Was it Worth It?
You know those memories from when you were a little kid, that seem so fuzzy in some places, yet so vivid in others? I have memories like that. I remember waking up in the hospital and saying to myself, “this isn’t real, it’s just a bad dream.” I remember the excitement of leaving the hospital for the first time, and being pushed up the sidewalk in my wheelchair to a coffee shop. I remember seeing the colorful ultrasound screen as the nurses examined my legs for blood clots. I remember many things; but what I don’t remember is the moment of impact. I don’t remember stepping out of my car on that blustery December morning and stepping off the sidewalk and into the crosswalk. I have no recount of seeing the flash of the bright headlights, or the high-pitched, blood curdling screech I let out as I left my boots on the concrete and flew thirty-three feet through the air, abruptly landing as I hit the damp earth. I can’t recall the bone-chilling snap of my femur, nor the sharp pain of my ribs cracking; I have no recollection of the pain I felt as the delicate tissue of my liver was lacerated, the muscles in my neck and in my knee ripped and tattered. I can imagine, but I cannot remember the feeling of my brain violently crashing up against the thick walls of my skull. I tried to scream to the first responders – help me, save me – but all that they heard was slurred, incoherent sentences. The lights were so bright as they lifted me from the grass and into the back of the ambulance; I felt frightened as they cut the clothes from my body, poked and prodded my small frame, and shined a flashlight in my unresponsive eyes. Down the familiar streets the ambulance raced, blaring the urgent siren as we rode through the chilly dawn of the morning. Through the doors we crashed into the trauma center – a whirlwind of doctors and nurses connecting me to machines and monitors. Powerful hands in latex gloves forced a tube down my throat to remind my lungs how to breathe; a sharp pin pierced my skin and penetrated my bones to temporarily reconnect my severed femur. I watched from above and saw myself lying in the bed, sleeping and sleeping, as the frantic team bustled around me. I watched as the crowds began to come – first my teachers, then my family; friends and relatives. news crews, and people I had never met. I laughed at the stories they told, the happy memories they recalled, and danced along to the music they played for me and the songs they sang. My body was broken and wilting, but inside, I was still alive. My jubilant twirls came to a crashing halt when I saw him step into the bright, sterile room. “You did this to me,” I thought. I glared at him, imagining the peppermint hot chocolate I should have been gulping as I hung ornaments and exchanged gifts. I was fuming – I was supposed to be gracing stages with timesteps and showtunes, preparing for the next chapter of my life – not fighting to regain it. “What were you doing?,” I wanted to ask him. “Did you not see me – did you not hear my screams? Were you staring at a screen instead of the road? Were you watching the last stars fade from the dark December sky? Were you re-playing last night’s football game, thinking about the laughs you shared as you cracked open a cold one with the guys? Were all of those things more important to you than my life, sir?,” I wanted to scream. Instead I lied there, still and practically lifeless, adorned with tubes and monitors, attached to machines that had to remember how to breathe for me; because the girl who was once so full of life and dreams could no longer sing her beautiful music and dance her waltzes. In a single instant, I went from thriving to literally dying – was it worth it, sir?
One early December morning of my senior year of high school, I was struck by a truck while crossing the street on my way into school. This resulted in a myriad of injuries, including a broken femur, lacerated liver, broken ribs, torn muscles in my knee and neck, cranial three nerve damage, and a severe diffuse axonal brain injury. Ninety percent of people who sustain this type of injury do not regain consciousness, and the ten percent that do are often severely impaired, or remain in a vegetative state for the rest of their lives. After months of grueling rehabilitation, I was able to make a nearly full recovery. I am currently attending Pace University in New York City, majoring in psychology and minoring in art, with plans to attend graduate school to obtain a PhD in rehabilitation sciences and eventually become a creative arts therapist to help trauma survivors specifically. I have met the driver who hit me with his car, and I have no ill will towards him – I would simply like to raise awareness of this very serious issue to prevent future crashes and collisions.