It's been six years, but the memory of that day haunts me every time my birthday comes around.
It was a beautiful July day and my dad wanted me to go to a picnic with him. Just thinking about it, the smells of hamburgers and hot dogs attack my nose all over again. Since the parents were off in their own worlds, the kids gathered at the top of a hill. We all felt so powerful as we looked down on the parents, who appeared as tiny as ants. We felt like we ruled the land.
As we played around, people started getting rough. A playful push made me lose my balance and I tumbled down the hill. When I realized I didn't know where I was heading, fear gripped me in a way I had never experienced. I remember feeling as though I were floating just above the ground, and then opened my eyes to see a large object right in front of me.
On impact I lost all feeling in my body, as my neck bent in toward my chest. I never felt my body hit the ground; the only way I knew I had landed was hearing my body smack it like a fist banging on a door. I lay there with no control over anything.
I didn't understand quite why I couldn't move, but I knew it wasn't good. I told my friend, "Go get my dad right now, and hurry!" as the tears started rolling down my face.
The fear in my father's eyes was enough to stop time. He could tell right away that something was terribly wrong. The other parents didn't realize how bad it was until they approached, and my dad started screaming, "Call 911!"
While we waited for the ambulance, I went into shock because of all the pain and pressure on my neck. I remember laying there staring at the clouds as my dad knelt over me. I could see tears in his eyes.
I woke to a light so bright that it seemed almost heavenly. As my vision became clearer it was obvious that I was in the ambulance. "Where's my dad?" I asked. I was assured that he was right behind me. When I looked I saw the EMT, a burly man with black hair and a bushy beard, injecting something into my arm. I didn't even feel the needle go into my skin.
I didn't know what was happening. It's my birthday. Things like this aren't supposed to happen. I'm nine years old today, so why aren't I home being a kid? I remember asking myself over and over as I listened to the doctors talk about the chances of me being paralyzed. After many tests that proved this true, I didn't give up hope. I knew that if there were any way to get through this, I had to believe it first. Just imagine the things running through my head as I went in and out of x-rays - I wanted to go home and ride my bike, but what if I could never do that again?
When they had done all they could that night, they put me in a room and I lay there on a flat board, but it wasn't like it mattered because I couldn't feel it.
Someone went to get my mom who brought my favorite stuffed animal, Sammy. My mom and I watched Lucille Ball on television all night because I couldn't sleep.
The next morning I woke to the smell of many flowers; I'll never forget that smell. I looked around and saw a rainbow of balloons in the corner with a teddy bear. I knew deep down that I needed to have a lot of strength. The doctors came back to see if I could feel anything, but still no luck. That is when I started
When my grandma called, I could hear the fear in her voice. I lay there for hours thinking about how this could change my life. People came in and out all day long and the phone kept ringing with prayers from my family.
Later that day the doctors came in again to see if I wanted to try to get up; they knew no more damage could be done. They hoisted my body up, and even though I couldn't sit up by myself, a weight had been lifted. Maybe things are going to be okay, I thought. I remember feeling extremely dizzy. They placed me in a wheelchair and still I couldn't feel anything.
After some therapy, I began to regain some movement. I think quite possibly that could have been one of the most exciting moments in my life. Nothing could live up to this; a fear that had been pounding on my heart was going to be just a bad memory.
The best thing I got back was the gift to feel everything. I know that now I appreciate my ability to move more than I ever did before the accident. I had to wear a neck brace for a long time, which was very embarrassing. I'm positive, though, that months of wearing a neck brace and being able to move are better than not being able to move my whole life. It was a very scary experience, one that no kid should have to go through. My back still isn't fully healed, and I have a lot of problems with it, but I wouldn't trade it in because at least I can move whenever I feel like it.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.