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As a little girl I was always afraid of the dark, of the things I imagined lurking into my room while I slept. I slept with a flashlight tucked under my pillow and a Disney princess nightlight in the corner of my room. But no amounts of flashlights or phony Disney products could prevent the darkness that surrounds me every second of every day. A darkness that can never be cast out with the flip of a switch. A darkness that will never go away.
I can still hear my mother’s piercing scream, can still see the sweat gushing down the drunk driver’s face as his car smashed into ours, can still feel the gut-wrenching pain rip through my skull as I’m enveloped in darkness, never to see light again.
I wake up to a soft beeping sound behind me and the sound of a man’s hushed voice reaches my ears. As I try to untangle the thousands of thoughts running through my aching head, I become aware of an increasing pain in my right leg and an overwhelming dizziness.
Suddenly it hits me: drunk driver, screaming, crash, pain, black.
I shift my body in an effort to sit up and am hit with another dizzy spell and an excruciating throbbing in my head. When it passes I try to open my eyes and realize that there’s a large bandage blocking my view. That’s when the panic sets in. Where am I? What happened? Where’s mom? Why is my head so sore? Tears escape my eyes and soak into the bandages, making my head throb even more.
“Mom? Mom!” I cry out to someone, anyone. Where was my mother? Did she survive the crash? I had to know!
I hear rapid footsteps shuffling into my room and then a warm hand stroking my arm, willing me to calm down.
“Shhh, baby, it’s ok. Daddy’s here.” I hear the cracked voice of my father. Never has his voice sounded so comforting.
“Dad?” I reach out for him and end up swatting at the air. “Where are you?”
He gently takes my hand in his. “I’m right here, honey. Everything’s fine.”
“Mom’s in another room, honey. She’s sleeping right now.”
“Is she ok?” I ask, hoping with everything in me that nothing bad happened to her.
“She’s fine. A few cuts and bruises and a broken arm, but other than that she’s ok.”
I release the breath that I didn’t know I’ve been holding. Relief washes over me. Mom’s ok, she’s not dead. Then I remember the bandages. What happened to me? Will I be ok?
“Dad, what’s wrong with me?” I ask shakily.
He doesn’t answer for some time. I begin to fear the worst.
“Dad?” I question again, my voice low. “Dad, what’s wrong?”
When he finally speaks I can hear tell that he’s crying. “Honey, you’ve broken your leg and a few ribs. You also have a lot of cuts all over your body.”
“But what’s wrong with my head? Why is it so sore?”
I hear him take a deep breath, his voice cracking. “Baby, your head took the major blow. You’ve had a severe concussion and been in a coma for several days. But you—your eyes—” he didn’t go on.
Everything within me screams against it, but I know that I have to ask the question, have to know the truth. “What’s wrong with my eyes?”
I hear him sobbing now.
“Baby, I’m so sorry. The doctors ran some tests and the results show that you’ve gone blind—”
I didn’t hear the rest of what he said. Blind? No, I can’t be blind! I’m only fifteen! How will I do school? How will I do anything? No no no! I’m not blind! There must be some mistake! The doctors are lying! I’m not blind, I can’t be blind!