Friday, June 17, 2011

Alice, Me, & My Legs

A confession; for as many times as I have referenced Alice, on this, my 49th year journey, I have not yet fully read “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” nor “Through the Looking Glass.” I have, however, watched a few versions of the movie which provided enough for me to comfortably simulate her. Recently I began to wonder, how much like Alice am I? I know I am curiouser and curiouser; I know I’ve had many adventures and, although it seems I have been tossed down the rabbit’s hole unexpectedly, I’m not sure how far down the rabbit’s hole I’m willing to venture, not yet anyway.
Alice is a girl who yearns for wisdom, seeks self discovery, and aspires to overcome hindrances encountered along her adventures. Yes, this too I can relate. She holds on to hope and faith as well as looking for the goodness in all she meets. These are qualities which, at times may quiver, I do desire.
It takes Alice time to realize she is a very reasonable girl in what often seems quite an unreasonable world.  Coming to an awakening of the power of her own intuition maybe her greatest realization. Somewhere, along the past 49 years, this is something I have lost but so deeply and desperately long to regain.
For a few moments I wrestled with myself that this is real life not a fairy tale. “Yes, but who’s the writer?” Abruptly, the self debate ended when I thought there are adventures which come into life when we might rather have Disney Imaginers, even Tim Burton write the story. At least then we’d know the scariest part of the adventure would be over in less than two hours.
One such adventure occurred the evening of Memorial Day 1997. Jeff needed to return a tractor trailer (18 wheeler) to the construction yard so it could be used the next day. I would drive to the yard to bring him back home.
We had a long woven organic looking throw rug at the front door. It was forever getting bunched up which caused everyone to hate this rug except me. I instinctively straightened it out with my foot every time, kind of like a little two step between us. This evening was no exception except that I noticed the dance; feeling the movement of my toes and the rugs knotted weavings.
As I slipped my want-to-be Birkenstocks on and headed out the door I yelled, “Mommy will be right back, I’m going to go get Daddy.” As I walked across the grass, I was aware of its coolness and the how the each blade softly tickled. “I really must mow tomorrow.” I barely got across the yard when our 4 year old son came charging out after me banging the screen door as he always did, “I wanna go with ya!” I turned around in time to catch him as he leaped into my arms. Carrying him to the truck, something a friend had recently said to me came to mind, “When are you going to stop packing that kid on your hip, he’s almost as big as you are.”
“You are getting so big,” I said as I put him in next to me.
I recall it being a hot Las Vegas evening; the air conditioner was blasting on high. I don’t recall the songs on the radio but it was turned up; nor do I recall the conversation but I do know there is no better conversation then that between a 4 year old and his mommy.
We arrived at the construction yard before my husband. As he came around the corner I said, “Look, here comes Daddy in the big truck. Stay right here I’m going to go open the gate for him.”
Leaving the engine running, the air conditioner blasting, and the radio on, I went to hop out of the truck. As I touched the door handle a voice clearly said, “Julie, don’t get out of this truck.”
Hopping out of the truck, I turned to my son, as if the voice somehow came from him, and replied, “Don’t be silly I’ve done this a million times.”
Upon touching the lock on the gate, the voice spoke again, “Julie, don’t open this gate.”
Rolling the gate open, I said, “I’ve done this a million times; it’s only an act of courteousness.”
I was standing against the gate, the gate was up against the wall of the building, as wide open as it could be, allowing plenty of space to pass. Jeff pulled up and said something to me. I politely nodded but couldn’t actually hear what he said, his voice was drowned out over the blaring alarm and the loud diesel engine. After parking I  knew he would be several minutes; so once he passed through I would shut the gate and wait with our son.
Jeff had driven the truck through and I glanced to the right to see how much more of the trailer had to pull in. The next thing I recall is lying cross way completely under the trailer. I thought, “This is really not a good place to be.”  I knew I had to tuck myself in or the back passenger side tires would run over my head. Looking to my left, I began to curl myself into a fetal position; then watch as the last two sets of driver side tires ran over my legs. The last set turned me a quarter turn and I watched as Jeff continued to slowly drive on. The trailer was fully loaded with dirt and gravel; there was so much weight he had no idea he had run me over.
Everything was in slow motion. It seemed he’d traveled miles yet it was just a few feet when I finally saw the brake lights go on. I watched him jump out of the tractor dialing on his cell phone. At this point I thought, “This has got to hurt. I had better wake up.” I hadn’t even finished the thought when the searing pain hit. I let out a cry that came from so deep within being; it sounded foreign to me. When I saw the look in Jeff’s eyes I knew this wasn’t good, I thought it was fixable, but not good.
I told him to go stay with our son; I didn’t want my boy to climb out of the truck wondering what was taking Mommy so long. Once Jeff left my side I attempted to sit up to take a look. Both of my legs were still in tack. From the knees down, there was no skin remaining on either leg. They were a mangled, broken mess, bent in a grotesque way. My feet were there with skin, except for one toe. My left sandal was about to fall off. I kept willing my foot to wiggle it back on, but it wouldn’t respond. With each frantic beat of my heart I could feel warm blood puddling deeper around me. I knew I was dying.
It’s quite odd the flurry of thoughts which go through one’s mind at such times. I never once thought about how much paperwork I had to get done, the phone calls needing to be made, the dinner dishes on the table, the mountain of laundry, the yard needing mowed, or any of the other things I’d typically be concerned with. Yes, my life did flash before me and in between the life flashes I kept thinking two conscious thoughts; one was I never thought this would be the way I would die and the other, I couldn’t remember, as I ran out the door, if I told my kids I loved them.
While all this was going on in my head, there was a continuous ebb and flow of intense panic and intense peace. During the panic I’d let out such horrific sounds from fear and pain; during the peace I became so comfortable and accepting of death, I even clearly recall thinking, “If this is dying, I can do this.”
At some point, the yard watchman came and stayed with me while waiting for the paramedics. I was so thirsty, I begged for a glass of water. The first responder was a North Las Vegas Police Officer who happens to be a family friend. As he approached I was relieved to see a bright light coming towards me and thought, “Yes, it’s the white light.” But too quickly it went away. I later came to find it was a “Cops” film crew was doing a ride along with the officer. My husband stopped them and once they saw me, they decided shut off.
Time took on a whole new dimension. The thought process I had should have taken hours, yet it was only a matter of minutes. When the paramedics arrived they went right into action. I felt the cold scissors cutting off my shorts, oxygen, needles, no pain meds though; all the while I kept grabbing the EMT’s collar pulling him down towards me, “You have to let my kids know I love them.”
I remained awake and alert until I was wheeled into the first of many surgeries. That night, doctors had to take my right leg above the knee. They reconstructed my left leg, however, with the extensive blood loss it never took. I watched my toes, peeking out of the bandages, turn black. Eventually, piece by piece, I lost my left leg just below the knee. The partial knee has major damage and is quite fragile but I’m grateful to have it. Much of the skin and muscle tissue on my left leg was lost resulting in a large area of skin grafting and the main artery ends just above the knee.
There were many stories from my three month stay in the hospital. There are many stories yet to be told and many more yet to be had on this adventure of my life. For now, this is the one which needed to be shared.
Towards the end of “Through the Looking Glass,” the White Queen says to Alice, “Take care of yourself. Something is going to happen.”


  1. thank you for telling your story julia. so powerful to witness you and your story, through your eyes, your experience. the love of our children though, to be honest, is what moved me the most, it is there, where i felt our connection. just wanted to share that. :o)

  2. Julia, thank you so much for sharing your story here. I can't say much beyond that right now - I'm still turning it all over in my mind, but I do know that whether what comes our way is given us or not, it's what you do with it that makes the difference. You are clearly one of those who makes a difference. Sending waves of love and gratitude.

  3. Julia,
    To be honest, I had no idea...and I cannot thank you enough for your brave honesty in sharing this story. So starkly real. I am in tears, thinking of telling my children I love them...of what was going through your mind and your heart. You are a beautiful soul.

  4. You are courageous -- so honest and generous-- to share this powerful story. Thank you. You have much to teach about love and life and I look forward to more of your writing. I am so happy to get to know you more in this group.

  5. Julia, thank you for sharing such an important part of your story. This was very powerful and moving for me to read too and I don't feel I have the right words to adequately express what I'm feeling. But I can say that reading this leaves me with a strong feeling of strength and with a reminder of what's really important in life. I think you are amazing and if you choose to share more stories that feel like they need releasing, I will be here to listen! Big love and hugs to you!!

  6. The tears are streaming down my are so beautiful...I mean so beautiful. The grace with which you told this story ...the courage it takes to face everything you faced and to know that in the end, all there is is love is the most powerful thing I've ever read or felt. I am so deeply moved. YOU are a Goddess...a radiant, shining Goddess...thank the Universe for you....I'm going to tell my kid I love them but I'm also going to tell you - I love you. Thank you for being you.

  7. I am still amazed that you survived...amazed that you aren't bitter, and glad that you are my friend.

  8. You sent me here because you thought I might like your post Never Ever Give up and I found this below. Never have I read such a honest and brave account of something so horrific and yet you have demonstrated your strength in coping and write so beautifully and with such faith. Like Lisa and Natasha I am in tears. Tears of amazement at the love you describe and the pain you have conquered - tears of gratitude for all that I take for granted. I am so glad that through 21 Secrets, then Natasha's class and now this inspiring blog that I have come to meet you. Life must be sending me a message that I must heed and I love how this chain of events has brought you into my life.