Caren Robinson – Survivor
(status updates at bottom of page)
My name is Caren Robinson. I have always been a busy gal. Adrenaline junkie to some regards. Loved riding motorcycles, roller coasters, diving off bridges to go swimming, and also anything to do with The Arts really. I have always had a job since I was a teenager. I have been a camp counselor for kids with Cystic Fibrosis (back when they allowed CF kids to have that), and involved in multiple opportunities and experiences throughout my life. I was even a single Foster Mom of hard to place kids long before I met my husband, and back when they really preferred couples to Foster.
As of this writing, I am a woman who is married. I am a mother, stepmother, and Legal Guardian of 6 children. Up until the wreck I was involved in, I was working full time at s job where I had just received a promotion, with full benefits pending. I had worked mostly in the non-profit and medical industry throughout my entire adult life, and I was actively involved in various volunteer positions throughout the community. I was active at the kids schools, and rarely home since we were always on the go as a family. We always had a lot going on as a family, along with multiple schedules, multiple appointments, dual households (for the kids I am a stepmom for) and multiple adventures for the kids. My husband worked full time as well, which kept us both pretty busy and coveting our days off to make time for all the things that we didn’t get to do when we were at work.
On Friday January 3, 2014 I dropped off our 2 girls at a home where they would be having a sleepover. Our oldest daughter, and a girl (we considered our daughter as well) we had Legal Guardianship of through the Court (not related to either of us) had completed High School the previous Spring and was set for us to take her to college that next week. The slumber party was a last “hoorah” for the girls before we all parted ways for a while. My husband’s birthday was going to be January 5, and we had a lot to get done that weekend. On Saturday January 4, my husband was unexpectedly called into work and ended up having to take our vehicle (a minivan) to head to work around the same time I was to go pick the girls up from the slumber party. There was a mad rush to figure out how to navigate that situation and my mom was super generous and let us use her vehicle (also a mini-van) so I could pick up the girls, run our errands, and head back home. My mom lives at the same house we do, so it wasn’t too inconvenient. Definitely not part of the plan though. My husband and I both left around the same time – right around 11am.
I remember it was snowing. I remember the roads were slushy. I remember buckling our youngest (5 at the time) into his 5 point restraint carseat, and then getting in to buckle myself. I remember feeling good, calm, happy, and focused. I backed out of the driveway, drove down to the main road as our youngest, Austin told me “knock knock jokes”. I turned left on the main road to head towards the direction I needed to pick up the girls. The ride to get the girls should only have taken about 15 minutes, depending on traffic.
It was January 4, 2014. A date burned into every fiber of my being. I was on my way to pick our girls up from that slumber party we took them to the night before, and take them with me to do some final shopping. It was a bright Saturday morning and it was COLD!!! I remember Austin singing as we drove along and making me laugh with his 5 year old jokes….and that is where I stop remembering. Apparently we continued driving but none of that is in my memory anymore. The girls were waiting this whole time.
I would never arrive.
I was in a horrific head on collision with my then, 5 year old son Austin. I was the driver of a minivan that belonged to my mom. My seatbelt failed/malfunctioned and I was ejected from the passenger side door – from the driver’s side. My body bent the door frame outward (steep mind you) and I was ejected over the door frame my body apparently bent in half. Apparently I was ejected approximately 10-15 feet from the vehicle and landed face down in the roadway. I was not ejected through the window or through the windshield. In fact, the windshield though cracked all over – remained intact. Both airbags were deployed and Austin was sitting behind the driver’s seat in his Booster seat. Everything that happened, my very survival and that of my son, the survival of the woman in the other vehicle, was nothing short of miraculous….for all of us.
I do not remember the wreck in any way, shape, or form. The other driver states she also has no memory of the wreck, so getting information from her proved to be a moot attempt on the part of the Officers at the scene. The police report says first 9-1-1 call was at 12:05pm. This never made sense to me because if I left at 11am and it only took 15 minutes to get there, what happened to that other 50 minutes? The only thing I can piece together is that I was unconscious on the road for that whole time, while the folks that stopped waited for EMS to arrive. I also need to mention that for some reason the closest Ambulance and Fire couldn’t respond to the scene as they were on another call, so a different House was sent to the accident I was in, which caused a delay in their arrival from what I found out later.
My son remembers numerous details about the wreck, including seeing me ejected, everything going black for a minute like the lights went out (wondering if he was knocked out for a bit), then the lights came back on and he began unbuckling himself from his car seat, opened the side door and went to find me, face down, and in a pool of blood. The pool of blood was around my head and body by my right thigh (according to ambulance report and son).
Austin said, “I remember we hit a wall (guessing feel of impact), you flew out the door like Superman (ejected part), then it got dark and then light and then I unbuckled, let myself out the side door of the van, and was calling and calling for you because I couldn’t find you. When I did find you, you were laying on your belly in a pool of blood and wouldn’t answer me. I kept telling you to get up over and over and you just laid there and moaned. Why didn’t you answer me?”
“I didn’t want people to run over your feet with their cars because you were in the road. A man stopped and called 9-1-1 and he drove a red pick-up truck. A lady was helping you and told me not to touch you. I was mad because you wouldn’t answer. Then a nice man and woman, like really old, put me in their car. I know I am not supposed to get into cars with strangers, but mom, I was really really cold and scared. You’re not made at me are you? I sat with them until the police came and then I went to sit with the policeman and he showed me his stuff in his car and let me play on his phone while the firemen helped you. I told him where dad worked and he called dad, and dad came and got me and took me home.” – [his story has been the same for several years – though descriptions gotten better as he has gotten older].
Austin was never checked by Ambulance personnel. Ambulance and Fire didn’t even know a child had been involved in the wreck because he was in a good Samaritan’s car. Austin appeared to have escaped unscathed physically – not even seatbelt marks from his carseat – an unexplained miracle and angel blessing for sure. His carseat looked like a bear to a huge bite out of the side of it. So crazy.
My husband came and got Austin from work, took him home, and then picked up my mom so they could both go to the hospital to be with me. I apparently was already gone from the scene by the time my husband got there. On my way to the hospital, while the fire Department was cutting the other driver out of her vehicle.
I incurred numerous orthopedic fractures which included a hairline fracture of my pelvis, broken R wrist, All my right ribs, 2-11, fractured in multiple places (flail chest) and displaced by 2cm, my spine T 5-10 fractured, my R scapula fractured in more than two places and the rest of my scapula shattered. I sustained numerous bruises, lacerations, and other injuries which included seatbelt marks, a plum sized right eye, and a closed head injury. It would turn out that I would later learn that my brain injury was called a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). This title for my ‘new normal” as I called it, was an understatement – by far. My medical injuries and their extent would continue to be discovered, treated, not treated, and are still unfolding as time goes on. When two or more systems of a body are injured it’s referred to as a Polytrauma. I guess that one work just sums it all up. Polytrauma. Man, it doesn’t begin to even touch the description though, of how my life was changed in those moments.
All these moments, would, though unknown to me at that time – change every facet of my entire life forever.
Thank God for Michigan No-Fault Auto. I truly and firmly believe I would have died had it not been for this medical coverage provided to me as a Michigan citizen. I fell into their “assigned claims” pile. It turns out that my mom’s van was underinsured by the dealership (unbeknownst to her). She was leasing it to own from a place called JD Byrider and paying them for full coverage insurance; they ended up going Bankrupt in our area, a few years later for unscrupulous practices. That is a whole other story for another time.
Three reconstructive surgeries this year and lots of rehab going on still. Still unable to do my own peri-care or bathing by myself. This is maddening. I had moments of so many emotions during this time, it is difficult to explain. Finally learning to dress myself on my own again is a painfully slow and grueling process. I can’t tell you how important it is for me to be able to do things on my own, so I keep pushing myself and pushing myself. I also started driving a little bit here and there this Fall/Winter. I refuse to drive when it is snowy or icy. I feel bad but I just can’t yet. Too scary. Getting lost consistently has been a huge hurdle. Baby steps…..baby steps is all I keep doing. I am still going through lots of Rehab and pool therapy and lots of other stuff. I honestly feel like I am living in someone else’s body still.
We had to sue the insurance company for not doing their job. What a racket that was. Took well over a year of ridiculous continuances, denials, and IME’s (which is another story in and of itself). I still cannot talk about it without getting physically ill. Such deceit, corporate greed, and lack of care for humanity as a whole. There are laws in place that the insurance companies are required to follow, yet no laws in place to hold them accountable to follow them, so they get away with literal murder (in some patients cases). I had to get an attorney and it was a horrible hot mess, and I feel like I was bullied, emotionally raped, and it really took an additional financial and mental toll on our whole family (who was providing all the care for me this whole time after getting out of the hospital and after each surgery). Talk about Medical and Legal PTSD!!! They still owe $17,000.00 in outstanding claim monies that they refuse to pay, and that the Providers deserve to receive.
I was unable to return to a traditional work environment In fact, my recovery continues, and while I have been dabbling in volunteer work here and there to test the waters, I just haven’t been successful at it and haven’t been able to physically withstand the demands of a traditional job. I still struggle with incredible pain and fatigue, and cognitive challenges. I will be 45 in November of this year. Any day above ground is a good day and I am grateful to have survived. Yet also, those rose colored glasses? Yeah, those were smashed to pieces by life experience. The volunteering wasn’t working so well, and I was unable to volunteer at the kids’ schools anymore either. The caused a lot of depression. I have missed so much! Too much noise, to many kids, too bright, and too everything really. I couldn’t wait to get home. I became determined to change my thinking and my effort into something positive though. Something that made me feel like my life had some kind of value still. Eventually I took over the blog my mom had started and ended up creating this website. Layers and layers of stories there – lol.
If you are looking at this page right now, then it is meant for you to know to NEVER GIVE UP HOPE (my acronym for HOPE = Help One Person Excel). I had to have a correlation that was positive for my TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) as I originally got tired of talking about it and got tired of this “thing” defining my life. I didn’t like how much of my life it seemed to have taken from me, and wanted to excel beyond these new limitations.
Now…… I do talk about it, have come to understand it, and am continually coming to grips with this “new normal”. I coined TBI to mean “To Be Independent” as this is the struggle and goal, to get all this back over time. My independence, my freedom, my life!
It was also my desire to share my experiences, what I have learned, and been taught by others – in the hopes that sharing would not only help in my recovery, but spread awareness about Traumatic Brain Injury and Polytrauma. Hopefully, this will help lift some of the burden of trying to locate resources for those with similar injuries.
I am currently 46 years old and dealing with a great deal of plateaued chronic pain and various challenges that I am utilizing creative processes to overcome and work around as much as possible. I am participating in ongoing educational opportunities online, an active member of a Toastmasters Club (to work on my speech and confidence), participating with local vocational rehab to ideally be able to do some part time work from home at some point. I completed training to be a Certified Life Coach on my road to re-invent myself. Starting a home business as a Life Coach and Medical Advocacy Consultant to be able to set my own hours and work around my new normals, while still contributing to society in a way that makes sense to me.
Volunteer Co-host on Brain Injury Radio Show is going well – a great collaboration with Kim Justus, God bless her. What a gift to the world. I do that once a month on the 2nd Wednesday of each month. I am moving on as a Blog writer, and weathering the COVID-19 pandemic with my family at home as our State has been ordered to Stay Safe and Stay Home (shelter in place).
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