So I have been debating all week whether or not to let you into something very personal in my life. After much consideration, I decided, because this makes up so much of who I am today, to share. I think I have typed and retyped this story about ten times. It is hard, the scars still seem fresh but at the same time, it seems like a lifetime ago. And I don't tell this story for sympathy or as a "poor me". I tell it because it is me. I tell it because it is real. I tell it for as a warning of the dangers of those who drive under the influence. Every time I see this picture my hands get clammy, my armpits begin to tingle. It takes me back to that day, six years ago tomorrow, March 28, 2003.
I was a junior in high school. My life, I thought, was pretty alright. I had wonderful friends, a fun job and a pretty cool boyfriend (now a pretty cool husband). It was Friday afternoon; school was out for the week. I dropped my friend Paige off at her house; I can still remember our silly conversation. As I pulled out of her driveway, I clicked my lap belt into place. For me, the next week of my life remains an empty slate. I still cannot imagine what that week was like for my family and friends. Phone calls, prayer chains, hugs and tears; their lives were tossed in a whirlwind. After a week had passed I remember lying in bed, unable to speak, to painful to move. Flowers surrounded me, monitors beeped. “Think” “What do you remember” I told myself. Nothing… For me, all I have are stories. Stories from my family and friends; the story told in the police report.
I was headed home, on a two lane road, less than a mile from our driveway. My car was headed south, his was headed north. A stop sign sat about a quarter mile up the road from him. One car separated him from the stop sign. He decided to pass, pulling out directly into my path. I had no time to react; my foot still remained on the gas pedal when they pulled me out. He hit me full force, head on. Each of our cars went spinning into opposite ditches. He was fine; high on cocaine and an overdose of anti-depressants, I was not. An approaching truck stopped and noticed that I wasn’t breathing. He administered CPR until the first responders arrived. He is my angel; he saved my life. Two hours later, I was pulled from my car. My seat was bloodstained and syringes lay in the backseat from morphine, helping to keep me calm. I was rushed to Gerber Memorial Hospital where listed stable and then transferred by ambulance to Butterworth. News was beginning to spread. My mother, who was at the beauty salon, heard they had Warner shut down between 72nd and 80th because of an accident; she said she just knew it was me.
I was rushed into emergency surgery to repair my internal injuries begin work on my external injuries. Doctors repaired what was critical and decided to finish surgery when I became more stable. I was put in a medically induced coma. Two days later, another surgery followed, this time repairing my remaining injuries. I suffered:
-left and right broken femurs
-left and right broken tibias
-right shattered knee
-right shattered ankle
-lacerations to my spleen, which they removed
-lacerations to my liver, which were repaired
-a collapsed lung
-lacerations to both my hand and face
Metal rods were inserted into both my left and right femur and left tibia. Screws and plates held my right knee and ankle together. Staples and stitches covered and held together every injury on my body. A breathing tube was inserted. I also had a tube inserted into my side.
After one week in the ICU, they removed my breathing tube. For me, this is when my memory started back up. I was then transferred onto the orthopedics floor; where I spent an additional week. When the doctors had done all they could for me there, I was transferred to MaryFree Bed to learn how to adjust to my “new” life. While preparing to leave Butterworth, I remember having the staples and stitches removed from my hand and face. I asked to see a mirror; I had not looked at myself up until this point. I cried. In the mirror I saw an ugly girl who was swollen, red and scarred. My one week spent at MaryFree Bed proved challenging. Therapy sessions exhausted me. My muscles were weak, my brain was slow and I was still in large amounts of pain. I was placed in a wheelchair, where I would spend the next six weeks. And while, adjusting to life in a wheelchair at MaryFree Bed was difficult, it proved even harder when I went home. The hospitals had become my comfort zone. They were fully equipped to deal with me; my pain, my injuries. I was surrounded by people who were in similar situations to me.
The next few years of my life were filled with doctor appointments; follow up surgeries, shots, etc. I went from wheelchair, to walker, to crutches, to walking boot. My senior year of high school was started while I was still on crutches. I faced mountains of challenges and hurdles but was determined to succeed. My doctors were worried about my injuries long-term affects. I have proved to be their “miracle”. My family and friends offered words of encouragement, they became my support system. Brian stood by my side every day, while most guys would probably walk away. I could never say thank you enough to my “angel”, the first responder team, the many doctors and nurses who cared for me and my family and friends.
Through everything I have become strong and determined. And although this experience forced me to grow up pretty quick, it has shaped who I am today. I see a different light on life. My hugs are a little bit longer, my breathes are a little bit deeper. I am in no means, perfect. I still have bad days. And it is still easy to sometimes take life for granted. But I use those days to build on all that I have to be thankful for. So, tomorrow, I will celebrate a day that has a special meaning to my friends and family, a day I will never forget.