4 Things Nobody Tells You About Surviving An Awful Accident
You know that nightmare where your teeth fall out? I got in a bus accident, and that nightmare became reality. I'm going to tell you all about it here today. I've also included pictures for your viewing pleasure/schadenfreude. If you are squeamish, you should maybe look away. There will be blood.
It's Impossible To Make Sense Of Accidents
It was a normal Tuesday afternoon, and I was on a bus that I'd taken hundreds of times without issue. I was playing some game on my phone, vaguely thinking about what I was going to eat when I got home. I had just gotten a haircut, I was wearing a very cute dress, and my Instagram post documenting both of those facts was getting a lot of likes. You know how it goes.
And then a truck drifted into our lane and slammed into the side of the bus, causing the bus driver to swerve and slam into a tree, causing me to slam my face into the seat in front of me. In that moment, I went from looking like this:
I know you can't see my teeth ...
To looking like this:
... but I promise they don't always look this way.
As soon as the bus stopped moving, I could tell something was very wrong. My lower teeth were squished into the middle of my mouth, and I could feel them moving. Also, there was blood everywhere, which is a classic sign of distress.
I just sort of sat there in shock and dumbly thought, "There's no way this is happening to me right now." I wasn't in pain yet, my mind just could believe that I -- a girl who had never so much as sprained anything -- was in a bus crash and just sustained a serious facial injury.
So I did the only thing you can do. I put my hands on the seat in front of me, gripped the sides, took a deep breath, and started screaming. I did not stop screaming until the EMTs showed up. Every time a tooth touched the roof of my mouth or I felt blood drip into my lap or any other reminder of "This is happening right now," my brain just short-circuited and slammed the "banshee scream" button.
Banshee is my pet seagull.
Once I had gotten to the hospital and they'd shut my ass up with some Dilaudid, the "What if" game started. That's the one where you torture yourself with every random scenario that could have prevented this situation, because your brain can't handle the absolute randomness of it all. What if I'd taken the train home instead? What if I'd been sitting somewhere else on the bus (like maybe not in the exact spot where the truck hit the bus)? What if I'd been paying attention and had time to brace myself? What if I hadn't gone home to visit my mom that particular weekend? Besides the driver and myself, everyone else on the bus walked away with scrapes and bruises. What the fuck did I do wrong that led to me getting my mouth smashed in?
This line of thinking is shockingly unhelpful, but way easier to deal with than "I got in this accident because the world is random and I am ultimately insignificant." It fucked me up good. I literally almost started shopping at Hot Topic and listening to Built to Spill again.
Also, for about three weeks after the accident, I was incredibly anxious all of the time. I broke down in my therapist's office about how I kept imagining all of these Final Destination accidents and how paranoid I was. Of course, she had never seen Final Destination, so I had to casually pause in the middle of being hysterical to explain the basic plot before I could go back to crying over how my overhead fan was making a threatening clicking noise, like it was counting down to my decapitation. Otherwise, I would've just sounded crazy.
It's A Financial Nightmare
While I was being all emo about my place in the world, my mom was being justifiably emo about insurance. I have excellent health insurance, thanks to my mom, but if you're in an auto accident, your health insurance can go get fucked. Everything is covered by auto insurance and/or suing the shit out of somebody.
I have made many jokes about getting hit by cars, either for financial purposes, Jean-Ralphio style ...
... or because depression takes you to some dark places. God apparently does not appreciate my jokes, because the fuckwad that hit us didn't even have the decency to be Surgeon von Moneybags in a Masarati. Nope, I got hit by Dilapidated TruckFuck with shit insurance.
His auto insurance was supposed to cover my medical bills. Instead, it was a pointless joke, especially when you take into account that he almost fucking killed someone (the bus driver spent two days in the ICU), he wrecked my mouth, and he sent 11 other people to the hospital to check for concussions and fractures. Even worse, whatever cut of insurance money I was going to get was going to come in 2020 (his insurance company has to interview everyone on the bus and review the case) and was going to cover my mom's taxi ride to the hospital and a carton of Giant brand ice cream, at most.
Accept no substitutes, unless something better is available.
I guess we could have sued, but we have neither the time nor money to sue a poor man or government-funded transportation. My mom's auto insurance plan could have covered about $30,000 of my medical costs ... except that her first round of refund claims came back denied. Her insurance company initially told her that because I wasn't in her car, it wasn't covered.
The insurance lady helpfully told my mom that if I had been driving a golf cart that we owned and wrecked it, it would have been covered. But getting injured through no fault of my own? I can go suck an egg. The only way we'd get reimbursed for anything was if she submitted a document from Shithead McTexting's insurance saying they couldn't cover the cost of my injuries.
My mom is a single mother of four. Guess how much tolerance she has for bullshit like, "Well, if your daughter had been driving a golf cart that you owned?"
If my family had "own a golf cart" money, I wouldn't have been on a bus in the first place.
The insurance company has since apologized, and is now promising to cover the $30,000.
Which is fantastic, because a tooth runs $3,000-$5,000 a pop. That's not including the drugs you have to buy or any pre-surgery preparations or anything of the sort, and that's how much an implant is for one tooth. I lost five teeth. Do the math.
The Healing Process Sucks
The problem with severe dental/facial injuries is that they're really painful, they're on your face (which you presumably want to look nice), and doing anything beneath the gum line is an expensive pain in the ass. My jaw was intact, but the ridge that my teeth are anchored in (it's called the alveolar ridge, dummy) was completely crushed. Like, cookie crumbs crushed. Five of my teeth were severely traumatized, and I had to get nine stitches in my chin from where said teeth had gone through my bottom lip.
#NoMakeup -- especially not over the massive wound on my face.
First, I had to get my ridge reset and a brace put in by a trauma specialist. This means injecting me with Novocain, pulling a tooth that was straight-up severed from its root, and trying to humpty-dumpty my bone fragments back into something that resembled a mouth. During this period, I also couldn't get my stitches wet, so I showered like this:
This beard is made of disaster.
Then I saw a different specialist, who was going to try to save the remaining four traumatized teeth by doing root canals on them. No dice. Instead, he solemnly informed me that my teeth were not only dead, they were completely knocked out of their sockets, so he was just going to take them out completely.
Wait, so "take them out" as in "wear false teeth until the apocalypse hits"? Is there a third level of teeth that grow in after your adult teeth finally fall out? Yes to the first question, no to the second. Next thing I know, I'm seeing another specialist about getting a set of Washingtons.
False teeth are still made of wood, right?
For the first 30 days after my accident, I was on a strict blender diet. I was given a booklet called "Drink to Your Health: 75 Nutritional and Tasty Recipes for Blended Diets." I'd argue that "Put Delicious Food In A Blender and Turn It Into Revolting Sludge" is a better name. More often than not, the recipes seem less like something created to make the experience of having a shattered face less unpleasant and more like a series of random ingredients pulled from a hat and then mashed together to make a "recipe."
This one might as well be called "Go Fuck Yourself"
Like, there's no way that's not low-level hazing or something. So I mostly just lived off Ensure and cried while fantasizing about potato chips.
I got to be on a soft food diet for exactly two weeks before they took off the bridge and yanked my teeth. That was a week ago, so I'm back on the blended diet. I put Kraft Mac 'n Cheese in the blender the other day.
I haven't eaten real food since June 6, and I won't be able to bite into anything until 2017.
Also, every one of these surgeries is incredibly painful, so you have to supplement your liquid diet with Vicodin. Sounds great, until you realize you absolutely cannot shit while taking Vicodin regularly. At all. Add that to the fact that I was suddenly not eating real food and had to give up both cigarettes and alcohol, and I get that faraway, "'Nam veteran reminiscing about the war" look when thinking about that week.
A friend of mine with gastrointestinal issues had recently gotten hemorrhoids from straining after a cheese fries debacle. After day fucking five of no shitting, I was terrified that I was going to also get hemorrhoids. At one point, I leaned over the sink in the bathroom, stared at myself in the mirror in a Vicodin haze, and whispered, "How can I be an adult when I live in fear my own butthole?"
But imagine me saying that in a sort of spit-covered lisp, because I was missing my five bottom front teeth at this point. Turns out you need those to talk normally.
They say laughter is the best medicine. I think it's probably laughter plus opiates plus stool softener, but I'm not a doctor. I do know that there is no better time to joke than when your entire face and life are changing.
When the EMTs first arrived, one guy was clearly irritated by my screaming, and informed me that I only had a cut on my chin. One, I had no idea what he was talking about, because I had yet to realize that I had bitten straight through my lip. Two, fuck you, buddy. So I made eye contact with him and opened my mouth, letting all the blood that had collected in there drip down my chin and into my lap.
At the hospital, I joked with one of the nurses who was taking my temperature to not knock out any of my teeth. He looked vaguely disgusted and declined to take my temperature.
When my mom finally burst into my hospital room, I told her I was going to have to move to Montana and cook meth. That, or I'd have to move under a bridge and ask passersby to answer Laffy Taffy riddles.
The next day, while waiting for the trauma specialist to see me, I entertained myself by sending Snapchats to everyone I know.
The process for getting my teeth permanently replaced takes about a year or so. In the meantime, I wear an Invisalign-esque device that has fake teeth filled in where you need them. It's called a flipper, which is a deceptively cute name for a thing that looks like a Bugs-Bunny-inspired nightmare.
In the two weeks between getting my teeth pulled and getting my flipper, I responded to all staring / cat calls / irritating people by pulling down my lower lip to reveal the hellscape that is my gum line. I'd include a photo, but seriously, it's gross, dude. It's literally a stretch of sewn-together gum craters packed with bone grafts from cadavers. My mouth is probably haunted now.
Anyway, I was freaked out that I was getting five of my goddamn teeth removed at age 22 (they didn't even have a chance to rot out due to my questionable lifestyle!), but that didn't stop me from thinking about all the possibilities of having removable teeth. So I made a blowjob joke while crying.
For the record, I haven't tested this toothless BJ theory, because I'm not going to get jizz in my wildly expensive sutured-shut gum holes. Eventually, everything will heal, though, and you can bet your ass that I'm going to potentially scar some poor soul by winking suggestively and then popping my teeth out.
Until then, I'll just be eating flavorless mush and mournfully saying, "I can't believe I took my teeth out for that."
Get more from Alice Jane Axness in 4 Lifehacks For People Who Haven't Discovered Adulthood Yet and 4 Things You Learn Being Clinically Depressed (As A Child).
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