I’m baaaack, sort of.

A few weeks ago, I was walking the dogs downtown on Coombs Street when I had a brainstorm for a column. Well, it wasn’t exactly the kind of brainstorm that I had planned on. However, it certainly qualified as a storm and brought with it some cloudy, dizzy moments. Now I know how Dorothy and Toto must have felt being swept up by the tornado in “The Wizard of Oz.” The only difference was that I was swept up by a Chevrolet Monte Carlo car.

I woke up in the trauma room at Queen of the Valley Hospital. I felt my clothes being cut off and was looking up into the eyes of Dr. Tim Smith. Later, I was happy to learn, they did not cut off my prized go-anywhere Madras plaid Bermuda shorts. But I did find my cut up and blood-splattered shirt and denim jacket in a bag of personal possessions to take home.

I am not sure I will ever remember exactly what happened. To this day I cannot remember walking down Coombs Street from First Street. This route has been part of my usual walk for the past nine years with the dogs.

My accident has been reconstructed from the witness’ statements in the Napa Police report. Apparently a motorist was turning from Coombs onto Second and didn’t see me crossing the street with our two dogs. My husband says that he can’t understand how the motorist didn’t see me because, with the dogs, I must have looked like a parade.

Apparently when the car hit me, it scooped me onto the hood and carried me about 20 feet. The driver told the police officer that she first became aware she had hit a pedestrian when she saw me on the hood of her car looking at her through the windshield. Then the driver drove up onto the sidewalk and stopped causing me to slide off the hood onto the street, landing on my head.

I do remember looking up from the ground to see a fender and a dark car. It looked like it was still coming towards me and the dogs. I remember thinking why doesn’t this car stop? The rest is blank but this must have been when I hit my head on the pavement, which caused my concussion. Now when I go down Second Street I will see the yellow circle around a pool of my blood in the middle of the street. I hope it will soon disappear.

The newspaper article in the Register was headed, “REGISTER COLUMNIST CHAMPLIN STRUCK BY A CAR IN DOWNTOWN NAPA,” but went on to say that I seemed to be talking at the scene of the accident. I do not remember this. The emergency room doctors said I was an “unreliable historian” and in an “altered mental status.” I think that means I gave the wrong answers to their questions. I might have told someone I was 70 years old. That may have just been wishful thinking and not a wrong answer. In fact when my husband got the call in court and rushed to the emergency room, he said who he was and that his 74-year-old wife had just been brought there in an ambulance. The receptionist suspiciously questioned him because the person he described was in their records as being 70.

Although it is easier to giggle over the image of me and the dogs being swept away like Dorothy and Toto, it wasn’t really much fun. The ER report says, “Because of the patient’s mechanism of injury, altered mental status presentation, and reported history of blood thinners she is at high risk for acute deterioration, morbidity, and mortality.” Wow! That might have ended my career as a columnist for the Napa Valley Register.

My sincere thanks to the fast response of the Napa Police Department, the paramedics of the Napa Fire Department and the AMR ambulance crew who scooped me up off the street and rushed me to Queen of the Valley.

Thank goodness too for the Queen’s staff of ER doctors and nurses. I received the best and fastest medical attention as I was a double whammy patient. I had a bleeding head injury and was wearing my medical alert bracelet warning I was on blood thinners for a heart condition. It is nice to know that my bracelet worked and put the first responders and doctors on alert.

Later in the day, I was moved from the ER to a very comfortable soft bed. An ice pack was immediately put under my very sore hip bone and I felt better. I was safe and had survived it all. My night nurse was very competent and I felt lucky to be under her care. The next two days went by pretty smoothly. I had my attentive husband at my side, wonderful skilled nurses daily, special doctor visits and an LVN who made me comfortable each day.

I even had visitors bearing gifts. What more could I ask for except maybe for a little sleep. But we know that those round-the-clock visits for tests are necessary. The nurses are watching over us and trying to give us the best care possible. Sorry I got cranky on my second sleepiness night.

Now you might ask: what else could have gone wrong in the Champlin household during those trying times? Well, real life showed up again. Just after I arrived home, our refrigerator died.

Poor Philip was trying to keep it going, reading the instruction book, turning things this way and that, plug out and plug back into the socket.

“Let’s just let it run over-night and maybe it will come back to life.” “It’s making noises; maybe it is working again.” No, it was finished.

Philip spent an entire morning moving all of our food out of our trusted old refrigerator using bags and boxes into three other refrigerators we have around here. We tried to find a repair man but it was the 4th of July weekend. So a trip to a friendly local store had Philip buying a new refrigerator to arrive in a few weeks.

Why do these things always happen during the holidays or the worst time possible? Still, better the refrigerator die than me.

We would like to thank the following for their prayers and supportive help in many ways. Our family, friends, old and new, my column readers, neighbors, Napa Judges and Court House staff for all of their assistance in making these past few weeks more bearable. It has been overwhelming with all the meals, cards, flowers, books, notes, phone calls, emails, and visits. I really appreciate my “get out of bed (dance) pole” and the nurses all adored my new stuffed little white lamb. You all helped us and brightened up our days.

There are three special people who appeared on the scene of my accident. I would especially like to thank Connie Brennan for taking care of our two dachshunds, Wagner (Wags) and Gunther (Gunny). She kept them in a bathroom at the court house for several hours until my husband was able to retrieve them.

I would like to thank two other Good Samaritans who rendered aid and comfort. They both witnessed the accident and stayed at the scene and gave statements to the police. Macie Askins and Elliot R. Bachaumard were their names. Mr. Bachaumard was mentioned in the police report as having held my hand while I was lying on the pavement. Although I don’t remember your kind gesture, I am sure I appreciated the warmth of your hand and knowing someone was there for me.

To my “house husband” who, with my bedside advice, can now can run the dishwasher, the clothes washer and dryer. He can even buy groceries, makes great meals, which he served me in bed on a tray. He fluffs my pillows and gets my ice pack too without question. I think I will keep him around for another 51 years.

Thinking about all of this, I realize I have enjoyed 74 years without ever having had an accident. I think that downtown Napa traffic seems to have become more dangerous since the street directions were changed and stoplights removed. Since my accident, many people have told me their own horror stories about driving and walking downtown. They feel less safe and hesitate to go there. Motorists are driving faster and are less careful of pedestrians.

Although neither speed nor a lack of signal lights contributed to my accident, perhaps the mayor and city council should consider putting in a few more stop signs and flashing pedestrian warning lights like the new ones on Third Street in front of the courthouse. Four way stops along First, Second, Third, Fourth and Oak Streets would be inexpensive to install and would slow traffic down and give pedestrians and motorists a chance to cross those streets without taking your life in your hands each time.

It is ironic that two weeks after returning home from a 25,000 mile trip by ship, car, taxi, bus, foot, and airplane without an incident, I got hit by a car a few blocks from home right here in downtown Napa.

Well, it’s still a nice place to live.

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