First of all, I wanted to just say that I’m a girl just like y’all…. Living life, working hard, going to school, drowning in stress, battling cravings, etc…. I get it! And you bet I used to bury my head in that bag of chips and eat icing by the spoonfuls! LOL! I would live each and every day going to school and going through the motions hoping to achieve my desired goals and dreams. It was my freshman year in college when my life was completely turned around. Some may say for the worse, but I would have to say for the best.
My dad, sister, and I were simply living a normal day, picking up groceries for the beginning of my second semester of my freshman year and messing around as we always do.. If you don’t know this already - I love to joke around, so as soon as we walked out of that grocery store, I took off in the parking lot calling “shotgun” to sit passenger. My sister was driving her car and since my dad is 6’3” (and loves some friendly pestering himself) I thought it would be funny to take shotgun. Oddly enough, my dad allowed me to have the front seat and we quickly packed up the car and began our trip back home.
Less than 1/2 a mile from home, we had slowly crept up to the red light at the intersection of the street before ours and it wasn’t until that split second when my life was completely turned around. We were rear ended at 69 mph, forcing our car to make an aggressive 360 degree turn around hitting another car. That second the car was compressed, I do recall reaching back and grabbing my dad’s hands/head, that were thrown to the back of my head rest, to ensure that he was secured. I was then aggressively thrown forward causing my hands to let go of my dad and it was all a complete blur from there. My head clouded from the concussion that I attained, I vaguely remember looking to the left to check up on my sister and turned around to check up on my father. Seeing no movements and hearing nothing from my father, I began screaming and crying out of complete shock and worry. I scrambled to get out of the car but found out that my door was crushed in- stuck. Struggling to open the door, I took a different approach and began kicking it with my feet. And after a few good hits, the door broke free. I quickly jumped out to rush to the backseat where my father was, but that door wouldn’t open either. Eagerly pulling on the door handle to get to my dad, I continuously screamed “HELP!” over and over again. I kept screaming to the bystanders who ran to the scene to help and was eventually told to let go and step back by 3 mechanics who hopped out of their van behind us. The bystanders forcefully pulled my sister and I off the highway due to a leak. The entire gas tank of my sister’s car had leaked out and was puddled up under the car. Our banged-up jeep, including my father, was simply sitting in an explosion waiting to happen.
Minutes went by and ambulances, fire trucks and police officers had arrived at the scene. They quickly fled to the car and told everyone to stand off the highway due to the flammable gas all over the highway. My sister and I were sent with a lady who was comforting us through this tragic event. As tears rushed down my cheeks, I remember watching them struggle to open that right backseat door and I couldn’t help to feel completely broken and helpless knowing I couldn’t run over to help. Paramedics entered through the left side tending to him as the firefighters were yelling to one another, struggling to pry that right door open for minutes, but what felt like hours. Placing a huge white tarp over my father and an oxygen mask over his mouth, they agreed to use the “jaws of life” tool on the door to break it free and within minutes, the door broke free. I remember seeing my dad stuck there unable to move or speak. And I will tell y’all one thing…There is nothing that hurts more than seeing someone you love so much in so much pain, sitting still and helpless and knowing that you can’t help at all. My frantic mom was finally able to get to the scene, just as my dad was taken to the hospital, and was in complete shock. He was rushed to the hospital and my sister and I, who were tended to in the back of the second ambulance, followed closely behind. Overall, my sister and I were concussed for about 2 months and after numerous x-rays and MRI’s, I was left with a shoulder injury and 2 herniated discs in my upper spine. It was such a frightening time- not knowing how my Dad would recover or if he’d be able to walk again. We stood by him day to day - from that very first moment in ICU, to watching the orthopedic team discuss surgeries & outcomes, to the many months (and years) of physical therapy & rehabilitation. But he did it!
And you know… our entire family’s lives changed for the better due to his remarkable recovery. We’ve learned to appreciate the simple things in life and communicate together almost everyday! These moments made me realize that I want to help others achieve their goals as well - even at those times when they feel that they can’t.
Before the accident, I was a soccer player and was usually always physically fit, but I never really took interest of the importance of our day to day health (both physical and mental.) Shortly after the accident, I recall my dad having to completely relearn how to walk, which was the hardest part of his entire journey. Every day we watched him struggle to initially perform the simplest of tasks from trying to get up to taking a tiny little step. We watched him beat himself up at those times when he would fail while trying to take that simple step. It was hard to watch as my dad was such a big strong man who could do anything he set his mind to do. The main goal was to get him up on his feet and walking around with that walker. His therapist was so incredibly motivating and encouraging and he would try harder and harder due to their encouragement helping him take those baby steps to get back on his feet again! I’ll never forget the day I watched videos of him taking 3-4 steps with a walker and seeing that luminous smile on his face grow bigger and bigger because of his quick progress. And those 3-4 steps quickly became 5-6 and then 6-7 steps and now he can walk whenever and wherever he would like too! Seeing his hard efforts and frustrations turn into a continuous smile and grateful reward has truly touched me. We’ve all heard the sayings about the special bond between Dads and their daughters and my father is my absolute best friend and I am most definitely sure that I wouldn’t be where I am today if I had lost him. That accident had twisted and changed my life in many ways, but it also has led me to where I am in life now. Frankly, I couldn’t be more thankful. I look at life with a whole different perspective and put others struggles and efforts into consideration in everything I do. Most importantly what I’ve learned from all of this is to be grateful for each day and know that whatever what obstacles lie ahead, you can get through anything with determination and grace.