I Survived an Auto Accident and Am Back In The USA

Hello!

I apologize to any readers who were violently upset by my lack of blog posts for the past few weeks! I’m eternally thankful that I didn’t catch my name in an angry title of a post on any popular websites or anything. Thank you for your forgiveness and understanding.

As many of you are probably aware though, my lack of blog post was due to a long stint in three hospitals, traveling back to the United States, more hospital time, moving back to my parents’ home in New Knoxville, OH, and lots of recovering, thinking, and processing.

While many of you are likely aware of different parts of the story, I’ll lay out the journey of the past several weeks chronologically and with as much information as I know and remember.

I was found in a terrible motorbike accident on the night of October 6th, which, as you might already know, is daytime in the USA. I have no memories from sometime in the afternoon of accident day until the morning of October 25th. Citizens of Dong Hoi rushed to my help, as did my friend Michaella. See photos of her in my previous blog post! I loved spending time at Beachside Backpackers, her and her fiancée’s hostel, which has wonderful food, music, conversation, beach, chairs, and pool tables. Michaella and I had lots of conversations together, and it thrills me that she was so helpful to recovering me.

The night of October 6th, my friends Stephanie, James, and Fred and I got together to celebrate James’s birthday! We were excited for a fun birthday week, as my birthday is four days after James’s. The four of us spent time at the restaurant and hostel called Buffalo, where Fred was staying during her three-month internship with an organization that is working to rid the area of land mines and the huge amount of damage they cause. I spent lots of time at Buffalo while in Dong Hoi. They played good music, had a great menu, I became friends with many of the workers there, and it was a really comfortable place for us to relax, chat, shoot some pool, and spend our free time. When we were all ready to head home after celebrating James’s birthday, Fred went up to her room, Stephanie and James motorbiked north and I motorbiked south to get to our houses.

The accident happened at some point in the approximately ten minute motorbike ride back home. The cause of the accident is still unknown, but what is known is that the accident  knocked me unconscious and unmoving. A Dong Hoi citizen eventually found me lying on the ground. Thinking I was Daniel, a teacher who has been in Dong Hoi for several years, whose son’s birthday party I attended earlier in the week, and an overall good friend, the discoverer of my body called his wife, with whom I’m also close, to tell her that he found her husband in an accident. With it being late at night, however, Daniel was lying next to his wife, so she knew he wasn’t the man in the accident. Quickly though she realized I was likely the victim in the accident, as I was one of the only younger Western motorbike drivers in Dong Hoi.

LyLy ensured that I was taken to Vietnam-Cuba Friendship Hospital (VCFH) in Dong Hoi. I had ridden by the Dong Hoi hospital on both motorbike and bicycle throughout my weeks in Dong Hoi, but this was fortunately my first night spent inside. LyLy also worked to contact my parents and let my Dong Hoi friends and others know about the tragedy. This was a stupendous thing she did for me. Her Facebook updates and contact with my friends in the USA are possibly how you found out about the accident and are reading now. Many Dong Hoi friends visited me in VCFH (apparently I had some pretty entertaining conversations with them while I was eating oatmeal). They also talked with my parents and have kept in touch with me since I’ve returned. LyLy’s work is also the reason my mother was able to fly to Asia to support me so quickly, ensure that I was healing and recovering, and just generally be the fantastic mother she’s always been.

The next day, October 7th, I was ambulanced south to Hue Central Hospital. The doctors at the Dong Hoi hospital quickly determined that they were unequipped to manage the massive amount of pressure on my brain, as some of you may have seen the photos of on Facebook. The idea of surgery and other forms of treatment were discussed, and Hue Central is a hospital that could handle those sorts of treatments. Hue Central was my living place until October 9th.

Next, I traveled by plane to Bangkok, Thailand. Michaella, being a wonderful, giving, incredible person, accompanied me to Bangkok as I was unable to make any decisions myself. I arrived around 1AM after a five-hour flight from Hue on October 10th. Can you think of a better way to spend a 23rd birthday? If so, keep it to yourself because October 10th was the day I reached that new age. Bumrungrad Hospital has an excellent traumatic care section that cared for me for two weeks. Shortly after I arriving in Thailand, my mother flew to Thailand. She spent days in the hospital and had the chance to meet my heroine Michaella.

My memory returns starting on October 25th, the day I was no longer in intensive care hospital sections to fix my damaged body and brain and keep me in or out of a coma or other dangerous medical conditions. On October 25th, my mother and I moved to a hotel-like room within the hospital. This room, like many hotels you might have stayed in, had two beds, a well-designed private bathroom, a TV, desk space, and a couch.

My first memory is extremely strong in my head. I was standing in the hotel room in the morning of the 25th and my mother walked into the room. I was shocked to see her and had lots of questions that mostly had answers that made me extraordinarily sad. I asked her why she was there, where we were, which country we were in, what happened to me, if it was known how it happened, when I would go back to Vietnam, why I couldn’t go back to Vietnam, when we were returning back home (my follow-up question to that was when I would get to go back to Vietnam to keep teaching), and other similar questions. Aside from the shocking disappointment I had in hearing for the first time in my memory that all the adventuring, learning, teaching, and activities I had planned for the next ten months were over, I felt mentally and physically fit and able.

While in the hotel section of the hospital, I still had treatment and tests. Three big events happened every day. Typically in the morning, a therapist would come to our room to do mental activities with me, like building puzzles, memorizing pictured flashcard orders, and playing Jenga. The therapist would also check different aspects of my mental abilities like speaking and listening. In the afternoon, I would head to a physical rehabilitation center where a therapist would run me through different physical fitness tests. I would do arm exercises with small weights, walk forwards and backwards, and take long stationary bike rides, along with various other light workout actions. The evenings brought a therapist back to our room to ensure that my blood movement and heart were both working correctly. My mother and I traveled around Bangkok in our free time, which was a great way to enjoy our time in the city that was new for both of us.

My time exploring Bangkok lasted about a week. Our trip back to USA started with a 1:30AM flight on Friday, October 30th, so we left the hotel/hospital with a doctor who flew from Canada to Thailand to make sure I was safe on the travel back to the USA at around 9PM on October 29th. That gave us plenty of time to get to the airport to check our bags, have our passports officially checked, and go through all of the other international flight boarding requirements. The flight back home stopped in Japan and in Chicago. Each airport and flight was lovely. I was thankful that I was back to walking, eating, and generally functioning in a level close to what I was used to.

My mother, the doctor, and I safely landed in Columbus, Ohio on October 30th in the early afternoon. My father lovingly picked up the three of us. We dropped the transport doctor off at a hotel as he had another flight in the coming days. My family traveled to The Wexner Medical Center at The Ohio State University, my fantastic and adored alma mater. I went through various testing at the hospital of my speaking, walking, body, and listening abilities. They also took more blood samples and ran more blood tests to make sure I was liquidly healthy. I spent the night of the 30th in the hospital to make time for all the testing that happened, and I left the hospital around 11:30AM on October 31st to head back to my hometown of New Knoxville.

Since being back in New Knoxville, I’ve had two appointments with doctors. Both checked on the skills that the other health care professionals had written about for improvements or changes in my ability. All of the health care professionals have been friendly, kind, and honest about how they think I’m doing. The most common piece of advice I heard was probably that I need to focus on my mental state and use different activities to return to the place mentally where I was before the terrible accident.

I set my recovery start date as the day I arrived at my parents’ house in New Knoxville. Certainly loads of different types of recovery occurred starting on the day of my accident, but I mentally begin my personal assessment of my recovery process on October 31st. I finish this writing on November 30th, which means I’ve been back in the USA for a month. I feel great in terms of recovery. I’ve identified and been told of a few specific areas of recovery, and recovery in all those sections seem great. The whole process, from October 6th to now, has opened a variation of positive and negative thoughts about the impact the accident has had on my life. Since I could fill a novel with all the thoughts I’ve had regarding the differences this accident has caused in my life, I’ve written a limited list of the pros and cons I’ve thought.

CONS 

  • Cancellation of Vietnam plans. This, as I mentioned early and as you likely imagined, is a large sense of mental negativity that started on October 24th. I decided in July 2014 that I wanted to teach in Vietnam after college graduation. From that month until August 18th, the day I arrived in Vietnam, I spent hours upon hours thinking about how I would spend my months teaching. Those hours grew starting on August 18th when I was able to perceive in person how many adventures I wanted through the year. The teaching and time in Vietnam were great. I met wonderful people, taught and learned from my students, and have many wonderful memories. I had also started developing plans to travel from June-August 2016. The plans included other teachers in my program and friends from back home. I have pages of notes that I made based on what I had heard from travelers and experts on areas to travel to throughout Vietnam and all of Southeast Asia. The cancellation of my numerous plans in Vietnam and excitement I had waking up every day in Vietnam have pushed hours of painful thoughts. I must now rethink a few years of my life, which has been a remarkably painful process.
  • Amount of energy and effort needed from others for my recovery. I am incredibly thankful and humbled my how many people worked hard and spent hours, days, weeks, or any time and effort at all ensuring that I would successfully both survive and recover from the accident. My medical necessities pushed people from their plans, their homes, their countries, and their jobs for weeks, and I feel negatively and sorrowful that I caused so much difficult effort and time in the lives of family and friends.
  • Forcing a body of people to face negative thoughts. Looking through messages, notes, and hearing from people about their processing of the hearing that I was terribly injured and possibly not surviving makes me feel terrible. I feel terrible that my medical emergency negatively influenced thought and emotions and am incredibly sorry to all who faced pain and anguish throughout my recovery.

PROS

  • I got to experience two fantastic international months. On my flight back to USA, I tossed around the first thought in my CONS list several times. Since then though, I’ve worked to and successfully recognized that despite having to cancel at least ten months of plans, I have two wonderful, life-changing, fond memories in the beautiful country of Vietnam that the accident did not erase. The early cancellation of my time there has not eliminated any of the great time I got to spend or the memories I get to keep.
  • Recovery has been great. I’m pretty close to being back to 100%. I can only find eight visible marks from the accident. Mostly in the form of small marks that make it look like I maybe lightly bumped my elbows into a thick wall or bumped the outside of my ankle against a sidewalk. No pain remains through my body, and no visible marks at all above my shoulders. Speaking, listening, and focusing took a small amount of time to recover, but all three are back to normal. The speaking and listening took a bit of extra time as I had to go through both accident recovery and the return back to full time English. I have felt no untriggered physical pain. My first run was a bit slow, a bit difficult, and left my legs sore in the morning, but it was successful and enjoyable.
  • Knowledge that I have the ability to fight. By no means am I trying to offer handfuls of life-changing advice or anything like that, but both the challenges to my physical body and all the thoughts and processing I’ve had to have and do have shown me that I have the ability to successfully fight through massive challenges. Obviously the help of others was critical in my experience and it remains critical in the fighting I’ve done to keep my life moving forward. A positive is that I’ve more solidly learned that being pushed into new opportunities is not necessarily an entirely negative experience.
  • Enormously blessed by Ohio State’s outreach and aid. Ohio State was enormously helpful in so many parts of the recovery, of reviewing and aiding in my hospital weeks, of helping my mother travel to Thailand, of moving my recovery ahead successfully, and of so much more. Graduation from Ohio State by no means ended how much the university continually improves my life and ensures that I’m growing, learning, and staying healthy.
  • Also blessed by the all of enormous help that the Council on International Education Exchange (CIEE), the organization through which I applied to get to teach and spend time in Vietnam, has given. CIEE has been remarkable from the time I just had interest in the program, and that has been nothing but strengthened over the time of the accident. CIEE has provided so much help to me. And Allison, the coordinator of the Vietnam teaching program, has reached out to update me and check on me both via email and phone, as well as responded to all of the questions I’ve asked her (if you know me well, you know how many questions I tend to ask, so you know how big of a deal it is for her to take the time and energy to respond to all of them). After the fantastic time the other CIEE Vietnam teachers and I had with her in Hanoi during our five day orientation, it was great getting to work with her again. I have only good things to say about how stupendous CIEE has been.
  • Support from friends and family. I am so thankful for all of the support I’ve received from so many people. It is extremely encouraging and has granted hours of positive thoughts for me. Thank you again to all who have been supportive. Your words and thoughts have been so touching and have helped me recover so much faster than I otherwise would. (Also, quick apology for any messages I might have sent to you between October 6th and October 23rd. I’ve read back through some of them and boy oh boy are they in different forms.)
  • New country on my countries-I’ve-been-to-list – Thailand was included on my countries-to-visit list in my time traveling through Southeast Asia. Though that trip for summer 2016 has been cancelled, I still got to walk around Bangkok and spend some good times there! I also spent a little bit of time in Japan in the airport. Both were a pleasant experiences.
  • I can still be successful. I’m remembering that I can still find success. The pain of having to rethink so many years of my life is somewhat pushed away when I remember that new life plans are, in this case, not worse life plans. The accident was an accident, not a sign that I’ll never find success.
  • Spending time with friends. It has been so pleasant getting to spend time with friends in the month I’ve been back in America! In person, on the phone, over Skype, on Facebook, etc. Every day offers lovely reminders of how many great people I get to have in my life.

 As you might have picked up through reading those, the cons certainly took an early lead on the thoughts I was having, but the pros have pushed forward and overtaken the cons. By no means am I trying to claim that accident is a pro in my life, but rather that I’m realizing more every day that thinking about my early departure from Vietnam does not have to be a daily negative battle or a source of lifelong negativity or regret.

Now to answer one of the most common questions I’ve received: What am I doing next? The answer is that I’m applying to jobs. I apologize to any common readers that this part of the post isn’t as exciting as pictures of wild monkeys or the beach or a story about a trip to Hoi An! But yes, I’m applying to jobs in America!

Thanks so much for reading this! If you have more questions, thoughts, advice, or just want to chat, go ahead and let me know! And thank you all again for the incredibly powerful level of thoughts, support, and kindness you’ve granted me. While I’m sad that my first time in Vietnam came to a sudden and unexpected early ending, I’m thankful and grateful for the great time I got to spend in Vietnam and for the opportunities I’ve learned about care, great people, myself, and so much more.

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5 thoughts on “I Survived an Auto Accident and Am Back In The USA

  1. Hey Richie, I know it’s been since forever since I’ve reached out. I was shocked and alarmed when I heard of your acccident, and inspired and relieved when as I heard of your recovery. Your blog triggered a couple of opinions that I really have not business sharing, but I’m going to do it anyway.

    First, let me just say I understand the crushing disappointment you must have had when you woke up and found out you couldn’t stay in Vietnam, working and teaching and living the dream. I was exactly your age when I moved to Fiji, and I would have felt the same way if I found out my trip was cut short.

    Next, you said the amount of energy and effort needed from others to assist in your recovery, and forcing others to experience negative thoughts related to your well-being, are cons, and that you feel terrible to know that your accident changed the routines, plans, and emotional experiences of those close (and distant) to you. In my view, people live and function in communities. Communites include the people you live with, your family, your friends, co-workers, fellow students, church members, rec soccer team mates, whatever. They all are made up of members from their own communities, and they are all loosely connected to each other through you. Some people have small communities. Some people have large communities. Some people are lucky, or blessed, and have strong, tight connections between themselves and members of their community. Others have loose or weak connections between themselves and members of their community, and I think this is lonely and sad. Evidenced by the effort, both measurable and immeasurable, and emotional reaction elicited from your accident by your community, I don’t think two of your cons are actually negative. That so many people rallied around you and your recovery just shows how important you are to so many, and is evidence of the millions of small deeds you must have done everyday (if not every night, if you know what im sayin) over the course of your life to earn so much love and support. It’s my view that one’s community, or social network, is not unlike one’s brain. It is strong and resilient when the connections between community members, or nuclei, are vibrant, efficient, and robust. Neurons that fire together wore togeather, and members that work, play, or create memories togeather form life long bonds. I like to imagine that your accident, though tragic, is evidence that you are healthy, vibrant neuron of a much larger network.

    Glad to hear you’re in such good spirits,
    Mike

    Like

  2. Hey Richie-
    It’s so good to read that you’re doing better. Just that you were able to compose something this extensively and this detailed in such a short amount of time after your accident is really exciting. My OSU roommate and I often talked about you, as she heard updates from OSU people and I followed your sister’s posts.
    I will continue to keep you in my prayers, friend.

    Like

  3. Hi Richard,
    I’m happy to know that you have been getting better there. Good luck on days ahead. Hope to meet you again someday, somewhere in this small world and have longer conversation with you.
    Yung

    Like

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