Intan S shares her horrifying but ultimately inspiring experience of a car accident that claimed her ability to do something we take for granted each day.
I was on top of the world, my life was on a plateau. I had a great job doing what I loved which paid well, allowed me to meet people and travel, a wonderfully blessed life; and to top it off, I was going to marry a handsome foreigner. His family had come over for our traditional-style engagement and I was to fly off to France later in the year to get married and start my blissful new life with my soon-tobe-husband. Life was good.
A fateful decision
One fateful day, my family maid had insisted on going home as something urgent had cropped up. In all the years I have been dropping her off at the bus-stop, I have never stepped out of the car. But that day, I walked out to the back to help her get her stuff out. I was just about to open the boot when I heard the screeching of brakes and felt a hard thud against me. The next thing I knew, the world had gone black. As I came to, I felt confused. I could hear voices around me and felt something hot against my face. I was under my car! I had been hit by a drunk driver who had been weaving in and out of traffic at 180 km per hour. That was where the needle on his speedometer had frozen. Much later, when the police investigated, they found that I was victim number 13, and yet he was still on the road. I did not feel anything at first, and was lucky that a trained nurse was passing by. She stopped to give me first aid. In shock for the first few minutes, I tried to get up but found that I couldn’t. Then the pain hit me. Excruciating, slicing pain cut through my legs. I thought my legs were broken. People kept telling me to remain calm and that everything would be okay.
An ambulance rushed me to a government hospital. After a flurry of x-rays and scans, I could hear the young doctors saying, “We have to amputate both her legs.” What were they talking about? Only then did I realise the severity of my injuries. Both my legs were crushed. My friend who accompanied me in the ambulance told me later that her husband had to pick off pieces of my legs from the road at the accident site! I forced myself to look at my legs. They were in a horrifying condition. I would never walk again, I cried to myself. My boss heard about the accident and rushed to the hospital. He insisted on taking me to a private hospital for a second opinion and amidst my haze of pain, I was whisked away.
The hardest cut
I awoke the next day in the ICU, and thankfully, both my bandaged legs were still there. But the pain was beyond description. I longed for everything to be over so that I could walk out of the hospital, get married and continue with my life. But it wasn’t going to be that easy. The orthopedic surgeon tried to save my right leg, which was worse than the left. But the flesh turned black and my leg practically rotted before my eyes. After four long months, I had enough. I made the hardest decision of my life. I told the doctor I wanted my leg amputated. I couldn’t go through the emotional and physical strain any longer. I just wanted the bad leg off and to resume my life. My left leg was also crushed but doctors inserted a metal rod and performed bone grafts to reconstruct the bone. I would still be able to use it and that was enough for me. My doctor, friends and family thought I was crazy. Finally, they agreed with my decision.
A couple of months after I returned home, my left leg started giving me problems. A bad infection had set in and I was sure I would lose my left leg too. My surgeon gave me antibiotics and sent me home but my condition worsened. My family pressed me to go to another surgeon and when he saw how bad my left leg had become, he admitted me into the hospital immediately. I fought for my life and my leg. Bone grafts had to be redone and rods had to be reinserted. It took almost a year-and-a-half, but in the end, my leg recovered. But soon after, another complication set in. I found out that the first surgeon had botched the amputation on my right leg, and as a result, the prosthetic was unable to be fit properly, causing blisters which led to more infections, endangering my life again.
Back to square one
The surgeon would have to re-amputate my right leg to cut out the infected part. This would regress my recovery and make it even harder for me to relearn how to walk. I crashed and fell into deep depression. The second time around was very painful as they had to cut out healthy bone and flesh. The pain was worse this time around. Without the love and encouragement of my family and friends, I would never have made it through.
Altogether, I have had 27 operations since the accident four years ago. Since then, my recovery has been steadily improving. I move around in a wheelchair but am still undergoing physiotherapy in an effort to walk again with a new prosthesis.
Love is blind
Through it all, the engagement went on as planned by his family. My fiancée said that he would take me as I was, because to him, I was still the same woman he loved. He is such a wonderful man, and his family was extremely supportive throughout. He desperately wanted to marry me and take care of me, as he had been waiting for almost four years. I told him I wanted to be able to walk up to him before marrying him. I did not want to end up being a burden to the man I love. Would he wait? Only time and love would tell.
What I learnt
I learnt how incredibly kind and caring people can be, even strangers. My estranged relationship with my parents and siblings started healing as they sacrificed their time and effort to take care of me. We are incredibly close and loving now. I learnt humility and patience, and most of all I learnt how to appreciate the people in my life. Not one cent was deducted from my salary and benefits by my bosses all the years that I was on medical leave. And they paid for all my medical expenses too!
The transition from being normal to disabled is incredibly hard. Not being able to simply swing your legs onto the floor each morning when you get up from bed makes you realise how much we take God’s gifts for granted. Becoming dependent on help the first few months taught me who really cared. I had to learn to put my arrogance aside. Dealing with the stares of strangers as I rolled up in my wheelchair made me extremely self-conscious but I learnt to hold my head up high. After all, it wasn’t my problem but theirs if they couldn’t accept me.
I had a great life before. But after the accident, I gained a deeper appreciation for my life and the people around me. It also taught me how to be grateful for every little thing. Only when we lose something, do we realise how precious they are.