I am an eight-year-old girl, just like any other. Short and slight to point of being too thin, maybe, but with the kind of grin that looks like it was the first thing to develop and the last that would ever give up on life. I model, do commercials and gymnastics and other such things that cute eight-year-olds occupy their time with. There may never have been anything remarkable about me if Fate had not come knocking on my door. It would prove to be, for me, the worst Father’s Day in history.
An eighteen-wheeler strikes our vehicle as it exits the highway. I am sleeping, so I can't remember the collision, but if a light bulb wrapped in tin foil chose to fight against Thor's hammer, the results would be similar. When I awake, glass is all over the seats and the floor. I am covered in the little shards as well, though not all of them fall to the floorboards when I move. Police officers and firefighters are everywhere, including in my face. I know that something isn't right, because my mom is not next to me anymore and I have no idea where she could have gone. I pass out, and can't remember anything else.
The next time I wake up everything around me is vibrating and the world is too loud. I’ve never been in a helicopter before. This isn't the kind of thing eight-year-olds commonly experience. I look around, but I am, again, without my mom. I scream for her and they tell me that she is on her way to the hospital, too, and that she will see me there. I don't believe them because I haven't seen my mom since before the accident. I drift off once more and don't wake up until just before the doctors prep me for the surgery that involves slicing through the skull to gain access to my brain.
As soon as the helicopter touches down on the landing pad, they rush me to an operating room. Brain surgery is another extreme that young girls should not have to experience. The vehicle glass from the side windows, the skylight above, and the windshield explode in towards me, penetrating my skull and brain. It also nearly severed part of my right ear. I need brain surgery and very quickly to not only get the glass out but to relieve the pressure that is building up. They have to move fast because of the complications that may occur with such a delicate procedure on me, a dainty little girl.
Even though I wake up before my surgery it is easy to put me under again, which helps the neurosurgeon do his job. He is nice enough to leave me with most of my hair instead of shaving it all off. He removes the hair where he will need to cut, which happens to be in three different places: one straight down the middle of my skull, one on the right side, and a Y-shape on my forehead. The surgeon cuts down the middle to better see the damage inside, and to get as much glass out as he can.
He realizes that there are more shards than he can reach, so he makes another incision on the right side of my skull. He is then able to extract the majority of the glass. The Y-shape cut is made to stop some of the bleeding. In my eight-year-old mind, it doesn't make sense to cut someone in order to prevent me from bleeding, but I don’t grasp much about what is going on.
Their last job that they have to do is sew my damaged ear back together. Once the surgeon finishes the cutting part, he puts stitches in my head and my ear. The surgery is complete, and I make it through the hardest part.
After being asleep for 14 hours, I finally wake up in an ICU room full of presents, friends, and family. My mother is here. When I see her it is like finding out Heaven is for real because I didn’t know where she was or what had happened to her. I spend two weeks in the hospital with different people coming in and out of my room. I get to meet Kurt Warner, because that week he’d happened to be visiting all of the kids on the pediatric floor. I barely eat, and the only things that I am willing to consume are strawberries that my mom gives me.
During these two weeks, I am visited by many doctors who talk about what is going to happen next. The worst news is about to come: I can't do gymnastics for twelve months. Even though I am young, gymnastics means everything to me and it is my whole life. It is the one place where I can escape from the world because the environment makes me feel comfortable. It is my home away from home. I have no other activities that bring me such joy, so this news leaves me feeling claustrophobic.
They tell me to be careful about playing in general because they don't want me to overdo it. There are extensive sessions of physical therapy, but it isn't all for my body; it is also for my mind. They want to make sure that everything in my brain is still functioning correctly and that it is working in all aspects, so I spend some of my day doing a lot of puzzles and mind exercises to get me back to where I used to be. The rest of the time I spend just physically doing things as simple as walking. While I am in the hospital, I have physical therapy everyday. The physical therapist who is helping me does so much for me and helps me achieve my goals very quickly. It was from that point on that I knew that I want to do something in the medical field, helping people.
Our car is obviously totaled, so they call Enterprise to pick us up from the hospital and take us home. I am very hesitant getting into the car because of my recent experience but I eventually slide into the back seat and we arrive at our house thirty minutes later. In the trunk of the car, there are all of my gifts and my belongings I had during the crash. I have this activity bag that I bring everywhere I go and as my mom is cleaning it out, the last object she finds is a piece of glass from the windshield. It’s the shape of a heart, as if an Angel was looking over me as I went through that traumatic experience. My mom gives me the piece of glass and I place it in my jewelry box that only contains the most precious pieces inside. From then on, my nickname from my mom became Angel.
On my six month check-up, I walk into my doctors office and as he is checking me out, he lets out a great sigh. My mom is nervous and we look at each other in worry. He later tells us that it is good because in his many years of being a doctor, he has never seen any patient recover from major brain surgery so quickly. He is in amazement to how quickly I recovered. He tells me the best news of all, I can go back to gymnastics. I am elated because I just cut my time away from it in half. Of course I have to take it slow but the feeling of being in the gym again is going to be the best feeling in the entire world. I am home again.
I am an eight-year-old gymnast who almost lost everything. In my mind, gymnastics is my whole world. It is all I have ever done. Ironically, I find a powerful way to deal with this trauma and to show fate it hasn’t defeated me. I learn to laugh, and enjoy all the little things in life. And now, I take nothing for granted and laugh all the time.