It was Friday, October 9th, 2009. I will forever remember this day, crystal clear. My dad invited my entire extended family over to our house for a family get-together. We had a huge barbecue, played an intense game of softball, and lit a bonfire. Around 6:30 my cousin invited me to go to a “pig-roast.” Now, even though we do live in a “woodsy” area, I personally, have never been to one. My dad agreed to allow me to go, and I ran into the house to quickly pack a bag of stuff to bring with me, so I could sleep over my cousin’s house afterwards, and changed into some sweats.
I hugged my dad goodbye, threw him a kiss and waved goodbye to my family as I jumped into my cousin’s husband’s car. We drove to their house, which is only about 25 minutes from mine and I left my bag of clothes in their living room. My cousin’s husband tossed me a can of beer out of their fridge and grabbed one for himself. I asked him where the pig-roast was, and he told me it was “right up the road.” Within a few minutes we got back into his car and went to the roast.
Upon arrival, I met a bunch of people I had never seen before. Shook hands with some and chatted with others. My cousin’s husband (for all intensive purposes, I’ll refer to him as Ben) walked around talking to his friends. Ben and I walked from crowd to crowd meeting and greeting his friends. I decided I didn’t really want to drink but I didn’t mind hanging out listening to music. There was a group of little kids there, so I hung around them, and sang along to the music.
As time progressed, and the sky darkened, everyone decided they wanted to go riding through the trails. I agreed to go. I hoped in this go-cart and braced myself. I told Ben I didn’t want to go fast and honestly, I was a little nervous driving in the woods. I have been riding quads and dirt bikes since I was 5 years old, my dad taught me, and when I drive through the woods, I am a little bit more comfortable. I just get nervous when other people drive.
(This is something very similar to the go-cart that I was in.)
We drove through the woods, flying by trees and rocks. In the distance, the houses began disappearing, and we plunged deeper into the woods. I ran my hand across the metal bar that was a few inches in front of me. I knew that if anything were to happen, this bar, this metal bar would be the only thing stopping me from hitting the ground. My stomach dropped.
After a few minutes of ripping and roaring through the woods, we slowed as we reached the bottom of this massive hill. “I don’t want to go.” I managed to squeeze out of my tightly sealed lips. I had this gut-wrenching feeling that something bad was about to happen. I put my arm on the edge of the side of the go-cart. Ben assured me everything would be okay. “Don’t worry, it’ll be fine.” Before I could say another word, the go-cart sped up and I closed my eyes.
Then all of a sudden, there wasn’t anything. Silence. I didn’t hear the engine, tires squealing, or the sound of sand being tossed as we drove on by. Just a deafening silence.
I broke something. Or cracked something. The pain shot straight through me. It was the worst imaginable pain I had ever experienced. Every nerve on my body electrified with a sharp shooting pain. I couldn’t scream. My throat was tight and I couldn’t work any of my body parts for a few minutes.
Then water splashed on me. My face, my ears, in my mouth… no, this wasn’t water. It was mud. Sandy mud splashing into my mouth and down my throat. I was gagging on it. Something kicked in. My brain decided to function again, and I managed to crawl out of the mud puddle. I didn’t make it far. Maybe five feet. I laid on my side and quickly assessed myself. My hands were fine, I could feel all of my fingers. My legs didn’t seem to be broken and my feet were good too. No broken ribs either.
“Ben, where are you?” I screamed into the darkness. I couldn’t see much. He ran up to me and looked me over too. He seemed fine. What had happened? “Am I bleeding?” I asked in a shaky voice. I put my hand to my head. It started pounding. Oh….my… god. I screamed an ungodly screech that I wasn’t even sure came out of my mouth. “I’m bleeding. How bad is it?” Ben looked over my head, pulling my hair back. “It’s just a scratch. An inch or two.”
Blood poured over my eyes.
Ben ran and called his friends to come help us. I don’t remember much of that car ride back. There was a bunch of people screaming at me. Repeating questions like, “What’s your name?” and “What’s your favorite color.” Some people just yelled at me to keep talking. The pounding in my head started ringing. My ears were ringing, my eyes were coated over with blood, and my clothes were soaking wet. I held a shirt around my head to keep pressure as we drove to the hospital.
I lost consciousness in the hospital waiting room. Three or four times. The doctors kept asking me questions, nurses screamed out orders to staff, and I sat in a wheel chair waiting for them to figure out a course of action. None of that scared me though. I could deal with all the crazy chaos of people running around. I could deal with the blood running down my arm and the shirt wrapped around my head, getting heavier. I could deal with the pounding of my headache. What scared me was that I couldn’t remember little things. Things you never think you would forget.
I couldn’t remember my birthday. What insurance I had. I couldn’t remember my parent’s phone number. I was terrified.
As they pulled me in the back to do the CATScan, I told them I had to go to the bathroom. I put on the paper gown they gave me, and stripped everything else. All of my clothes were soaked with mud and sand. I stood in front of the mirror, looking at the huge wrapping of gauze that covered the majority of my head. I threw up. I saw blood seep through the gauze. Trickling down my face.
The nurses took me back to the room and my cousin came into the room. Her two children by her side. “Roni, are you dying?” Her young son asked me. My stomach hit the floor and I thought my heart was going to give out. How bad did I honestly look? Her daughter looked at me, ready to cry. My aunt came into the room seconds later and told her to head down the hall. My aunt grabbed my hand and then called my father.
“Are you alright?”
“Yeah dad. I’m fine. It’s just a scratch, nothing major. A stitch or few.”
“Alright. Well I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Kay dad. See you tomorrow.”
I handed the phone back to my aunt and she walked out of the room. The doctors came in and with what seemed forever and a day, he stitched up my face. “Just hold still, you will smell burning, don’t move.” Yeah, that’s just what I want to hear from a guy with a needle right above my eye. After a few internal stitches and 14 external stitches, I was bandaged up and told to be aware of swelling and bruising that would most certainly occur over the next few days. “You are incredibly lucky. A quarter of an inch lower and you would have blown your eye socket.” Well, that’s comforting.
I wobbled out of the room and into my cousin’s car. I was dazed when we pulled into her driveway. I curled up on her couch and we talked for hours. I wasn’t allowed to sleep. Finally 7 am rolled around. I dozed off for a few minutes or so and then my cousin woke me up and I climbed into her car to head home. 9 am, we pulled up into my driveway. My dad was walking around in the yard and I felt my stomach leap. I had never been so happy to see my dad in my entire life.
I walked into my house, into my room, and found fresh clothes. I grabbed a towel, and showered. I was sore from head to toe. When I got out of the shower, my body seriously frightened me. I was bruised head to toe. I called my sister down the hall and when she saw my body, she looked like she was about to cry. I lowered to towel, covering the parts I needed to. Welts and bruises covered me. I looked like I had just gotten the worst beating of a lifetime. I stood there shivering. Afraid to move, knowing the pain was going to be bad. I bit my lip, dressed, and slid onto the couch. I took a Vicodin for pain.
3 days later, I really woke out of my “coma.” I stopped taking them, knowing I missed three days. Three days of just sleeping. Waking up, taking a pill, going back to bed. I knew I couldn’t function like that, so I stopped. I decided that I had to get back to living. I didn’t want to just lay around the house anymore.
A week passed of me trying to restart my life. I spent days avoiding the mirrors. I didn’t want to see how bad it was. Not yet. It was now time for the stitches to be removed finally. It was the day I had been looking forward to for so long. I put on a cute outfit and when my cousin got to my house, we went to the doctors.
Something extremely weird happened at the doctors. For the first time in days, I realized I didn’t have any feeling in the whole left side of my face. Just a tingling, numbness. I didn’t even feel the doctor pull out the stitches. I heard the snipping of the scissors, but I didn’t feel anything.
For a month, I dealt with sunlight sensitivity, my sleep schedule was severely messed up. I couldn’t venture outside without a pair of sunglasses mounted on my face. It was really ridiculous. Walking around November with sunglasses planted on my face. I didn’t drive. I didn’t even get in a car. I lost my job and I was emotionally a mess. All because of one night out.
I spent months putting my life back together. Recovering. Healing now only the scar that was visible but the fresh scars hidden well beneath the skin. The bruises faded and the pain eased, but the emotional damage was still burning under the skin. Breathing heat.
“You know, you could have died.”
I woke up to that speech for a few weeks. It wasn’t something that I looked forward to hearing every day. The scaring was healing, but my heart was still on fire. I wanted to erase that day. Erase it right out of my memory… well what I could remember of it. It was the worst day of my life….
It’s almost 3 years now. October will make 3 years. Looking back, it was the worst day of my life sure, but it was also the day that made me the strongest. I was broken down. Literally. My face cracked, my heart-broken, and my pretty face forever scarred. I wanted nothing more than to erase that scar. I put my hand on it from time to time, reminded by the fact that I have this imperfection on my face, for the world to see.
But I realized. I have friends who see that scar on my face everyday and they don’t judge me for it. They see it as a part of who I am. They see me as a girl who went through a hell of an experience and instead of giving up, decided to kick it up, and get up. Sometimes we fall. Sometimes we break. And sometimes, we’re fortunate enough to learn a lesson in between.
I could have died. But I’m not dead. I’m fortunate enough to be sitting right here, blogging about my experience. I’m lucky enough to not only blog about it, but after this, I get to go to work. A job that I love. I get to help other people heal their broken bones. I get to help mend broken hearts. I see people every day come into my work, crippled from pain, crying from the emotional distress, begging for some kind of relief. I put my hand on my head, remember how it felt like to sit in their shoes for even a few weeks, and yes, it does cause me to have a bit more empathy for others. Maybe this is why I want to work so badly with people, healing them. These patients don’t even know about my experience, nor will I tell them. It’s not my place.
Who I was at 19 or 20 years old, is a lot different from who I am today. It’s amazing how quickly life can cause you to grow up. Yes, October 9th, 2009 sucked. It was the worst day ever, but it was also the day, I became who I am now. The day that shook me right down to the core. Literally. I lost feeling in my face, I gained nerve damage. I lost the memory of the accident and I gained a new scar. I lost the old me and gain a hell of a personality.
So when you feel like everything is terrible in your life, remember this. Remember every day is a gift. You never really know how precious life is until it’s almost taken away from you. It’s fragile and it’s unpredictable. It’s the most beautiful thing in the world. It should never ever be taken for granted. Love your parents and your family. I never thought that October 9th, might have been the last time I ever saw my dad. I cried so hard after I saw him after the accident. The bond between my dad and I grew ten fold due to that accident, and if nothing else, I am thankful for that.
Cherish the ones you love in your life. Let go of the bullshit drama, learn to live to forgive and forgive. Live each possible second. Walk away from fights. Laugh as much as you can. Trust your instincts, and go with your gut feeling. Be the best person you can be. Live like today is your last. You never know when your time is up.