No matter how I lead up to this or what you read in my story, it’s going to seem like I’m being dramatic, but I’m pretty sure the story does that itself. To say that night changed the course of my life would be an understatement. It gave me the courage to leave for South Florida a year later and, eventually, put into me a fervor and appreciation for life that I try to hold onto daily.
I’ve copied and pasted a story that I wrote for a class several years ago about that night. For one, maybe you’ll read it and learn something significant that you didn’t know about me, and two, I rarely get personal on my blog and this is one of those rare instances.
April 4, 2003
I had never seen the inside of an ambulance from this angle. Staring straight up at a small metallic panel on the ceiling, I finally got a glimpse of my reflection, my face and hair now fully covered in dripping, crimson colored blood.
Beep, beep, beep. All of a sudden, my confusion was interrupted by the sounds of machines and wires attached to my body by needles in my arm, and the anxious conversation of the ambulance workers. The coldness returned to my fingertips along with the cold sweat seeping through the blood on my skin.
Any attempt at moving became a painful reminder of what the ambulance worker told me were my injuries: a compound fracture to my collar bone, four broken ribs, torn tendons in my neck and a deep, four inch gash to the left side of my head, two inches above my ear, that severed an artery.
“You better hurry it up, man, this kid doesn’t have much time,” shouted one ambulance worker to the driver. I was still foggy-minded from a concussion, but now much more aware of the gravity of my situation: I might die tonight. The 20-minute ambulance ride seemed to take hours, and though my mind felt fine, I became terrified at the prospect of my body disagreeing.
The only thing flashing through my mind was my mother, father, and my little sister, Sarah. I didn’t say goodbye to my mom, I hadn’t seen my dad in two days and my sister was gone at school before I even left on this trip. My mom had warned me about the weather for the first week of a frigid April in upstate New York, especially at night.
“God no, please God, no,” my heart anxiously cried, but with no words. I felt as if I couldn’t speak, as if I were looking down at my impending corpse and telling myself all of the things I could’ve done differently, and dreading the fact that I’d never have a chance to answer these “what if’s.”
Is God going to accept me when I get there? Where has my heart been? Why didn’t I leave twenty minutes sooner, before the roads froze over? A million tears were just waiting to burst into a flood from behind my bloodshot eyes, but not yet. I’ve always agreed with the philosophy of ‘mind over matter.’ If you tell yourself you’re not sick, then you aren’t. Now, if I tell myself I’m not going to die, then I won’t. Right? Isn’t that how this works?
My next return to reality came as we slid across a patch of ice into the entrance of the emergency room and into a reception of late night emergency workers. I had made it this far, and my makeshift hospital bed was rushed through the hallways of Strong Memorial Hospital with a crowd of nurses surrounding me. A few jolts here and there, a turn, a pull backward, and I was in an operating room.
“Where are my parents? Where are my parents?” I begged. But no one was quite sure, and seemed more interested in my physical being than my mental well being. Unsatisfied, I became irate, I needed to see them. “Where the fuck are my parents?” I demanded. “David, we don’t know,” were the calm words of my nurse, who was apparently now on a first name basis with me.
In all of my anxieties, I had no interest in my well being at that moment, I just knew that if I was dying, I wanted to say goodbye. A flurry of emotions hit me all at once: rage, physical pain, regret, sorrow, loneliness. I wanted to burst, but I contained all my emotion behind my clenched fists and pouring streams of blood.
Snip, snip, snip. A nurse, who had already cut right through the ‘L’and ‘F’ of my favorite Tommy Hilfiger hoodie, was now snipping at my pants and my Curious George boxer shorts, leaving me bloody and completely naked on the operating table.
The one thing that gets lost in situations like these is how humiliating the whole ordeal feels: you’re vulnerable in so many ways. And these ER workers, who don’t know anything about you except your situation, see you exactly as you are: emotionally weak, physically broken and in so many ways, naked in front of them.
Conversation around me continued, but I heard a new voice emerge. “Dad? Dad! Dad I’m right here, I’m right here!” I tried looking forward, but the pressure of the neck brace against my broken collar bone created an excruciating pain. I lay back down and into my field of view entered my father. The man with the rigid, defined jaw line and a voice deeper than Barry White, began crying for the first time I had ever seen in my life.
I became overwhelmed also, and the flood gates of tears opened up. I began sobbing like I never had before at the sight of my father. “Grab my hand, dad; squeeze as hard as you can,” I begged. He clenched my open hand as hard as I’ve ever felt from his wide grip, and I squeezed back with strength just as great.
A cat-scan, intestinal exam, a bone setting and nine surgical staples later, the doctor walked in to my hospital room. “David, you my friend, are a miracle. I’ll be honest, when you were wheeled into this hospital, I did not expect you to leave alive. But you’re going to be alright. You are a blessed individual. You can go home with your parents tonight.”