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My body was in complete shock. I sat there stunned, staring out at the road through the shattered glass. The fluorescent, eye-blinding lights flashed all around me and the ear-piercing sirens of the emergency vehicles almost deafened me. People were screaming at me asking me if I was alright, but my mouth would not form words and my voice would not make a sound. The commotion going on around me was almost invisible as I sat there. It was as if my brain was not connected to my body. Almost like I knew what was going on, but could not do anything and could not process it.
My brother, Drew, sat next to me shouting in my ear and I snapped out of the shock I was in. “I’m fine, I’m fine,” I said, all flustered.
Everyone helped Drew and I out of the car and onto the side of the road, but my leg was throbbing in pain the whole time. Drew was complaining that his arm was killing him, too. My dad, however, was stuck in the car, unconscious. The seat had jammed his body into the dashboard and steering wheel and he was stuck in a very uncomfortable and awkward position. We were frightened because we did not know if he would be alright.
As more and more emergency vehicles showed up, I sat on the side of the road, stunned, watching as people rushed to help us. I sat there, pulling my knees into my stomach, trying to hold in the pain from where the seatbelt had dug into it, while being careful not to hurt my leg anymore. I held my head which was throbbing from banging into the headrest. I replayed in my mind what had just happened over and over again.
We had been coming home from Drew’s soccer game and we were casually talking. All of a sudden my dad’s phone rang and he reached to answer it. With that sudden movement, our car swerved into the lane with oncoming traffic. We could see the lights of the approaching truck and could hear the honking horn telling us to get to the other side of the road. My dad yanked the steering wheel, but not in time to make it around the vehicle ahead of us.
I squeezed my eyes shut, covered my face with my hands, and let out a scream that I was sure could be heard from miles away. I was in such terror that I did not even realize what was happening to my brother and father. The oncoming truck hit us with monstrous force, my neck snapped back, giving me whiplash, and my head banged so forcefully into the headrest that it gave me a migraine. The car flew fifteen feet into the air and came crashing down like a flower vase falling off a table. My mind was spinning on account of all the thoughts running through it at the time. Please don’t let me die! I’m too young! I’m sorry for all the bad things I have done! I promise I will always be nice to Drew if you just let me live!
I was praying to God, asking him to help me, and asking him to bless my father, brother and me. I was terrified of what was going to happen. My heart was pounding so hard, it was as if it was going to explode any minute.
To everyone‘s surprise, the car landed right side up, but with so much force that my dad’s head slammed into the windshield and his legs got stuck between the seat and below the steering wheel. Luckily, my brother and I were sitting in the back, which had not been harmed as brutally as the front seat, where my father was, although we were still in pain. My brother next to me was sobbing hysterically while my dad lay unconscious in the driver’s seat with blood dripping down his face from cuts all over him from the shards of glass that had sprayed everywhere.
The truck, however, that we collided with had flipped onto its side and slid down the road thirty feet because the weight of the truck had pulled it when it hit us, head on. The truck had been carrying an immense amount of gasoline and it had all spilled out onto the road. The gasoline had somehow caught on fire, which had set the truck on fire. The driver, thankfully, was okay, and had escaped the truck before it caught on fire, unscathed.
My brother and I were watching the commotion around us when I noticed that there were tears rolling down my cheeks.
“Drew, I’m scared of what will happen to dad.”
“Me too, Michelle, me too,” he replied. Then added in a comforting voice, “Don’t worry, it will be okay.”
“Let’s hope so. Dad has got to be alright!”
Sitting there, on the warm black pavement, we cried for dad and for what was going to happen to him.
Out on the road, firefighters and police officers were trying to get him out of the car. This was not an easy task considering that he was bloody, severely injured, and unconscious. They didn’t want to end up hurting him more, so they had to be extremely careful. Twenty minutes passed before they realized that they were not able to get him out. I was getting more and more terrified and worried by the second. Thoughts kept running through my head wondering if he would survive and how we would live without him. The sound of a chain saw abruptly stopped my thoughts and I looked up to see the firefighters cutting apart our car. Apparently, it was the only way to get him out and to the hospital as fast as they could. They took off all of the doors and the roof of the car so that my dad was more accessible. They were finally able to get him out, when all that was left of it was the frame of the vehicle and the blood-stained seats.
The paramedics rushed to the car with a stretcher. While they carefully put him on it and covered him with a blanket, the police told the bystanders, trying to figure out what was going on, to move back so that a helicopter could come to airlift him to the hospital. Some paramedics came to Drew and I and told us that they would take us to the hospital in an ambulance. They wanted to make sure we were okay and check to see if our arms and legs were broken, since we had been complaining about them. We were uneasy about leaving my dad, but they assured us that he would be going to the same place and we would meet our mom there. They told us that it would be best for us to go in an ambulance so that they could be particularly cautious about taking care of us.
The helicopter arrived two minutes later and the sound of it was like the sound of the wind during a tornado. Our father was carefully lifted into the helicopter by some of the paramedics and before we knew it the noise was disappearing.
The paramedics had us get onto stretchers and they rolled us into the ambulance. We immediately headed to the hospital with the sirens blaring. It took us no more that ten minutes to get there because all the cars pulled over for us. Throughout the short trip to the hospital the woman sitting with us told us what she knew about our father’s condition.
“He was terribly injured and jammed into the dashboard very badly. He might have a concussion from slamming his head into the windshield. I cannot believe that the air bag did not come out and he might have been conscious now if it had. Your father also might have broken his legs from being crushed by the area under the steering wheel. Other than that I do not know anything,” she explained to us.
“I hope he will be okay,” I said, my voice cracking and my eyes filling with tears again.
“I hope so too,” she replied with sympathy and genuine concern in her voice.
We pulled up to the emergency room entrance and they rolled our stretchers in so the doctors could examine us. They took us to get x-rays of our arms and legs. The results showed that my right leg was broken and Drew’s left arm was also broken. The doctor put casts on both of us and told us about not getting them wet and how long we would have them on. He gave me crutches ad instructed me on how to walk with them. After he finished talking to us, which took about twenty minutes, he walked us to the waiting room where out mother was. As soon as we walked in we saw her there, sobbing hysterically with her head down, face in her hands. We thanked the doctor so much and went and sat down next to her.
She looked up, startled, “Oh, my Gosh! Thank God you are both alive!” she cried.
We both hugged her and I never wanted to let go because I knew I was safe there in her arms. It just now occurred to us that we could have been like our dad, or even worse, dead. We were extremely grateful that we were unharmed through that horrible, terrible accident.
Suddenly a nurse came up to us and gave us even more of a shock. “I wanted to let you know about your husband‘s condition. I just finished speaking with the ER doctor and your husband is in extremely critical condition at the moment. The doctor will come out to talk to you further in a little while to give you more details on his injuries. Please understand though that he has suffered life threatening injuries in this accident,” she said with sincerity in her eyes. She seemed to be deeply concerned and worried about how we were going to take this news.
My mom, in complete fear, just nodded unable to utter any words. “Can.. can we see him..?” she whispered softly through tears as her words trailed off.
“Come this way,” the nurse replied.
We followed her past the doors that read staff only and past rooms where doctors bent over the operating tables, deep in concentration. I shuddered at the thought of what was happening in those rooms. In a matter of seconds, we arrived at a door and the nurse put her finger to her lips as a way of saying keep quiet. We walked into the room, uneasy with suspense and afraid of what we might see. There laying on the bed was our father. He was hooked up to tubes and wires and machines. The mere sight of him like that was enough to make my eyes start to tear, yet again. I was used to him being fearless and bold. He was the person who helped us when we were down and protected us through everything. Now, seeing him here, looking so helpless and dependent on the life-support was enough to make me want to turn and run out of the room, back to the soccer fields, to a time and place where I could see him laughing with us and joking around. Those moments seemed like they had been long ago, like just another memory in my head.
We sat next to his bed in the hospital chairs watching him as he lay there like a ghost, the beeping and pinging noises of the machines filling our heads. My mom was kneeling at the side of his bed praying that he would be okay. We all knew, in our minds, that there was a possibility, however small, that he would not survive, but in our hearts we had to hope and believe that he would come back to us. None of us could actually admit that grim possibility out loud because the thought of it was too horrible. Just then a doctor walked into the room, a grave expression on his face. He was carrying a clipboard, papers stacked neatly in a pile on it, I assumed about my father. He coolly said to my mom, “May I talk to you, alone?”
My mother nodded her head to us and without another word we got up, walked out of the room into the hallway, and shut the door behind us. We were so anxiously curious of what was going on, so we put our ears to the door and tried to hear what they were saying. It was no use, though, all we heard were murmurs and voices mumbling in hushed conversation.
I leaned back against the wall in the hospital hallway and slid down to the ground. I pulled my legs up to my chest and held them there, rocking back and forth. Tears were now streaming down my face and my nose was running uncontrollably. All the pent up anger and devastation of what had happened to me in the past twenty-four hours came out in tears that were like Niagara Falls. With my head in my hands, not looking at what was going on around me, I let out all of my emotions. My brother came up to me and put his arms around me. He was little, but he still knew that this was no time for words. So he sat there, trying to comfort me in a way that only a brother could.
The doctor and my mother came out of the room and I could tell my mother had been crying from the way her eyes were red and glistened in the light. She motioned for us to come sit with her in the room so that we could talk. I could tell by the look on her face that whatever she was going to say would affect us greatly. “The doctor said that your father is now on oxygen and many different machines to help him stay alive and that without them he would not be breathing now. They will keep him on these machines for a week or so and see how he reacts. If he does not become conscious, then he will be taken off life-support, but let’s pray and hope with all of our hearts that this does not have to occur,” she explained in a soft tone.
The next couple of days went by as a blur to me. I didn’t go to school at all and most of the time I was sitting in the hospital room with my mother and brother, with my dad laying, still unconscious, in bed. We cried, prayed, hoped, and cried some more. It had to have been the worst week of my life, unsure of what was going to happen and unable to do anything about it.
The day that I remember so distinctly was a Thursday. The accident had been on a Sunday. By Thursday, most of the doctors had given up hope that my father would ever wake up, but we had not. We had just arrived at the hospital, early in the morning and were sitting talking quietly. A sudden movement from the bed shocked us all and we jumped. We looked over at our dad and his eyes fluttered open and closed again. My mom took his hand in her hands and whispered his name over and over again, “Steve…Steve…Steve…”
The next thing we knew he opened his eyes and smiled at us, a faint smile, but there all the same. My mom ran and told the first nurse she saw to get the doctor. A few minutes later, the doctor came in and looked relieved and happy all at once. He told us that it was a miracle that he was conscious and breathing on his own again, because it was not very often that something like that happens.
We are all extremely grateful to all of the doctors and nurses at the hospital. Our father is now back at home, but still on bed rest and he needs to gain back his energy and motor skills. This accident was a traumatic experience for our whole family, but it helped me to learn what is really important to me. This event took its toll on all of us and scared us more than any words can describe. I truly do not know what I would do if my father had not made it through this. Some call it lucky, some call it unbelievable, but I call it a miracle. The kind of miracle that only happens once in a lifetime. I guess sometimes all you need to do is believe.