I may seem like an average teen - I get good grades, play sports, hang out with my friends, am involved in clubs, spend time with my family, you name it. I may seem strong, but on the inside I’m hiding my weakness and insecurity.
Eight years ago I spent a chilly February day at my aunt’s house while my parents worked. I stayed there with my older cousins a lot; we really enjoyed each other’s company despite the four- and six-year age difference.
That day Sara was online and Toni and I decided to play dress-up. I put on the white silk nightgown I always picked and Toni chose the purple dress. Soon our innocent game of house evolved into a serious portrayal of prisoner and sorcerer. I was the “bad guy” and Toni was the “good guy” whom I locked in the dungeon. The dungeon was a small office by the staircase accessed by a wooden door with four panels of glass. I tied the door shut to the staircase and as a joke I pounded on the door with my fists to shush my “prisoner.” Toni smiled and I smiled back as I ran down the hall away from her.
That is when I made my mistake. I decided it would be hilarious if I ran back down the hall and slammed on the door to startle my cuz. I sprinted toward the door in my silky nightgown and reached for the wood between the panes of glass. Only I slipped.
My right arm shot through the thick glass. I panicked and ripped my arm back through the pane. I’m okay, I thought, I’m okay, as I stared at my limp arm in awe. A few seconds passed before I realized that my body had been instantly covered in a dark purple liquid. I heard an ear-piercing scream and didn’t realize until years later that it was my own.
My aunt Kathy saved my life that day. Remarkably, she had decided to stop home for her lunch break. She heard the screams as she was leaving to return to the hospital where she is a nurse. She told Sara to dial 911 but she was screaming and shaking and unable to dial. My aunt told her again to call while she tightly squeezed my gushing arm. It seemed only moments before the paramedics arrived and took over. They kept asking if I could open my hand. I couldn’t, and didn’t understand why.
The glass had severed my brachial artery and some nerves, and the doctors at the local hospital were unable to treat me so I was rushed to Upstate Medical Center. After a seven-hour operation to repair my artery and two blood transfusions, I finally got to see my parents. Both were red-eyed and exhausted. We cried together and I kept apologizing.
I spent that night in the pediatric intensive care unit. That experience will never leave me. There were babies and little children who probably didn’t make it out of the hospital. The next night I was moved to the pediatric cancer wing, which was even worse. How could little children be denied the right to live? It isn’t fair that they have to suffer!
I went through a second operation for nerve regeneration and years of physical therapy; I’ve had to switch to using my left hand completely. I have three big scars that people stare at and ask about. I’m more comfortable talking about it now but it hasn’t been easy. I have learned and grown from these experiences and have decided I want to be a doctor and help children the way the amazing doctors helped me. I am thankful to be alive and have the chance to make a difference in our world.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.