DC Trawler

I have now been crippled for one full year

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One year ago today, February 3, 2010, I was having a pretty good day. About seven weeks before, completely out of the blue, I’d gotten a job offer from some guy named Tucker Carlson. Just a month before, having seen the wisdom in receiving a steady paycheck for what I’d been doing practically gratis for almost a decade, I’d moved from Indianapolis to Washington, DC. I was getting to know my new co-workers and figuring out the new job, the new life, on the fly. The whole thing was so amazing, so unexpected, that I couldn’t really believe it was still my life.

That afternoon, I led a live chat with a terrific novelist and comedian named DC Pierson, talking about his first book, The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To. It went well; we had some laughs. I blogged about pandas. I blogged about Keith Olbermann, who at that time was a television personality. I hadn’t worked in an office in almost 10 years, but the novelty hadn’t worn off yet. That night I went home a little tired, but more happy than tired.

I’d rented a ridiculously expensive furnished apartment on a month-to-month basis, and after weeks of looking for a more permanent place, I’d found a nice English basement apartment in a house on Capitol Hill. The rent was slightly less insane than the other places I’d researched, the landlord was friendly, and it was just a couple of blocks from Union Station. I’d arranged with the landlord to drop off my deposit check and the other paperwork with her the next day, and I figured I’d take the Metro to get there. Since I would be taking the train to work every day, I figured it’d be a good idea to get a SmarTrip card instead of messing with the paper tickets. I’d never lived in a place where I didn’t need a car to get around, and making a minor investment in my daily transportation was another fun little detail in my fun little adventure. They sold the SmarTrip cards online, but I didn’t want to wait, so I figured it’d be quicker to get one at the CVS a few blocks away. At about a quarter after 7 that evening, I set out on foot to perform that happy errand. It was cold out, but the blizzard we were expecting wouldn’t hit for a few more days. Nice night for a walk.

Then I got hit by a car and broke my knee.

I’d been walking to work for the previous month, so I’d gotten used to seeing drivers edging into the crosswalk as pedestrians crossed. “Come on, move,” they seemed to say. “I’m more important than you. I have a car, you’re on foot. Get out of the way, loser.” So, as I crossed M Street at the intersection of 22nd Street — crossing with the Walk light and inside the crosswalk — and as the oncoming SUV made an illegal left turn and came right at me, I figured the driver was just trying to nudge me along. Alright, okay, I thought. I’m goin’, I’m goin’, just give me a second.

But the SUV didn’t stop. As it bore down on me, I remember saying something like, “No, stop! Are you really doing this?” As if reasoning with it would somehow help. Then I had a headlight right in my face. Then the SUV slammed into me and I flew back. I landed in the street, skidding on my face. My glasses flew off, which was my main concern in the split second before I knew something was really wrong with my knee. Oh great, I’m gonna need new glasses!

Then I rolled over onto my back, and the pain hit. I’d never felt anything like it in my life. I lay there in shock, screaming and cursing and writhing. The terror and the panic… I can’t even describe it. I was trapped. I couldn’t get away from the agony. I was helpless.

A crowd of people gathered, and I remember one guy waving off the oncoming traffic in the other lane. “This guy just got hit by a car!” I looked up at the circle of faces, wishing I was one of them. Wishing I could be somebody else, right then and there. Please, please, just let me out of here.

One woman picked up my broken glasses and put them in my coat pocket. She knelt down next to me and said some comforting words. Another guy offered to call somebody for me, so I gave him Neil Patel’s business card from my wallet and asked the guy to call the Daily Caller offices and tell them what happened. It turned out that this man, who I thought was just a kindly bystander, was in the car that hit me. But that’s another story.

I had the good fortune to get hit by a car just down the street from a fire station, so an ambulance came within minutes. I asked the paramedic if anybody had seen who hit me, but he said right then we just needed to worry about getting me on the gurney, into the ambulance, and to the hospital. On the ride there, he did tell me that he saw the car that hit me, and he and the driver agreed that it looked like a government vehicle, possibly CIA or Secret Service. I assumed that if anybody could spot a government vehicle, it was a DC paramedic. It turned out to be a State Department car, but they were in the right ballpark.

In the ER, I fainted three times from the pain. And that was after they shot me up with Dilaudid. Getting the x-ray was possibly more harrowing than actually getting hit. I had to hold my leg upright for what seemed like a month, sobbing and moaning and trying to catch my breath, as the technician tried to get a good picture of the injury. Turns out he didn’t, and they sent me home before they knew how bad the damage was, and I had to go back the next day, but that’s yet another story.

If you’ve been following my blog, you know the rest: the surgeries, the physical therapy, the infirmity. You know what it looked like after my first operation:

It took almost six months before I was able to walk, painfully, with a knee brace. And then I was told I’d need more surgery. The second surgery finally happened 7 weeks ago, and it’ll be another 3 weeks before I go back to the surgeon and find out if I can start putting weight on my left leg. Even then, I’ll still be on crutches for a while. Right now, between the weather and the crutches, I’m practically housebound. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to walk like I did before, if it’ll ever stop hurting, but my surgeon is optimistic. I’m trying to be as well. It’s hard, after a full year of this nightmare, but I’m trying.

As for the legal stuff that folks keep asking me about: Yes, I do have a lawyer. No, I don’t plan to let the people who did this to me get away with it. (Particularly after the Kafkaeque insult of receiving a fraudulent jaywalking ticket as I lay on a gurney with a shattered knee.) My lawyer has laid the groundwork, filed the paperwork that needs to be filed, but none of it can really begin in earnest until I’m in the clear medically. I never thought it would take this long, but then, I never thought any of this would happen to me in the first place. Just keep in mind that legal time and Internet time are two very different things. That’s all I can really say about it for now, but thanks to everybody who’s asked. (Even the people who disagree with me politically and have tried to use my plight for their own purposes. Nothing personal, right, guys?)

So that’s what I wanted to say about that. As the one-year mark has approached, I’ve been reliving the events of that night more and more, feeling those feelings all over again, and it helps to get it down in writing. Thank you for indulging me.