who has been hit by a drunk driver. Most don’t know the profound terror of seeing a roaring, two-ton hunk of metal jump the curb that is supposed to keep walkers safe; they don’t realize that it is impossible to run in the split-second a pedestrian has after he watches a drunk driver careen into his space. But I do.
Two years ago, I was hit by a drunk driver. This is what it is like.
I Was Walking to My Car
It was early December, and I had stayed at work a bit later than normal, trying to finish a few projects before my kids started their winter break. I was feeling the pressure of the holidays already, and admittedly, my mind wasn’t on my surroundings while I shrugged on my coat, stepped outside into the cold, winter air, and walked to my car. The building’s parking lot was under construction, and employees were asked to find parking along side streets nearby; my car was parallel parked a few streets away, and I let my mind wander as my feet led the way.
Finally, I reached the last crosswalk. I could see my car across the street, but the bright-red hand of the warning light told me to stay put. I looked left, right, and left again; there weren’t any cars coming, but in accordance with those lessons I was struggling to teach my kids, I stayed put on the sidewalk. In a few minutes, when the bright-green walking person blinked ahead of me, without hesitation I stepped into the road ― and aside from blinding, screaming pain, that’s the last thing I remember.
I Was in the Hospital for Months
When I awoke, the first thing I felt was an enormous tube in my throat ― and my wife’s hand in mine. During the next few hours, multiple people explained what had happened: A drunk driver at 55 miles per hour didn’t see me, didn’t swerve, didn’t stop on red. His car was big, an SUV or truck, and so I couldn’t even roll onto the hood to get away from the tires. My body was obliterated, and I was lucky to be alive.
My legs were pummeled into shards, my hips ground to dust ― but mercifully, I couldn’t feel them, due to my broken back. I received a kidney transplant from my brother, since both of mine were squished to bursting by four-wheel-drive. It took two weeks for doctors to trust my lungs enough to remove the breathing tube. It was six months before I could sit up in bed. For the rest of my life, I will rely on wheels instead of feet to take me where I need to go.
My recovery was likely more painful than the initial impact, if only because it hurt more than just me. That Christmas, my children brought presents to the hospital, unwrapping them under the blinking fluorescent lights, stale air, and distressed gaze of their silent, bandaged father. For the months that followed, my wife split her time and energy into thirds: working full-time, basically being a single mother of two, and caring for her near-vegetable husband. I felt useless; I was a burden to everyone I loved ― and worse, I always would be.
I Was Trying to Get What I Needed to Live
Meanwhile, the man who drove steadfastly into and over my body was suffering, as well. He was levied with dozens of criminal charges: driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, driving to endanger, assault, and more. He spent more than one night in jail, and he faced several years in prison because of his negligence.
My family couldn’t afford to feel pity. I enjoyed some health insurance relief, but without my wages, we could barely afford our mortgage, let alone electricity to keep us warm and food to keep us full. It wasn’t fair, what that man did to me, my wife, and my children. I hired a personal injury lawyer in Corpus Christi, and after a few short months of depositions and arbitration, we earned enough to almost feel normal again.
I Am Still Overcoming My Pain and Fear
It has been two years, and my body, my mind, and my family is still not completely right. I feel phantom pain in the legs I can see but not move. I have nightmares of being strapped in a hospital bed, devices around me beeping and blinking, a thick, stiff tube shoved down my throat.
I will never again pick up my girls and swing them around; I will never dance with them on my own feet or walk them down aisles to the partners they choose. I managed to find work, but most with my disability never do.
My biggest fear is that this tragedy will happen again ― not to me, but to someone else I love. I beg friends and acquaintances, even strangers, to find another way home after even one drink, for I imagine them careening into one of my kids or my wife or my one-kidneyed brother. I tell everyone I meet: Don’t drink and drive. Not once, never.
This guest post was submitted by Cher Zavala.
Cher is a content coordinator who assists in contributing quality articles on various topics. In her free time she also enjoys hiking, traveling and getting to know the world around her. Cher has built up many strong relationships over the years within the blogging community and loves sharing her useful tips with others