My near-death experience made me a better doctor

I almost died today. I was driving from one clinic to another, on a busy highway in the rain, when my car hit a standing body of water and hydroplaned.

I lost control of the car, spun counterclockwise across three or more lanes, and slammed into the dividing median. I remember screaming “NO!!!” internally right before impact. I couldn’t believe what was happening as it happened.

As soon as I hit, the passenger-side airbag went off and I smelled smoke. The SOS button flipped down, lit red; I pushed it. The dashboard LED read “SOS”. Hard rain. I was in shock, couldn’t tell if I was hurt. I wanted to get out of the car, opened the door; a woman came toward me with an umbrella — she had stopped ahead of me — and a man, aghast, ran toward me from the opposite direction.

I got out; she put the umbrella over my head, and they asked if I was hurt. The man’s eyes were huge. No, I don’t think so. I’m not sure. I don’t feel any pain. I don’t think I hit my head. I didn’t lose consciousness. She said, call 911. I called 911. I could barely hear the person on the other line over the traffic. We tried to tell her where we were. A volunteer firefighter happened to see us and stopped. He called the fire truck. They kept asking me if I was sure nothing hurt. “Do you need to go to the hospital?”

Do I need to go to the hospital?

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