Seatbelt saved my life, twice - that's food for thought today
Updated: 2013-01-30 10:51
By Erik Nilsson (China Daily)
The spray of glass whooshed up my nose.
I don't remember that moment - or the three days that followed.
My family, largely citing the newspaper, filled me in.
I was 16 and riding shotgun when a friend zipped through a red light. This caused the first car to T-bone the passenger door. The trajectory of that rammed us head-on into a pickup truck.
The passenger side - and especially its windows - imploded on me as the first collision's epicenter.
To this day, scars dribble from my nostril, and my septum is "deviated" - the clinical term for crooked.
The driver, Dave, later recalled shrieking at the sky, clutching my juddering body until the ambulances arrived. He thought he'd killed his best friend.
I don't remember that. He'll never forget it.
The first thing I remember is coming to days later, with family and many friends stooped over, staring at me.
I asked them what had happened. Apparently, I'd been doing so for the past three days - several times a minute, without recalling what they'd said seconds before. I'd also been asking for "softies" - a word I apparently made up as my brain swelled to describe a milkshake.
They told me I'd been in a car accident and sustained a concussion. I also had lacerations and stitches fastening my nose, mouth and hands, and broke my nose and cheekbone.
A month later, surgeons extracted a pinky-finger-sized shard of glass wedged in my nasal passage. That was a surprise to us all. While I'll likely never remember the pain of the crash, I'll certainly never forget the agony of that operation.
From the moment I left the hospital, I swore I'd never get into a car without a seatbelt. Nobody does in the United States, anyway.
Then, I arrived in China and did so every day for the past seven years.
I even forget to buckle up when I visit the US, until family and friends gloweringly remind me.
But all of that changed last week in Beijing.