“What happened to her?”
“She was in the wreck. Very lucky.”
“Did she roll it?”
“I’d say, looking at the damage, at least once.”
“How is she doing? God, she’s got glass all over her.”
“Pulse is strong, but elevated, 132. BP, whoa, 150 over 35, Jesus. Hang in there, miss.”
“What hurts, ma’am?”
“What’s today’s date?”
“How’d you get way over here? Was she thrown?”
“Was anyone else in the car, miss?”
“Lacerations to her arms, looks like her left leg is bleeding someplace. Says her back hurts and she’s foggy.”
“Get a collar on her! Where’s the board?”
“Ma’am, tell me your name. What’s your name? Ma’am, can you hear me?”
Who, me? I thought for a moment about my name… and no, not this time. I remembered.
“I can hear you,” I declared. “I’m Dawn Stacey Ennis.”
The paramedics, cops, firefighters were all around me and a few feet away I could see the car I had been driving which now had no windows, a partially crushed roof and looked like a giant crushed it and tossed it like an empty soda can from about 200 feet in the air. I was able to see the car, but as for the men just inches from my face, not so much.
“I can hear you but it’s a little hard to make out faces right now. It’s like, out of focus, like through a kaleidoscope or a cheap pair of binoculars.”
“Glass. It’s all over her face, too,” said one paramedic to another. “Where do you want to go ma’am?”
“Home,” I said.
“Where’s home?” asked the man who kept calling me “ma’am.” I immediately didn’t like him.
“West Hartford,” I told him. Then the man wearing dark blue spoke up, apparently a police officer. “Says here on your license you’re from Danbury.”
“People do move,” I said, probably a little too sarcastically.
“Not you, you don’t,” said the paramedic who called me ‘Miss.’” I liked him, a lot. “Don’t you move until we get you checked out, we’ll move you. And home is a bit too far so we’ll take you to either Waterbury or St. Mary’s Hospital, which do you prefer?”
At this point, I’m beginning to realize I have crashed a car, somehow walked away, and yet I am not exactly well. So why I should be the one to decide which hospital is the one to take the best care of me is incomprehensible. I think back to many visits to the Emergency Rooms at hospitals from here to Florida, for a variety of reasons and not all of them to treat me. One particular memory stands out: my great aunt, lying on a gurney in a hallway at a Brooklyn ER after falling down a flight of stairs at a funeral home of all places.
For hours, she lay there in agony, forgotten and scared, until I suggested we hire a private ambulance to take her out of there. We took her away from the triage for gang-bangers and patients hooked up to IVs and handcuffed to their gurneys, and straight to the hospital on Long Island where my mom was a nurse.
“Which hospital treats the fewest gunshot wounds?” I asked Nice Paramedic.
“St. Mary’s, by far.,” he said.
Didn’t need to ask me twice: “That’s it then.”
While Not As Nice Paramedic drove, Nice Paramedic took off my pants. Don’t go getting any ideas, he was checking out my legs. No, again, you’re missing my point. He needed to see if I was injured where clothing covered my body,
“Hope these weren’t your favorite jeans, miss,” Nice Paramedic said, as he cut them away with a big pair of scissors. They were, but I wasn’t exactly going to argue, and besides, he was cutting them off me whether they were or they were not my favorite.
The paramedics rolled me into the ER at St. Mary’s and then the nurses took over, with more scissors, cutting off my top and my underwear, too. They had been clean, before whatever happened in the car. I had no memory whatsoever of anything except seeing a black SUV or pickup type truck pull out fast in front of me on a two-lane road, right in my path, as the driver exited a shopping center parking lot, no doubt with the accelerator floored.
I was going maybe 40 as I maneuvered to avoid him and that’s when a man opened my car door and said “Let’s get you out of here, come on, before the car explodes!”
I can’t explain why I don’t remember the crash; a doctor told me later I may recall the details in a few days or a week, or longer, or never. My brain once again hitting rewind and erase to protect me from – I don’t know. At least, this time, it was seconds of memory instead of 14 years.
So, the ER nurses successfully cut away my bra and everything else and I was being checked for bumps, bruises and lacerations – a fancy word for cuts. I’d say if there was any doubt about my gender, it probably would have been resolved right there in room 18, as I was stripped nude and then covered in a typically flimsy hospital gown.
“It’s going to be okay, Miss Ennis, don’t you worry.”
I guess there was no question, then, about my gender; one less thing to worry about.
Doctors kept coming and looking me over, nurses set up an IV, took blood, and changed my neck brace from the one the paramedics put me in, to what must be the model now in vogue. Of course, the newer one was even more annoying.
I was scheduled for X-Rays of my chest, my leg and my wrist and CT-scans of my head and my pelvis.
But first: I had to pee.
Well, actually, no, as I told the nurse with the pink plastic bedpan in her hands, “I already did that at the scene, wasn’t exactly planned.”
She laughed and said, “well, be that as it may, we need a urine sample. Gotta check on whether you’re preggers,” she said with a smile.
Yeah, no. “I’m not. Definitely not,” I told her. It didn’t seem to matter.
Unfortunately, because it might disrupt their tests, I could not eat or drink anything; apparently that would affect their investigation into whether I was bleeding internally.
So Nurse Bedpan then started to cram that shallow tray under my crotch, and I asked, could she just give me a urine sample jar and I’d fill it the old fashioned way.
“No, you can’t move, we’re going to have to do this another way.” And so I tried to play it her way but asked just one more request. “If you could swap that out for a urinal I’m pretty sure that will work best,” I asked and politely suggested.
“Of course not!” she scoffed, and off she went.
Well as new experiences go, I was as willing as anyone to go where no man has gone before. But there was going to be a problem, of this I was sure.
Now, I must insist, my unusual arrangement between my legs is my business, and if you don’t already know, I see no point in piquing your curiosity about what’s down there, and what is not; however, as this is relevant to this particular story, I don’t see a way to avoid this delicate topic. Suffice to say, it’s not an outie, although it used to be. And it’s not that with which women are equipped, either, by nature or through surgical means. My usual method of relieving myself is to sit, and I do what everyone else does on a toilet.
Laying on my back, however, meant I did not have the proper trajectory nor the target required for such an activity as urination.
The nurse in charge of bedpan duty (now there’s a career aspiration) returned to find that for the second time today I had peed all over myself. “Oh, goodness!” she said, exasperated.
And as she pulled back my gown, expecting to see a vagina amongst my pubic hair – or maybe she was expecting to see a penis, I don’t know – she gasped, as her gaze seemed locked on something she had never seen with her own eyes, and quickly covered up so as not to look further.
I wasn’t sure what to say at this point, so I said nothing; I’m guessing that the sight of my unusual lady parts was just not in keeping with the job of someone who goes around collecting pee.
She washed me off and changed the sheets without me having to leave the bed, since I was not allowed to move, and left without saying another word. But in seconds, she was back in my room.
Nurse Bedpan placed a blue urinal next to my left hand, then walked away.
I don’t know or care if she went around the entire hospital relaying details of my unusual anatomy. Whatever is different on the outside can’t change what’s on the inside, which I’m sure the radiologist and doctor examining the results of the CT scan on my pelvis concluded is a normal, typical and undamaged male reproductive system, absent its usual external aspects.
But what matters is that I wasn’t treated any different; the staff at this Catholic hospital respected my identity and treated me consistently with respect and kindness.
Even the doctor himself never said a word, and treated me as everyone else had. “Miss Ennis,” he told me, crouching by my bedside, “You are alive today because of seat belts and airbags. And you’re incredibly fortunate. We found no internal damage, no broken bones. I’m going to recommend you be released, go home, take some extra strength pain reliever and rest.
“Oh, and make sure whoever is coming to get you brings you some clothes,” he said, smiling.
A nurse finally brought me water, and a ham and cheese sandwich. It was 5:30 in the evening and six hours in the ER was not at all how I expected to spend that day. But the doctor was right: I was lucky. I realized that almost immediately when that Good Samaritan opened my car door and put out his hand to help me. Maybe he was a tad overdramatic since the car never did blow up.
But before I could even thank him, he was gone, and I was left by the curb where I considered what might have happened, not really knowing. All I knew for sure, was that I was glad to be alive, and to not be dead.
Given how I felt four short months ago about the end of my career, the implosion of my marriage and the dashing of all my hopes and dreams for the future, being glad to be alive was what my best friend Susan called a miraculous turnaround. I had been in yet another car crash, and survived with scratches, cuts and bruises. I decided that day it was time to stop risking my life driving, something that, even when it’s not my fault, brought me as close to losing my life as I ever want to be.
My crash and the lessons I learned from it brought happy tears to both our eyes as we considered the way the universe had unfolded for me that day.
By Walt Whitman
Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.
To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.
To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves— the ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?