How to Get Run Over By a Truck: A Memoir, by Katie McKenna

Katie McKenna was riding her bike to work one morning. At a stop light she pulled up behind a semi-truck. She signaled at his mirror that she intended to go forward. When the light went green she started moving straight to cross the intersection. Without using his turn signal the truck turned. Katie was quickly run over by four wheels of the large truck. The tires broke her pelvis in five places, all of her ribs, and drove parts of the bike into her body.

This memoir details her recovery, including a stay in a hospital which she chose because the ambulance drivers said that it had the best trauma unit. It was also a hospital for prisoners. This led to the most depersonalized nursing care possible.

My late wife had several surgeries and was in a hospital bed in the living room for around five years before her death. She took multiple trips to hospitals for both primary issues and some secondary issues from being in a bed 24/7. She was on hospice twice, was in constant pain, and was prescribed handfuls of drugs to be taken each day. This memoir felt painfully familiar. McKenna experienced the same kinds of depression, fear, loneliness, pain, and sense of loss that I watched my wife go through in those last years. The major difference was that McKenna had the advantage of being younger and in excellent physical condition. She was able, eventually, to walk again.

Before that happened she went through the frustration of friends asking how things happened and attempts to determine why God had put her in this position. She came from a strong Irish Catholic family, and both her faith and family played a large part in her recovery as well. She talks about the embarrassment of using a bedpan, of being unable to sit up let alone stand, of feeling helpless and being a burden on her family once she was able to leave the hospital to continue recovery in a bed in her parents’ living room.

What is most striking is that this is not the dismal memoir you might expect. Since recovery McKenna has been working for a fundraising organization and also does a comedy act in the evenings. Before the accident she was bubbly and energetic with a large network of friends. That part of her personality comes out in the writing, so that she can zero in on the absurd and funny parts of even the most horrifying aspects of the accident and recovery.

This is a book every hospital nurse and doctor should read at least once. For others it’s an encouraging examination of the drive to heal and an expression of faith when life deals out its worst. An amazingly truthful book written with humor and love.