The aftermath at the hospital is less compelling. As I mentioned, I was brought in strapped to a board on the stretcher to keep me immobilized until they could check me over for broken bones and such. That was a bit upsetting, because being wheeled about while strapped down was making me motion sick; even in the ER lobby, as they prepared a bed for me, the little jolts to the stretcher made me feel worse.
Thinking back, though, I was remarkably calm throughout the entire ordeal. I'm pretty sure I gave a short scream of alarm just before the first impact, but after that I never really freaked out. I suppose unnatural calm is its own form of shock; I certainly had enough presence of mind to mention to the emergency crew that I realized I was probably going into shock when I asked for help finding my glasses. That was the only thing that made me feel a bit alarmed, really, not being able to find my glasses and not being able to see clearly. But otherwise, the accident had happened, I was not immediately in severe pain or aware of anything seriously wrong with my body, so I was okay with just waiting for help.
Anyhow, back to the hospital. It wasn't long before they got me into a bed in the ER and a swarm of doctors and nurses (and/or PAs, I guess) came over to tell me what was going on. There was an initial burst of activity checking me over for obvious damage and asking me where I hurt. They carefully took off most of my clothes, asking whether it was okay to cut off my sweater and t-shirt. It was a nice sweater, one of my favorites, so I asked them to remove it intact if possible, which they did; the t-shirt was my Freezepop one, which I also liked a lot, but as it was a tighter fit I let them cut it off, figuring I could always get a new one. The doctor was very apologetic about having to check for internal bleeding by inserting a finger in my rectum, which I thought was funny; I'd just been in a horrible accident, I certainly didn't care about what he had to do to make sure I was okay. They sent me off for CT scans and x-rays, which continued the general theme of making me feel worse due to being wheeled around, though fortunately I never got nauseous enough to be sick. That was probably the most trying part, because I was still strapped down to the board, very uncomfortable, and I also had to be patient while they went through the processes, which seemed to take a long time.
I was brought back to the ER bed, and eventually they came to remove the board. I hadn't realized that my head was actually taped down until they peeled the tape off my forehead. I heaved a big sigh of relief as they removed the board, making them chuckle, and then they made me more comfortable. They put a heart monitor on me, and promptly got out an EKG as the monitor indicated my heart rate was unusually low. I said yes, it's normally low, and yes I understood they should still do an EKG to check it. One of the attendants remarked that she'd never seen a heart rate that low. I learned that I had a slight fracture to my right knee, but otherwise I seemed to be mainly bruised and battered. I learned that I had "seatbelt sign"—a particular pattern of abrasions and contusions consistent with wearing a seatbelt when in an accident.
After that, the night stretched out with various people checking in on me infrequently and providing some updates. Because I live alone, they kept me around for observation overnight; they were waiting for the x-rays/CT scans and some test results, anyhow. I quickly found it was quite painful to shift my position at all; for some reason I found the difficulties and pain of movement to be mildly amusing. I started mentally composing my account of the crash for this journal; opening with the single sentence about the other three cars breaking was there from the start. I did manage to take a photo of myself while in the hospital bed, which I posted here later on Monday, and also posted a quick announcement to Facebook to let people know what had happened. I also got out an email on a business matter I'd meant to deal with that night, but then my phone battery died. I didn't sleep at all, though I did try to rest once the main round of checking me over was done and my phone battery died.
I forgot to mention in the account of the crash that after the police officer first appeared at my car door, I called my friend Tony to alert him that I'd been in an accident and would probably need a ride home from the hospital later on. I worried a bit that they would release me at 2 or 3 in the morning, seriously cutting into Tony's sleep, but in the end they had me call him around 5:30, which I hoped wasn't too bad. So around 6 am, I lurched on crutches out of the ER and into the cold morning, clad only in my underwear and a very oversized set of paper shirt and pants, with my right leg bound up in a knee brace/immobilizer. Bruised, battered, slightly broken, aching, alive.