I had other plans for a post today. Another time.
However, this weekend, I had a moment of clarity. I call it survival.
On an unlit 3-lane highway in the center lane, I drove at a sensible cruising speed. No cell phone and no distractions—it was just me behind the wheel.
Like the movies, knowing the inevitability of a scene’s outcome, three seconds stood still when I sighted what lay ahead. There was a car parked in the middle of the road with no lights on. Why I do not know. There was no time, and I braced for the impact at full speed.
That is what happened, and this is what is left of my car:
Soldiers speak of the fog of war. After stumbling out of my vehicle, I had presence of mind, as I knew I survived, in one piece, and I would see tomorrow. However, as much as the notion of dialing 911 entered my consciousness, I could not execute. I now understand what the term shellshock means. I was in the moment, but I was not, and it took a few minutes for my wits to return. I just remember blood on my hands and face, and a lot of soreness.
It occurred to me, only during the last few hours, that I am lucky to be here. If this were twenty years ago, pre airbag, the outcome would be different. I have a face left because of that device, and I am alive because I wore a seatbelt.
Additionally, I am still thanking god there were no little ones in the car. I cannot imagine the mental toll this would have on a child.
God bless good samaritans. For the EMT tech (whose real gig is a Professor of Philosophy at NYU) who stopped to help, thank you.
For the salesperson, whose name I never got, who waved traffic and stood with me until the police arrived, you are a godsend.
For all the cruddy bumpers and flimsy plastic trim that scratch and cause anguish, they are meaningless in the context of safety. The air bag went off, and the technology did its job. This is not your dad’s Buick. That is a very good thing.
Finally, as I write about policy, I have a concluding message on seatbelts. It resonates just as loudly today in our debate about health care and regulation. Thirty-two states mandate use; for the other eighteen, what can I say, although the expression, “live free or die” seems apt. Please buckle up, and that goes for cab use too. I had the alertness in those few seconds to think about the belt before the collision. You cannot imagine the force of a crash, and without that device, the windshield is your next stop. No kidding.
Finally, to add just a bit of levity as the soreness and headache permeate my innards, my cousin Keith, always the optimist, emailed me this to put a smile on my face.
And yes, it worked.
Have a great Thanksgiving. I know I will.
Bradley Flansbaum, DO, MPH, MHM works for Geisinger Health System in Danville, PA in both the divisions of hospital medicine and population health. He began working as a hospitalist in 1996, at the inception of the hospital medicine movement. He is a founding member of the Society of Hospital Medicine and served as a board member and officer. He speaks nationally in promoting hospital medicine and has presented at many statewide meetings and conferences. He is also actively involved in house staff education.
Currently, he serves on the SHM Public Policy Committee and has an interest in payment policy, healthcare market competition, health disparities, cost-effectiveness analysis, and pain and palliative care. He is SHM’s delegate for the AMA House of Delegates.
Dr. Flansbaum received his undergraduate degree from Union College in Schenectady, NY and attended medical school at the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine. He completed his residency and chief residency in Internal Medicine at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York. He received his M.P.H. in Health Policy and Management at Columbia University.
He is a political junky, and loves to cook, stay fit, read non-fiction, listen to many genres of music, and is a resident of Danville, PA.