This week, I “celebrate” the 11 year anniversary of a car accident that nearly claimed my life. I’ve reposted this story on the anniversary of the accident, and made some improvements along the way, each of the past six years. Each time, it’s a fresh reminder of my “miracle.”
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 (yep, used to have some) now fully covered in dripping, crimson colored blood.
Beep, beep, beep. My mental fog was interrupted by the sounds of machines and wires. More of them than I could count, in fact, each attached to my body by needles in my arm. I could also hear the ambient sounds of anxious, concerned chatter from the ambulance workers. Suddenly, the coldness returned to my fingertips along with the frigid sweat seeping through the blood on my skin.
Any attempt at moving became a painful reminder of what I would later learn to be my injuries: a compound fracture to my collar bone that broke the skin, 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 enduring the effects of a concussion and severe blood loss, but was 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 thoughts flashing through my mind were those of my mother, father, and my little sister, Sarah. I hadn’t said goodbye to my mother, I hadn’t seen my father in two days and my sister was gone at school. I left on the two hour trip to visit some friends at a small college anyway, even with my “mom being mom” warning about driving safely in the first week of a frigid, icy April in upstate New York. Especially at night.
“God no, please God, no,” I thought, but I wouldn’t – couldn’t – speak a word. I felt like I was suffocating, either from injuries or remorse. Probably both. It was like I could see myself laying there, looking down at my impending corpse. I was telling myself all of the things I could’ve done differently, and dreading the fact that I’d never have a chance to answer life’s call for me – whatever it might have been.
Is God going to accept me when I get there? To heaven? Was I good to people? Was I really good to people? 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?
For something that had taken two hours up to this point, it was now moving so fast. The flashes of images and sounds from the night hit me again. My steering wheel had split in half on impact, and the car horn of my Ford Taurus had blared with no intent of ending as a result. My ears still rang from the sound. The windshield had shattered, as well, leaving numerous, small cuts all over my forehead and shards of glass all over my body. The roof had caved in, too, and the Jaws of Life that tore all four roof pillars off of it had exposed me to irritating, cold misty rain. I could still taste the blood that had streamed down my face as the rain washed it over me. I was drenched in it.
The momentary, solemn escape from reminiscing came to a screeching halt as my ambulance slid across a patch of ice and halted –safely – in front of the entrance of the emergency room at Strong Memorial Hospital. I was immediately greeted by a reception of late night workers. My makeshift hospital bed was rushed through the hallways of the 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. They 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.
In all of my frustration, I had no interest in my health 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, loneliness. I wanted to burst, but I contained all my emotion behind my clenched fists and pouring streams of blood. Anger and sadness had never been more real to me than in that moment.
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. Was it him? It had to be.
“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 the man I had hoped was there. 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. And that did it for me, too. I immediately became overwhelmed by the emotion of having him there, 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 it 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 as hard as I could, too. And he never left my side. I needed him that night, too.
He stayed with me through the cauterizing of the lacerated artery in the side of my head, along with the cat-scan, intestinal exam, bone setting and nine surgical staples that sealed the gaping open wound in the side of my head which had bled like hell.
After a healthy dose of painkillers and several hours of monitoring, 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.”