The Aftermath – How My Photographic Journey Began Part 2

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I have always been artistic and had an appreciation for photography but I never used my camera for anything more than a quick snapshot of a scene, object, and family functions…spilling the beans here, but up to that point I kept the settings at auto. It wasn’t until 2009 that I started exploring the creative side of photography after I was involved in a serious car accident that mangled me from the base of my skull to my rear end; there was extensive muscle, ligament, disk, and nerve stem damage up and down my spine.

Traffic had come to a stop on route 495, a major highway, and a woman rear ended me; I’m told she was going about 80 miles an hour and it sending me flying into the van that was stopped in front of me. My car ricocheted off of the van in front of me and I went flying into the median wall that divided the freeway. Later, I found out that she was text messaging at the time and did not realize that traffic had stopped until it was too late, she never had time to slowed down. The damage to my back and neck muscles was so bad that I could not control my arms and hands enough to clasp onto a pen to write my name. Walking, standing, and sitting for more than a half hour caused excruciating pain in my lower back and neck; needless to say my life was altered that day.

The Aftermath 

The physical damage that I sustained during the accident, the surgical time, and rehabilitation time left me laid up in bed and extremely restricted for about 19 months. There were three disks along my spine that were damaged in the accident; one is in my neck, one between my shoulder blades and one in my lower back. I also sustained extensive tearing in all of my back muscles which contributed to the loss of arm movement and stability. The disk and my nerve stem in my lower back sustained the most significant damage and was what was causing me to lose feeling and mobility in the lower half of my body…I was down to 28%; surgery on my lower back was a given. But because of where the damage was in my lower back there was an 80% chance of paralyzing me during surgery if the doctors tried to fix my spine going in through my back. There was only a 50% chance if they went through my stomach…that seemed like a no brainer choice to me. However, the doctors couldn’t do surgery on my lower back right away; in fact it was 13 months after the accident before I could get my first surgery. My torn back muscles not only needed to heal before surgery could be performed, I also needed to strengthen them enough to hold up my upper body once the surgeon cut into my abdomen, otherwise I would have no core muscles to hold up my upper body. So, I had a weekly regiment of physical therapy as well as appointments to monitor how the PT was affecting the damage of my nerve stem, chiropractic appointments, and neurologist. There were some weeks that I had 9+ doctor appointments to go to; it was like a full-time job trying to get my physical abilities back but I was determined to gain as much back as I could.

I am so grateful that my children were not in the car with me when the accident occurred but they still had their own traumas to deal with because of it. When the accident happened my son was 13 and my daughter was 11; we were always a very close and active family. My children and I would backpack the trails of White Clay Creek and Brandywine Park, canoe Lums Pond, go to the water parks…there was always something for the three of us to get into together. Everything came to a screeching halt for them when the accident occurred; which had both pros and cons to it for each of them. They watched me struggle with walking and normal everyday functions, like tying my shoes or brushing my hair. They watched me as I struggled with physical therapy routines and medication side effects, and this was the first time in their lives that they ever heard me say the words “I can’t”. There were many days that I needed to depend on my children to do those simple things for me; it was horrible for them and I both.

The school work of my children also suffered for a time and they grew angry very quickly. My son especially, he felt that he was the man of the house and needed to step in to fix everything. He wanted to quit school to get a job, when I forbid it he tried to get kicked out of school. They both held things in, which festered into anger, and they lashed out at people. I called their guidance councilors at school early on to inform them of what happened, and what I was seeing happen to the kids. Thankfully the school staff helped me stay on the kids about their schoolwork while I was medicated, and gave them time to talk their issues out.

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7 thoughts on “The Aftermath – How My Photographic Journey Began Part 2

  1. dianaed2013

    I am sure many people have told you that you were so brave. To go through this and produce such great photos is just amazing. Did you know that the artist Freda Karlo had a steel rod go through her stomach and out through her vagina but in later years managed to produce paintings. Very best wishes for your future and to your children.

  2. Stephanie

    Melissa, wow…what a wonderful blog and website. You have come so far since the car accident! Your pictures are beautiful and I’m learning so much about photography from you. Thank you. I too started my blog/business after a life changing event in my family. I feel like we are kindred spirits in a way. I’m excited to follow your blog. 😊

  3. magic doorway images

    Reblogged this on magic doorway images and commented:
    Melissa is a photographer who used a tragic car accident as the impetus to change her life. She makes beautiful art….wouldn’t it be neat if someday we could get some of her prints in the shop…..? Hmmm….hey…you never know 😉.

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