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Riding Into Recovery
“Were you wearing your helmet?”
“Yes”, I said, tired of saying the same thing.
“Don’t worry this won’t hurt.”
Alright, just do whatever you can to get this pain away, I thought to myself, too tired to say it aloud.
These were the same sentences I’d heard 100 times before.
As I coasted down one of my many neighborhood hills on my bike, I couldn’t have been happier. My day kept getting better by the moment. I woke up late, won my soccer game-one of the first games I’d played in since being out from a back injury, and then-riding my bike in the sunny spring weather with my mom and brother.
The breeze was gusting in my face, and my hair soaring around like a wild woman. My brother and I raced down the dozens of hills and streets. Slowly, my mother who was walking our dog kept drifting farther and farther away, but that did not stop us at all from doing “our thing”.
As we finally decided to stop for a second and catch our breath, we looked down at the hill we called “the mountain”. Our bright red faces were not seen for very long.
“Ready to go down now?’ my brother, Ryan asked.
“Sure, ready when you are”, I replied.
I watched my brother zoom down the “mountain” while I tentatively descended. Slow and steady wins the race I told myself. I watched my brother soar past the stop sign and whip around the corner to make his way up a hill to our house. I began to gain speed as I went down. My hair was all over my face, and I noticed there was one advantage to being a boy right now: they have relatively short hair. I picked up one hand off the handlebars and began to swat my hair off my face. It took me one second to realize that there was no way I could slow my bike down in time to turn around the corner. In that second, I pressed down hard on my brakes and flew over the top of my handlebars. I landed on my stomach and instantly felt a searing pain near my ribs. It felt like some one was punching me consistently. It was like there was no way to stop the punchers. I laid there waiting, hopeful for my mom or someone to come racing down the hill to help.
My miracle came. My mom appeared in my vision. Was I just imagining this or was she actually coming down the hill? I thought. Panic rushed to her face, and it looked as if she was the one who fell off her bike. She rushed down the hill with my dog, who thought it was a game, and came to my side. As she came upon me, a driver from a car that saw me fall also came to help. My mom knew exactly what had happened. My face had changed from bright red to a ghostly white in just 3 minutes.
“It was a hard hit” the onlookers in the car told my mom.
“Can I please use your phone to call my husband up the street?” my mom asked.
As my body lay there, my mind wasn’t. In that moment my mind was blank. I couldn’t say anything the pain hurt so badly. My dad finally came to pick me up. It seemed like a day had past when he got there, but realistically only a minute had gone by. When my dad hoisted me up into the car, I reclined the chair down all the way into a 180 degree angle.
I was on the couch in my house moving in pain, when my mom realized there was something seriously wrong. I was always complaining about something that hurt me. Whether I was complaining about my finger nail hurting or things as little as my eye lash, there was always something, but this time I was squirming in pain and had no words to express it.
“What is she still doing here, Mike? She should be at the hospital!”
“Just give her Tylenol”, my dad stated, try to convince my mom everything was OK.
What was he thinking? I thought to myself. Does he not see me here on the couch? White-faced and laying in agony? Tylenol was not the answer.
Thank goodness for my mom at that moment. My dad had the typical father answer, that this was no big deal.
“No, she’s going to the hospital”, my mom confidently told my dad.
I sat in my hospital bed devastated I was spending my birthday in that awful place. I was hopeful I would get my great “birthday news” from the doctors.
As we got to Bridgeport hospital, I was told I needed a CT- scan. Before I could have it, I had to drink a foul liquid that would illuminate my organs so the doctors could see if anything was wrong. As I took a sip my face abruptly changed from expressionless to a face that looked like I had just eaten some sort of insect. I knew I had to finish it. So I drank that fluid “slow and steady”.
The doctors promised me the CT- scan would not hurt, and they were right. Before I knew it, it was over. I was put into the emergency room, where I waited hopeful that a doctor would come quickly. Finally, the doctor came in and spilled the bad news.
“She has lacerated her spleen,” the doctor announced, looking remorseful
As my mom and the doctor discussed what this was and what was needed, the words “very serious” and “needs to stay in hospital” rang in my head. A laceration of the spleen is a bad cut to the spleen. Blood comes out of the spleen and sometimes needs to be taken out. In my case, I almost needed surgery. The doctors told me that in a rating up to 5 of how severe my damage was I was a 4. Please don’t make me get surgery”, I pleaded in my head, hoping the doctor would somehow hear my words. Since children heal more quickly than adults they decided to keep me on bed rest for a week, but if it got worse they would take it out. I was thankful I did not have to have surgery.
It was almost 12 at night and the hospital was full. They did not have any place to put me. My mom tried every way to get me help, but there I was in the stretcher in a dark room waiting for an answer. Finally someone came in and told my mother and I we could go to a different hospital. To get my spirits high she told us we would be riding in an ambulance and they could even turn on the sirens for me. My mom agreed to this plan. I was immediately wheeled out and brought onto the ambulance.
Sirens were blaring. I was dazed, but the Emergency Medical Technicians kept telling me not to fall asleep and were trying to talk to me in voices that sounded like they were blabbing to a 3 year old. As the quick ride ended I was carried down in the stretcher by the strong EMT’s down into the hospital. Dozens of doctors swarmed around me asking me the same question over and over again.
“Did you wear your helmet?”
“Yes” I replied not even knowing what I was saying, but knew they were asking the same question they’d asked a hundred times before.
I was placed into a room. Finally. There was only one problem with this. I had an extremely loud girl as my roommate who was very disruptive. She was not in any chronic condition because every five seconds she would get up and look at me, hiding behind the curtain. Am I really that interesting? I thought to myself. My mom finally got me transferred to a different room. A room just for me. I finally went to sleep on my first night in the hospital. Only a few more days to go, I kept thinking to myself.
“Wake up” my nurse shouted
It was 3 o’clock in the morning. I opened my eyes and saw her open the I.V.’s I had on my arms and fill them with other liquids I had never heard of. Every 3 hours I was woken up by a nurse who was either giving me Tylenol, flushing out my I.Vs, or giving some pain killer medication to me. I was not allowed to eat or drink anything for a week.
After two days in the hospital my hair looked like I had a matted wig on. I did not want visitors to see me like this. Every single day I had the same routine: watch TV and sleep.
As the days went on, my birthday came. I was hoping I would be out of there before then but it didn’t happen. The only good thing was that presents came from everywhere. My room was filled with gifts and balloons. I never knew so many people cared for me until that day.
On my birthday a nurse came in with a board and markers. She told me to use my imagination and draw a design. The tile would then be placed on the ceiling. My immediate reaction was to draw my name. That way when patients looked up at the ceiling they could see my name, and know that I had gone through something too. They weren’t the only ones who had to suffer.
In many of the other rooms, tiles on the ceilings were painted by patients. Now, I would have one of my own to put in this room. The nurse talked about how tough I was for dealing with this trauma.
“Things happen for a reason” “Everything will only start to get better after this point, sweetie.”
Why me? I thought.
She kept on talking with words of encouragement and that is when I lost it. I started crying. I hadn’t cried the whole time I was in the hospital, but her words took on more meaning than anyone else’s. My dad, who I never cry in front of was in the room, and I didn’t care. He knew what I had gone through and understood that. I remember that day so vividly.
That week, I was let out of the hospital. I felt like this day would never come. Happiness arose from me. The first smile the whole week lifted up on my face. My pale colored skin suddenly brightened. I was finally going home! I knew the next three months would be the hardest. And they were. I was not able to play sports or do anything active. I learned from my experience that when something hits you unexpectedly you just have to bounce back from it. Things happen for a reason. After being in the hospital and losing something for 3 months that I loved to do, I cherished it more than ever. The day I was able to shoot a basketball or shoot a soccer ball, was like winning a million dollars.