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I Don’t Remember the Car This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


I don't remember the day ... I don't remember the week ... I don't remember the eight years before. I had to learn everything over again. I had to retrain myself mentally ... I had to retrain myself physically ... I had to retrain myself spiritually ... I had to find out who I wanted to be, since I didn't know who I was.

I was staring up at the fluorescent lights in my hospital room, not knowing who the people around me were. The sterile smell of the hospital stung at the hairs in my nose. The only other smell was that of chrysanthemums and lilacs, whose sickly sweet odor hung in the air on one side of the room. My mind was full of questions – who were these people standing around my bed? How did I get in this bed and why couldn't I move – was I paralyzed? I tried to speak, but all I could manage was a guttural moan – where had my voice gone and why couldn't I speak? Some of my questions were about to be answered, I thought, by that woman who wore worry and concern on her face.

"Thank God you are all right, Alex," she sobbed as she bent to kiss my forehead. I wanted to tell her I wasn't all right and that I couldn't move anything and my head felt a pain like that of a log being split by a maul, but my tongue could not remember how to speak. She wanted to know if I remembered her; she wanted to know if I knew she was my mother – I managed a smile. She wanted to know if I remembered Andy and Emily or my father. Although I didn't, I figured Andy was my brother and Emily was my sister, so I smiled. And who were these old people who spoke in cracking voices? The older gentleman held out his hand – what did he want me to do with it? I certainly did not know. He frowned with disapproval; I was sure that if he frowned any more, his withered face would crack from stress.

"Come on, Alex," he said as he lifted my hand to his. My hand just fell limply back to the bed, "Don't you remember me, and your grandmother?" I must say I didn't, but I smiled anyhow – his face told me he did not believe me, though. I didn't remember anyone in the room, or anything, except for some fragmented speech, but without the ability to verbalize, this would not come in useful. Like the blast of an atomic bomb, it hit me – I was born again. My mind was a tabula rosa. The only ability I hadn't lost was understanding verbal communication. I was confused and saddened – my heart ached as if it had been tied in a knot.

Just then a nurse came in and said, "Time to fix your head," as she gave me a shot of something. I was lifted onto a cart by two orderlies, and the world melted before my eyes as the drugs the nurse had administered took effect. I woke up in a different room, with scores of stuffed animals in place of the flowers (thank God!). I still had my headache, and I guess by the constant screaming I did for the next week, they figured I was in pain – I would have rather taken the pain relievers orally. I saw my mother sitting in a chair beside my bed, her eyes glossed over. She sat there looking at me in a curious sort of way for awhile, and then she said, "Alex, if you can understand me, I want to tell you why you are in the hospital." My mother told me that I had been hit by a car when I accidentally went into the street while sledding down our front yard. I had been in a coma for two weeks after the accident, and had a metal plate put in my head.

Over the next week I was in and out of surgery. I was constantly gaining strength through five hours of physical therapy a day. My doctor wanted to try me on some solid food rather than just the I.V. Every day my doctor kept giving me more and more solid food, and every day, more and more of it would end up in the orange pail beside my bed – funny, it didn't taste as good the second time. Toward the end of the week they took away my wheelchair and gave me a walker. With it, I attended physical therapy from 7-12 a.m., went to speech therapy from 1-3 p.m., and then across the hall to occupational therapy from 3-8 p.m., with half an hour break for dinner at 6. I did this routine every day for two weeks.

I went through the second week out of a coma in much the same manner. The only difference was I could talk; my speech was slurred, but I could talk! At the end of the fourth week, I was let out of the hospital. I had private tutoring at home, and the next year, I went into fourth grade. Looking back, I realize that this was quite an accomplishment, since I was hit by the car in the middle of third grade. So I started the fourth grade academic year with a physical age of nine and a mental age of one, although this is not entirely true because I learned so much in that one year.

The image of my body being operated on as I looked on from somewhere in the operating room ceiling still haunts me.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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