An Ordinary Instant
by Kerry Hallett
You know how it goes. One moment you’re having an ordinary, even mundane, day and the next everything changes. That moment for me was at 8:42 a.m. on a Tuesday morning in June 2019. I was headed west on Route 9, driving our foster dog, Indy, to the vet at the Brandywine SPCA. It was raining, so I was driving extra slowly and carefully, especially with my precious cargo next to me on the bench seat of our little red pickup truck. As I approached the intersection at Gravel Hill Road, a tractor trailer pulled into the turn lane opposite me. Then, to my horror, I watched it turn left in front of me, against my green light.
The last thing I remember seeing before I hit my head was a giant tractor trailer wheel that stood taller than the little red pickup. After a few moments’ unconscious, I became aware of the blood running into my eyes, the broken glass covering my body and the bench seat, and Indy’s pet carrier on the floor wedged under the dash. I reached for my phone to call for help but it was smashed, showing only those colorful vertical bars used for emergency television broadcasts. For several seconds, there was silence. And blood. And pain, lots of pain. Finally, a stranger approached the scene. I opened the door ready to get out, instinctively wanting to get away from the wreckage. He stopped me, “Wait,” he said, “where does it hurt?”
“My back, my back hurts really badly, and I can’t see anything.”
“DON’T get out of the truck, don’t move—wait here.” He returned with a towel so that I could stop the blood from my head that obscured my vision. “My wife,” I said, “you have to call my wife.” By that time, another good Samaritan had approached and had already dialed 911. “And my dog—someone get my dog out of the car!”
I waited what felt like an eternity for an ambulance to arrive. They stabilized my neck with a brace and strapped me to a flat board. Then I began the excruciatingly bumpy ride to Beebe hospital. My wife, Millie, found me—still covered in blood and shards of glass—in an emergency room bed. A CT scan showed that my L1 vertebra had burst, and a piece of the bone was resting gently on my spinal cord. The doctor and nurses kept asking if I could move my legs, touching them to make sure I could feel the sensation.
The rest is such a blur. The pain, the ride to the ChristianaCare trauma center, the emergency spinal fusion surgery, the pain, the mild traumatic brain injury, the pain, the totaled little red truck. I’m not even sure how word got to folks at CAMP Rehoboth that I had been in an accident, or about our GoFundMe to help us figure out the coming months and my long, long road to recovery— but somehow it did. At that time, Millie and I had only volunteered at a handful of CAMP Rehoboth events, but well wishes and support came pouring in from folks we had met only once, twice, or not at all. Our neighbors, CAMP Rehoboth regulars, sprang into action—watched and fed our dogs and cat while Millie stayed with me at Christiana. When I was discharged, they picked us up and brought us home.
Plenty of stitches, a couple of rods and screws, and many months of speech and physical therapy later, I’ve landed here at CAMP Rehoboth as one of the newest staff members. I am honored to be CAMP Rehoboth’s new Operations Administrator, and Millie and I look forward to being a part of this beautiful, chosen family that you all have created for many years to come.
In the end, of course, we were extremely fortunate. I think our sturdy little red pickup truck—in that ordinary instant—saved my life. I consider myself lucky to be alive; spared by the minutest of details, the most miniscule of measures. Indy miraculously pulled through, too. But I also know that the outpouring of love and support from friends and loved ones—including our new-found CAMP Rehoboth family—helped both Millie and me survive such a traumatic time.