Semi-Truck + Bad Breaks = Lucky Whiplash
This past week, I was at a Digital Marketing Summit in Denver picking up some good nuggets on how to grow Wish Rock Relaxation. I learned quite a bit and met a lot of interesting people over the two days, but was eager to get home and miss some of the rush out of the downtown parking garage. In fact, I left the conference about halfway through the final keynote speech. Everything was going well and I was making good time until I got a call from my ex-husband. The kind of call that you never want to receive.
As I was heading west on I70, my children, their stepmom and little 2-year-old brother were heading east on I70 to run some errands and had just been hit by a semi-truck. They were the first car in what would become a 9 car pile-up. He assured me that they were ok, but asked if I could go and pick them all up. When the call came in, I was about 10 minutes away from where they were. If I had stayed for the rest of the summit, I would not be anywhere near able to help.
Within moments, police shut down all westbound traffic on I70 and I could see fire trucks and first response vehicles blazing past to get to the scene. The truck's brakes had gone out and it wasn't able to stop in time first hitting the car with my family in it. The chassis of the semi burst into flames while one of the less fortunate cars careened into the guardrail sending concrete debris off the bridge to cars below.
I was able to get to the scene and was escorted by the police department up to my children. They were both pretty shaken up, the car will likely need a new rear axle but shouldn't end being totaled (good thing it was a rock-solid Volvo) and their little brother was thrilled to see firetrucks, policemen and a real fire (car seats definitely do work!). The girls both immediately found their way into my arms...and so did their stepmom and little brother. Everyone just needed a hug. We are all lucky that nobody was seriously injured and I personally am grateful.
I had a couple of moments that struck me in this incident. 1) My ex-husband's wife thanked me profusely for being there--so did her sister and my ex-husband (he was out of town on business). My immediate reaction was that "we're family." And, in an odd kind of way, we are. I realized how far I had come to be able to say that...and mean it. 2) You never know when an accident will occur--wear your seatbelts (even in the back seat) at all times. Keep a safe distance between you and the car in front of you, drive a safe(r) vehicle and give yourself enough time--something that I need to work on regularly.
My youngest daughter, Ali, suffered from a bit of whiplash from the impact of the semi. She had been leaning over her brother's car seat to occupy his attention when the semi hit their rear right wheel. Her head jerked forward and to the side quickly. She had some difficulty sleeping the first night, a headache and sore upper back. Luckily, she was checked out by the on-site EMT. We're a week out from the accident now and she is feeling quite a bit better, but still has some lingering pain which was magnified by a fall while bouldering early this week.
What is Whiplash?
Whiplash commonly occurs from a sudden and abrupt stop causing the neck to rapidly jerk forward (hyperflexed position) and backward (hyperextended position) with a lot of force--usually the result of a rear impact while in a stationary position. Check! In Ali's case, their car was rear-ended on the highway by a massive semi-truck. Whiplash is often ignored or mistreated due to lack of understanding of the condition.
Early range of motion and exercises lead to a more rapid recovery than prolonged immobilization or use of a cervical collar. Check! Ali's been climbing all week preparing for her rock climbing team tryouts and even completed her 4th 14er mountain climb last weekend, Mt. Torreys--4 days after the accident.
The good news is that whiplash is typically not a life-threatening disability, but can be anything from an annoying literal "pain in the neck" to a debilitating and chronic pain. The sypmtoms are:
- neck pain and stiffness
- shoulder pain and stiffness
- jaw pain
- arm pain
- arm weakness
- visual disturbances
- ringing in the ears
- back pain
In more severe and chronic cases of 'whiplash associated disorder" symptoms may include:
- drug dependency
How do you diagnose Whiplash?
After an accident, the patient may be taken to a doctor or ER for an examination. Depending on the severity, the doctor may place a collar on the neck for added support. Physicians may order x-rays or an MRI of the neck to check for a more serious injury when warranted.
Whiplash Treatment Methods
Almost all cases of whiplash will see full recovery--the amount of time depends on the severity of the injury. While in the past, people were placed in cervical collars to greatly reduce mobility, they are now encouraged to regain early range of motion much more quickly. Patients who practice early range of motion exercises have been shown to heal much more quickly without any chronic symptoms. The bottom line is that movement is good--as much as you can tolerate without too much pain.
In Ali's case, early movement and activity seems to be working. Plus, she's kind of lucky in that she has access to some pretty amazing massage chairs too. The best chair that we carry with a focus on neck and upper back is the Luraco iRobotics i7 massage chair. If you're suffering with lingering neck pain from an accident, give us a call and we'll do our best to put you into the right chair at the right price.
- Joanna Walters