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In the Blink of an Eye MAG
It was June 21, the summer before freshman year, and I was craving Burger King, so Mom and I went. When her cell phone rang, it was Daddy, who had just finished mowing and decided he wanted some new shorts for our upcoming vacation (I didn’t mind a mall trip, I am all girl). He said he’d meet us in the Burger King parking lot and by the time we walked out, he was already waiting.
It seemed like the perfect summer Saturday afternoon. Something in the air was just great. Then all of a sudden we heard wailing sirens as the police headed down the street. Like a puppy hearing the dinner bell, my ears perked up. I turned to my mom and asked, “Can we follow and see what’s going on?” My mom, accustomed to my curiosity, gave a half-smile and said, “Now, Jana Lin, your uncle (a police officer) has always said that if a scene needs police service, the last thing they need is nosy citizens in the way.”
I started to pout, but then remembered we were headed for the mall, so I turned that frown upside down. My dad had told us to follow him; I guess he didn’t think we knew where the mall was - ha! So we pulled into the turning lane for the main entrance just behind Daddy.
We noticed there were three police cars in the parking lot, which was unusual, so Mom called Dad to tell him she wanted to circle around to make sure nothing serious was going on. Dad accelerated and then it was our turn to cross the intersection. Mom pulled forward and I looked to the right to see the silhouette of the woman who changed my life.
It was like I was dreaming as I felt the impact of the Honda racing 70 mph into my side. You know in the movies how when there’s an accident everything becomes silent until that last second when everything calms down? Well, that’s what it was like. I heard a blood-curdling scream, but didn’t know if it came from me or my mom. All I knew was that something very serious was happening, and there was nothing I could do about it.
I will never, as long as I live, forget the feeling of our brand-new Expedition rolling onto its two left wheels. The dipping feeling, the feeling of no control, haunted me for weeks. I rolled onto my mom because the impact had broken my seat and by the grace of God my seatbelt held me. Luckily the tires deflated and we were able to roll back, which slammed me into the passenger door.
Mom’s door flew open and she was over at my window. I remember her screaming, “Somebody help us. Somebody get my daughter out.” I looked up and saw what seemed like a mob of people rushing to us, the good Samaritans who I believed definitely helped save us. They pulled me across the car and laid my mom and me on the grass. Unfortunately, they put us in an ant bed, which didn’t help the situation.
Officer Parsons, if my memory serves me correctly, pulled up almost immediately, having to end his chase and let his partners take over. Mom and I were very bewildered. We saw our car, mangled and barely standing, and assumed that the other driver had to be hurt. Thinking there was someone dead or severely hurt on the other side of our car was an overwhelming feeling.
The ambulance wailed into the median and EMTs immediately began trying to calm me down since I was hyperventilating. My mom asked Officer Parsons, “Who hit us?” With his response, my feeling of being scared and hurt changed to confusion and anger.
“We don’t know, ma’am. We haven’t caught her.” Apparently the woman watched us flip and put her car in reverse and left, not caring whether we were alive or dead.
Suddenly the news cameras were in our faces, asking “Did you see what happened?” Not wanting to be harassed, we pushed them away. Daddy had heard the crash and looked in his rear-view mirror just in time to see us being hit. He ran toward us, but everyone was pushing him out of the way saying, “Back up. We don’t need spectators.” He screamed, “I’m her father” and was instantly given access. A good friend was working as first responder and checked Mom and me over, asking if we wanted to go to the hospital. We thought it was a good idea to have a thorough examination, until Officer Parsons started talking to us.
“Ma’am, we have her in custody, but the kicker is, she’s screaming to go to the hospital because she’s hurt.”
Well, there was no way my dad would be in the same building with her, so we decided to have our doctor check us out on Monday. My face and chest were beginning to bruise, and I felt horrible. We surveyed the damage, collected what we could from the car, and finalized the police report. The feeling in my stomach as I looked at the car is one I will never forget. I felt scared and angry, hurt and emotional.
When we went to the doctor, it turned out that we both had internal bleeding. He told us we could go on vacation but not to do any physical activity.
The doctor prescribed physical therapy, which is where I met Matt, the man responsible for my recovery. Not only was he was my physical therapist and my encourager, but most of all, he was my friend. When he evaluated my injuries, he discovered that everything on the left side of my body - my ribs, hips and back -
had shifted two inches up and two inches out, with a swelling of my left knee. He explained it would take hard physical and mental work, with no guarantees I would make it back to normal, but I was determined to keep fighting.
The first four months of therapy helped shift my ribs and hips into place. It was hard. I was being sandbagged twice a week and placed in a rib belt.
One night I came home with a bad pain in my side and was having difficulty breathing. That same night we saw on the news that the lady who hit us had been indicted and convicted by the grand jury. As she was being sentenced to six years in prison, I was on my way once again to the hospital. I had dislocated a rib, causing my breathing to slow because of fear of my lung collapsing.
That November my knee continued to swell and discolor. We consulted two doctors and the decision was unanimous: surgery. I was told that I couldn’t walk for at least two months and there was so much damage that there was no assurance that the surgery would be successful.
Eleven months later I signed off with my physical therapist and said good-bye to rehab. If it weren’t for their help, my family’s constant encouragement, and my overall striving to be normal again, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
I used to get so angry whenever I thought about this woman and her stupidity and careless disregard for others’ lives. My life changed in an instant. My parents explained that all that anger wasn’t helping me. I knew they were right and I needed to forgive - not forget, but forgive. I realized that in every cloud there is a silver lining, and mine was the ability to help others. The woman who hit us turned out to be high on methamphetamines as well as drunk. Now when I tell others this story, they actually listen. I have the power to make people think twice.
My mom and I both learned the hard way that tomorrow is not promised and that we must cherish life to its full potential. I live every day now without regrets, knowing how quickly everything can change. As long as I live I will be grateful that this happened to me, for I know firsthand how things can change with the blink of an eye.