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Colbie Caillat and Pumpkin Bread
“It starts in my toes, makes me crinkle my nose,” I sang happily, barely loud enough for my boyfriend Brent to hear me over the music. It was just before seven and we had just left his parents’ house, along with three loaves of pumpkin bread, and were on the way back to my house. “Bubbly”, my Song of the Week, was blasting through the speakers.
I looked at Brent, smiling, and held eye contact for a few seconds; that song seemed so fitting for us at the time. I glanced at the animation on the screen of his stereo when I felt the car jerk as he swerved. I looked up, scared, only to see that we were spinning counterclockwise. And that’s when it hit me: we were going to wreck.
I felt myself scream, heard Brent gasp as he tried to regain control of the vehicle, felt his arm reach across my chest and grab my set cover, then, silence. I opened my eyes and yelped out of fright and pain: the windshield was now a web of cracks, my door was against my hip, and I was practically in Brent’s lap. My head was resting on the tree that I suddenly realized we were wrapped around, and my knee was pinned between the door and the center console.
In pain and scared out of my mind, I took in a sharp breath, immediately wishing that I had just given up on breathing altogether. The pain was excruciating, and I could smell cold air and dirt and broken glass (yes, it has a smell).
“Are you ok?” I heard Brent ask, my first indication that he was alive. I felt hot tears sting my eyes as he tried to wiggle in his seat. When I didn’t answer, he asked again. “Renae, are you ok?”
“I think I broke my hip,” I managed to say, each word burning my lungs and making me shake. I began to sob wildly, the reality of the situation hitting me like a brick wall.
I reached for my phone with shaking hands, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. Darkness surrounded us, but somehow it seemed like the middle of the day. Where is my phone? I kept asking myself. Finally, I grabbed Brent’s phone from between our seats, glass scraping my fingers.
“Call 9-1-1,” I said to both of us as I fumbled with the buttons. Hysterical, I handed him the phone and began crying louder. I heard him shut the phone before it even started ringing, and start to move around me. When he wiggled out of his seat and through the window, he opened the phone again.
“Are you ok?” he asked again.
“I feel like I broke my hip,” I replied in between sobs. “And maybe my ribs, too.”
He dialed again. I heard him talking to the dispatcher as I tried to pull my leg free. The pain shot through my entire body, but I kept fidgeting until I could bend my knee and slide it out sideways.
I looked up and felt weak with fright. The sunroof was gone; I could see trees and a hint of stars trying to shine through the clouds. Frantic, I kicked at the door in an attempt to open it. After a few kicks, however, I surrendered to the pain and sank back down.
Brent was still on the phone when he poked his head back in, only to find me still crying. He said something about an ambulance coming, and I panicked. Is this that serious? I wondered. There was no way for me to tell, except for the pain spreading through my entire body. Suddenly developing an overwhelming sense of restlessness, I reached for Brent, and he pulled my slowly out of the car.
That’s when I noticed that car that had pulled up right behind where the car was now sitting off the side of the road. A lady who looked like a hippy with crazy clothes and long blonde braids walked toward me, arms stretched out, ready to hold my shaking body still. A man was there too, but I hardly noticed him.
Brent came up next to me and tried to hold me. Both of us were shaking terribly, and I was gripping the woman’s hands so tight that I could see her fingertips turning purple. I felt Brent pull me away from the woman and hug me tightly. I buried my face in his chest, closed my eyes and breathed in the smell of his shirt. When I opened my eyes, I saw the car and the broken windows and the twisted shape and started crying and shaking so hard that I couldn’t hold myself up anymore.
Brent lowered me to the ground so I could sit, but sitting took a type of strength that I didn’t have, so I laid down on the cold asphalt. I was shivering as I heard Brent call his parents, and then mine. I pulled Brent’s sweater that he had put across my arms closer to me to stop the shivering.
Paramedics seemed to materialize from no where after what felt like an hour of shivering on the cold ground. I was poked, prodded, and pressed on by a pretty blonde girl in a Mount Shasta Bears sweater while Brent talked to the police officer. As the ambulance pulled up, I looked around and saw Brent’s mom standing about 10 feet from me. I winced in pain as the EMT’s started strapping me to the stiff board. When one EMT, a short white man with squinty eyes, tried to take Brent’s sweater from me, a strength I didn’t know I had took over, and I refused to let go.
I felt myself being lifted and was quickly in the ambulance. I tried to wiggle on the uncomfortable board, but the EMT told me to hold still, because my back could be broken. Annoyed by the chunks of glass and dirt I could feel under me, and feeling claustrophobic from the oxygen mask, I still tried to move. It hurt so badly, but laying still hurt worse.
I looked at the EMT through my tears as he started my IV.
“You know, I probably shouldn’t tell you this,” he said as we started picking up speed. “But you should be dead right now.”
My mind began to go off in crazy directions. I saw him talking, but the words didn’t make it to my ears. All I kept thinking was I am going to die. As we turned into the hospital, horrifying pictures of surgeries and life as a paraplegic came to my mind. I willed myself not to cry as they rolled me into a room.
Nurses surrounded my bed, giving me looks of pity as they carefully shuffled around me. I was lifted off of the gurney and onto a bed, but I was still told to lie still. Still attached to the board, it seemed like I didn’t have a choice, so I lay still.
The curtain that separated my bed from the others opened as my mother rushed up next to me.
“Mommy,” I began to cry as I murmured the word. I felt a tear start to roll down my cheek, and watched her hand come across my face to wipe it away. I reached for her hand, and squeezed it with all the strength I had left.
The police officer that arrived at our accident came in and took my statement. The fact that neither of use were drinking didn’t seem reasonable to him; but he was in and out quickly, leaving me to attempt to talk to my mom and my pastor.
A doctor came in to see me, and said that I was going in for x-rays to make sure I didn’t break my back or ribs, since those were the parts of me that hurt the most. They were also checking my knee because it was a little swollen. He leaned over and undid the straps that bound me to the uncomfortable board and told me to hold my head still, in case my back was injured.
I was wheeled into the cold x-ray room where they took pictures of all of my bones. When the man with the funny mustache was finished, he rolled my bed back into my room and told me that someone would be in to see me in a few minutes. My youth pastor’s wife Megan came into my room and handed me my phone that I had been desperately searching for, not even an hour beforehand.
The doctor appeared a few minutes later, a smile on his face.
“Well,” he began. The tone of his voice relaxed me slightly. “You’re ok. Just a broken pinkie and some bruises. The car, however, is totaled, so your boyfriend won’t be driving you around for a while.”
“How’s Brent?” I asked, suddenly more worried about him than anything else. “Is he alright?”
“He’s fine,” the doctor replied. “You want to go see him?”
I felt a smile spread across my face; of course I wanted to see him. I started to get up, but one of the nurses held me down.
“You might want to get dressed first,” she said, holding a bag that contained my clothes.
I looked down and noticed that, sometime during that hour, my clothes had been replaced with a gown that could have been made for someone more than twice my size. I felt myself blush, then reached for the clothes that she was handing me.
I dressed fairly quick for someone who had just been in a car accident, a little wobbly on my feet. Stretching after being strapped to that stiff board felt so good, and I moved around as much as my body would let me. I reached for my mom’s hand and started walking to the room that Brent was in.
There were x-rays of his skull displayed when I walked in, but none of them had anything concerning on them. I looked at him and felt overjoyed. He was ok.
“You’re walking?” he asked, laughing. I bent down and kissed his cheek. Seeing him smiling and ok was the most amazing thing for me.
“Yeah, finally,” I answered back, lying down on the bed next to his. “You ok?”
“I’m fine,” he said, smiling at me. “How come you were the one that got taken in an ambulance, and I’m to one still lying on a bed?”
“I guess I just got lucky,” I replied. His parents, our youth pastor Ryan, Megan, my mom, her friend, and some of the youth group slowly filed into the already cramped room. Seeing so many people there, people who wanted to make sure that we made it out ok, made me feel so loved.
After getting our IV needles taken out and being given our last bit of information from the nurses, Brent and I were released.
Brent and I got lucky that night; if the tree we hit were anywhere other than where it was, we both would have been badly injured, if not dead. Being in that accident changed my life; I get nervous every time I sit in a vehicle, and if the driver is speeding or going around a turn, my stomach starts to turn. But it also made me realize that life is a gift; and in the blink of an eye, it can be taken away from you.