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One of the Worst Days
Growing up, I always told myself I was invincible, that I couldn’t be hurt. I just wasn’t that person. I knew I wouldn’t ever have a remarkable past, until suddenly, I did. I wasn’t normal anymore, and I never would be.
It happened on a Saturday. My cousin Hannah was working that day. The plan was for Austin, her boyfriend, Nathan, her boyfriend’s brother, and me to pick her up from work. She lived in Wheeler and worked in Menomonie. She finished work at five, and Nathan and Austin got ready to bring her home from work; I almost didn’t go with. I had a brief flash of anxiety while deciding if I would ride along, but ignored it and sat in the back seat of my aunt’s car. Nathan was driving, and Austin sat in the passenger seat. While driving, Nathan liked to play a lot of older music. Around half way through the drive, the song “Breathe” by Pink Floyd began to play. The song had a creepy feeling; it had my skin tingling.
Without warning, I hit my head; it wasn’t a little bump, it was almost skull crushing. It was head to windshield --- nearly catastrophic. I don’t remember personally, but I screamed. It was a blood-curdling scream; the kind that clung to Nathan’s memory like glue. I flew out of the back windshield, and I landed in a front yard forty feet from the car, onto my head. At a stop sign, rather than stopping and without slowing, Nathan went into the right turn lane. He tried to pass the car waiting at the stop sign in front of us. It was only a two-way stop, and we were t-boned from both sides. He told the lawyers he didn’t know the action was illegal, that he had always seen his parents do it. I don’t know if I will ever believe what he said to those lawyers.
When I was little, I would see helicopters flying through the bright summer sky. I always thought about how amazing it would be to ride in a helicopter. I never thought that the time I did would be a life or death situation. After the accident, when I had painfully been transferred onto a gurney, I waited inside an ambulance. When I heard the chop, chop, chop, of the helicopter blades splicing the air, the severity of the situation hit me. I went through a windshield. I survived, but I didn’t know if my injuries were life threatening. When the paramedics brought me to the helicopter, my body felt like glass. I had never been so vulnerable in my life. There were two men in the helicopter with me; I asked one to hold my hand after we took off and were on our way to Regions. I will never forget the feeling of his big, gloved hand. Within the numbered seconds, that stranger made me know I was going to be okay, no matter what happened. We arrived at the hospital, and I was rushed inside.
One the scene of the accident after some of the commotion had settled, one of the paramedics asked me for my mom’s phone number. I could hear him talking to her. Listening as hard as I could, I heard “Would you like to speak to her?”
My heart sank. I wasn’t ready. Hearing my mom’s voice would make it real, and I still wanted it to be a nightmare. When he pressed the phone to my ear, I said “Hi, mom.”
I heard a sigh come from the other end of the phone, and she responded with “Hi, baby.”
I felt terrified and relieved; I knew the accident was real now. I knew my mom was coming to my rescue, but I didn’t know if I would make it long enough to see her. I felt terrible; there were so many things I had done wrong in my life. I never thanked my mom enough for sticking by me, and for loving me through my mistakes. I didn’t know if I would ever be able to hug or kiss my mom again, or if I could tell her that I love her. I didn’t know if I would be able to curl up on the couch with her watching a movie, or come back inside from playing in the snow with my sisters to hot chocolate and dinner. That was the worst part of it all; I thought I was going to lose my mom.
A few days later, while still in the hospital, I learned that I had never passed out during the accident; I was conscious the entire time. In the moments while in the air, waiting to hit the ground, I wonder what was running through my head. Was I scared? Was I okay with the thought that I was going to die? Was I ready? Did I have regrets? One of the things I wish I knew is if I had my seat belt on. When I was in that person’s front yard, lying in the cold grass, surrounded by paramedics, they asked me if I had been wearing my seat belt. Terrified, I responded “I unbuckled to take off my sweatshirt.” I was still wearing the sweatshirt at the time of the accident. I will never know if that is true, or if it was a lie I responded with out of fear. I don’t, and will never know the full, true story.
There were many instances about my accident that could be considered strange. First and foremost, in the car behind me, was an EMT. He was driving with his fiancée. He kept me alive and safe while waiting for the paramedics to arrive, stabilizing my neck the entire time. One of the other prominent oddities about my accident were the injuries I acquired. I broke a vertebra in my neck, a rib, fractured my skull, broke and dislocated my hip, and broke the smaller bone in my arm. I also had a brain bleed, along with lacerations on my kidney, and bruised lungs. These injuries could have been fatal, but all had a factor that kept them from being so. The bleeding resolved, bones healed--- two with the help of surgery, and time healed the other wounds. I was incredibly and irrevocably lucky. Most people aren’t given a second chance in these situations. According to cdc, 3 out of 4 people ejected from vehicles do not survive. Many of the doctors assigned to my case described me as a miracle. I had a neurologist who continually would say, “I just do not understand how you didn’t die.” He told me the majority of the patients he saw with injuries from ejections were either dead or paralyzed. I was a miracle to him.
As my head cleared, while lying on the ground, surrounded by the people who were trying to save my life and the driver who almost took it, I was overcome by feelings. First, fear of my father being angry at me for being in a vehicle with someone I shouldn’t have been. Second, I worried about Nathan and Austin. I worried about the boy who made a decision that almost cost me my life. At the time, I was unaware of the situation, how he caused the accident, and the fact that I had been ejected from the vehicle. Objectively speaking, I should hate him. He changed my life forever. I will never be physically or mentally the same, but despite that, I don’t have hatred toward him. I wasn’t angry with him at first, in fact, he was the person I wanted to see the most while at the hospital. As time went on, I started to become angry and hateful, especially when a year had passed, and I still had a cast on my left arm. After some time passed and I moved through my injuries, I was able to let go of my anger and hatred toward Nathan; I learned to accept what happened to me, and move on. If I was given the chance to go back and stop my younger self from getting into my aunt’s car, I would. On the other hand, I am grateful for the lessons I learned. Someone handed me a second chance, and along with it, I gained a new appreciation for the life that I live, the family supporting me, and the small factors I’d never noticed.
Although the accident will always be a difficult part of my past, I am grateful for the positive changes that emerged through the negative aspects. I matured, gained many experiences, and most important, learned how to forgive people. I owe the biggest thanks to my mother, who didn’t leave the hospital once in the eight days I was there. Without her, I couldn’t have survived that extremely difficult time in my life. I am eternally grateful for the mother I was given, and I always will be. I am also grateful for the life I was able to develop after the accident, and am proud of myself for the person I have become. My life is forever changed, but I am happier now than I ever was before.