It was 9 years ago today that my best friend, Meghan's, and my life were spared from a should-have-been-fatal car crash. It is amazing how time flies. I can hardly believe that I was only 18 when I experienced such a life changing event. Looking back, 18 seems so young to experience something so terrifying, yet I guess any age would be too young.
After nine years, I realized that I have never written down the happenings surrounding and during the accident. After the accident it was really hard for me to talk about it and I tried everything in my power not to. I often played it off as a joke. Using humor as a coping mechanism, whenever the opportune moment would arise, I would sarcastically tell people, "Come on! I almost died!"
It was not until 3 years later that the weight of the accident finally sunk in. I was sitting in a doctor's office as he verbally prepared me for my hip surgery, which was a result of my injuries from the accident. As he detailed what was going to be done, my mind recounted the emotions of that memorable day 3 years earlier. Overcome with all the emotions I refused to face years prior, I began to feel light headed and nauseous. I politely interrupted the doctor and asked him where a good place for me to throw up would be. He saw that my face had quickly turned to a ghostly white and knew that I was not going to vomit, but rather, I was within seconds of passing out. He quickly had me lay down and take deep breathes. As I did this, I could no longer hold in all the tears that had been pent up for the last three years. Once the first tear fell, it was as if the flood gates opened and there was no stopping them. I bawled uncontrollably as my mom stroked my head and the doctor stood awkwardly by.
It has been almost a decade since the accident, and even though the details of that day are slowly fading, the emotions are still very real. Since Meghan doesn't remember anything, I am left with the responsibility of recounting God's very apparent hand in our lives that day. Even though I am 9 years late in doing so, here is my poor attempt in detailing the day that changed our lives forever.
On the evening of March 26, 2002, I was on my way to Meghan's apartment in Rexburg, Idaho, as we are near the end our freshman year of college, at the recently named Brigham Young University Idaho. Meghan just recently transferred to this tiny campus, from the historical campus of Villanova University, in PA, due to the fact that we could no longer stand being a continent apart and also due to her new found faith in the "Mormon" religion, also known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As I arrived at her apartment that evening she told me that I needed to call my mom right away because something had happened. My mind raced as to what it could be, and as is so customary during these times, my mind automatically assumed the worst. Through muffled tears my mom broke the news that my Aunt, her youngest sister Renee, had died in a car accident. I could not believe it, I had never had someone close to me die. It didn't seem possible.
The following weeks Meghan and I planned our trip back home, to California, to attend my Aunt's memorial service. We needed to drive the 4 hours to Salt Lake City on April 11th, and meet my brother Justin at the airport to catch our flight. It was all set and we even were going to help our friend, Jeff, by giving him a lift so he could visit his friends at BYU, in Provo, Utah, over the weekend.
April 11th arrived and Meghan and I were all prepared for our trip. It was a perfect day for driving, we had good weather and still had plenty of daylight left. We swung by our friend Jeff's apartment to find a note on the door saying that he was no longer going to Utah and to just leave without him. Not realizing that his decision to skip out on the weekend trip most likely saved his life, we headed out on just another road trip.
We were having a great time listening and singing to our favorite songs as we drove. About 2 1/2 hours into our trip we crossed the Utah state border, and just as we always did, we performed our traditional "crossing-a-state-border-cheer" as we simultaneously threw our hands in the air and yelled the state name as we crossed the state line. This trip was shaping up to be like all the other road trips we had taken over the last few months.
As we drove up the I-15 highway, I was relaxed in the reclined position in the front passenger seat. I was not worried about taking in the scenery, as the the drive between Rexburg and Salt Lake is bare and minimal at its best.
Just as I was settling into my seat, ready to take a quick nap, I heard and felt the car vibrate as the wheels drove over the rumble strip, which is used to alert sleepy drivers of potential danger. However, Meghan was not asleep but simply drifted out of the lane a little too far causing the thunderous sound to echo throughout the car. The sound gave Meghan and me such a fright that I bolted up from my reclined seat and Meghan quickly steered the car off the rumble strip. The car swerve from the left to right with the sound of screeching tires accompanying the motion. I braced myself with one arm on the dashboard, as the fire-engine red Isuzu Rodeo was about to violently exit the right side of the highway. As if time had slowed down and someone had pressed the mute button on the sounds of life, the next few seconds seemed to be played out over several minutes. As we crossed the right lane, the now out-of-control SUV, swerved back to the left lane of the two-lane highway; however, this time the car was nearly perpendicular to the flow of traffic. At 85 miles an hour, the car leaped from the highway, becoming air born. I am not sure if we screamed because all I heard was silence as I internalized the probability of this being "The End." Surprisingly, this moment was not full of fear. Yes, fear was definitely present; however, it was not fear of death; rather, it was fear for the situation at hand. Amongst the fear was a sense of peace and acceptance. In a way it was a calm moment just before the moment I thought I was going to embark on to my life after this life.
At this time I was knocked unconscious as the car dove head first into a massive ditch which divided the two opposing highways. The south bound highway, on which we were traveling, was topographically lower than the north bound highway. This caused there to be a slight hill just beyond the ditch which connected the two highways. The car was traveling at such a high speed that it managed to barrel role seven to eight times out of the ditch, up the hill and on to its final resting place--upside down in the middle of north bound traffic. One witness of the accident, described this event as a dust cloud violently spitting out CD's, tires, clothes and papers (these paper's just happened to be our applications to attend BYU Hawaii that coming summer; unfortunately, we never made it).
This is where the miracles begin.
As I gained consciousness I was totally confused as to where I was and what had happened. My vision was blurry and my eyes would not focus. The car was crushed in on all sides of me. Although I was wearing my seat belt, during the rolling process I somehow made my way into the back seat while still remaining strapped in. As focused my eyes on the object directly in front of me I realized it was the back of the front seat head rest, but everything was upside down. This is when I finally understood. I was alive, but where was Meghan? I tried to say her name but all that came out of my mouth was a pitiful moan. I had a hard time speaking because of some type of substance in my mouth. However, not knowing where my best friend was or if she was even alive, I began speaking her name "Meghan." When there was no response I grew louder and louder until I was repetitively screaming her name, "Meghan! Meghan!" However, all I heard was silence.
Within a few minutes, through my screams, I heard a man's voice. He was close but I couldn't see him through the crumbled metal as he he asked me if I was alright. I immediately asked him about my friend who was in the car with me, but all he would say is that he was focused on me at the moment. He asked me if I felt any pain and for the first time I realized that I couldn't feel my leg. As I processed this information I went into a frenzy and I screamed "I can't feel my leg! Am I paralyzed!?" The man was very calm as he asked me to try to move my toes. I could only move my right leg's toes, while the other leg still remained motionless. I did not know what this meant; however, this man who just happened to by driving by and who was scheduled to take his final exam to become an EMT the following week, told me in confidence that I was not paralyzed. I can't describe the feeling of relief that came as he spoke those words. Now that I was not paralyzed, I was determined to get out of the car because I was extremely uncomfortable with my body contorted and pressed against the twisted metal. As I tried to pull my way out of the back passenger side window the man urged me not to move and to remain still until more help arrived.
I not sure when the transition occurred, but soon a lady was holding my head and stroking my hair. I again asked her about Meghan but she didn't tell me anything. This lady, a 911 dispatcher, who also happened to be driving by and witness the accident, reassured me with her calm voice and words of encouragement until help arrived.
Time from here on out is a complete blur. Although I can't remember the length of time I was laying there, I do remember my audible conversation with God: "Please Heavenly Father...I am in so much pain. Please let me pass out." I repeated this over and over again; however, I never passed out.
When the paramedics arrived they went through the same "where do you hurt?" questions. I asked them about Meghan and got the same response as I had received previously: "We're focused on you."
I laid entrapped in the car as the paramedics, police and firemen discussed the next move. The car was leaking gas so they knew they needed to get us out as soon as possible. Once decided, they asked me if it would be okay for them to pull me out of the car informing me that this would most likely be a very painful process. I agreed promptly, excited to get out of my steel prison. As they pulled me out of the car the most excruciating pain filled my whole body. I had never, and have yet to ever, experience this type of pain. I screamed at the top of my lungs until they laid me on the concrete pavement next to car that still ensnared Meghan.
As I laid there on my back I could see the shapes of faces and bodies moving all around me; yet, I could not distinguish any details or the distance of an object. Being very confused, I repeatedly grabbed the face that was closest to me, gauging it's distance. As I finally found the man's face, confused he asked me what I was doing. I explianed that I could not see very well and he told me this was a result of a concussion. Among my temporary impared sight I was coughing up red liquid and chunks. Seeing this for the first time, I asked the same man what it was and he, probably not wanting to freak me out, responded: "A bunch of different stuff." Surprisingly, this answer satisfied my curiosity.
Seeing that I was responsive, the police began asking me questions: my name, my address, where we were going, where I was from, who was in the car with me, my parent's names, my friend's parents names and then they asked me my parent's phone number.
Me: "No! You can't call my parents."After debating with the police for a while longer, I finally relented and gave them their number.
Me: "Because they will be so worried."
Police: "Well, that is probably true, but we need to let them know what happened and that you are okay."
As I laid on the highway road in my navy blue and white American Eagle shirt and blue jeans, the paramedics examined my injuries. My left leg was distorted and out of place. In order for them to see the extent of the injury they need to cut my jeans.
Police: "We are going to have to cut your pants so we can see your leg."Shortly, after the massacre of my new jeans, they transferred me to an ambulance while a young man held my left leg steady in the air. I kept pestering him to move it this way or that way, so it wouldn't hurt so badly. I was in so much pain, and thought that there must be a way for this pain to go away. Not being able to think properly I tied to explain myself to the paramedic:
Me: "No! I just bought these last week!"
Police (laughing): "Well, we can try to take them off but it will probably really hurt."
Me (begrudgingly): "Fine. You can cut them."
Me: "I am in so much pain. Isn't there something to make it stop."Trust me, this was not the end of it. Now that I remembered the word "drugs", I continually begged him for them while I dosed in and out of conscientiousness until our arrival at the Tremonton, Utah hospital, a 20 minute drive away.
Paramedic: "Like what?"
Me: "I don't know"
Paramedic: "Like drugs?"
Me thinking to myself: (DRUGS! That's the word!)
Me: "YES! DRUGS! DRUGS! PLEASE GIVE ME DRUGS!"
Paramedic (probably a little scared of me): "We can't give you anything until you get to he hospital."
As I arrived at the hospital on a gurney, nurses ran past me in every which way. As one hurried by I grabbed her arm, looked her in the eyes and said "Please, give me some drugs." What she must have thought, I have no idea, but I was in so much pain and I knew that "drugs" was the magic word.
Soon, I heard commotion and talk of another person from the accident arriving. Meghan! She was here! I couldn't see her as they ran by, but I could hear her moaning. I screamed her name, "MEGHAN!" but she could not hear me. Soon the moaning faded. I no longer wanted drugs, I wanted Meghan. Every person I saw I would ask "Where is Meghan? How is she?" But they just gave me a sad smile and told me they didn't know.
While at this hospital a few friends of my parents', who lived close by, came to be with me. However, there was one visitor, who did not know me or my family, who came to the hospital per my mom's request. While at the accident scene the soon-to-be EMT's wife heard a woman's voice asking for someone "to please be with my daughter." The voice was very distinct and clear even though there was no physical evidence or person that would warrant such a occurrence. Against her husband's logic she insisted that she go to be with me at the hospital, even though he told her that she would not even be allowed to see me. However, listening to the desperate pleadings of the women she knew she had to be with "her daughter." Just as her husband predicted, she was not allowed to see me; yet she still stayed at the hospital for a few hours until she felt comfortable that I was in good hands. It was not until a month of so later, when meeting my mom in person that she recognized my mother's voice as the same voice she heard that day. When telling my mom her experience in private, my mom confirmed that she did indeed kneel down and speak those words in prayer right after she received the phone call from the policemen on the scene, telling her that her daughter had been in a serious car accident.
The day after the accident I awoke to a nurse in the Intensive Care Unit at the McKay-Dee Hospital, in Ogden, Utah. She told me where I was and what had happened to me. I once again asked her about my friend, Meghan, who was in the car accident with me. She said she didn't know much but did know that she was alive and at another hospital. I finally had an answer. She was alive!
Going back to the time just after the accident.
After the car landed I regained consciousness almost immediately; however, Meghan remained unconscious. As the soon-to-be EMT approached the accident scene, he followed what he had been taught and went to the person who "had a chance," which was me, the person screaming. As this man came to my aide, another man, a chiropractor with emergency training who just "happened" to be driving along I-15 with us, went immediately to Meghan.
This chiropractor was visiting his brother in Rexburg for the weekend, helping him with some construction around his house. Prior to the weekend his brother told him that he no longer needed him to come, but the chiropractor felt that he needed to anyways. On his way back to his home in Lehi, he was driving along I-15; however, surprisingly only after just a few hours of being on the road he felt like he needed to get off at the next exit. He checked his gas tank and it was full. He couldn't think of a good reason to get off, however, he felt strongly enough about it that he decided to exit anyways. Little did this chiropractor know, that his decision to pull off at that exit, would allow Meghan and I to catch up with him on the highway, enabling him to be driving right behind us as our car lost control and barrel rolled to it's resting place.
As the chiropractor came to Meghan's rescue he found her upside down with her hair trapped underneath the frame of the car. He observed that if the car continued on it's roll, even just a little bit, Meghan's head would have been crushed. The chiropractor confirmed that Meghan was not breathing and had no pulse, the outcome did not look good. The more time that went by the greater the chance of brain damage and death. However, due to this man's profession and training, he knew the human body and what to do. As the man crawled in the car, in order to have greater access to Meghan's body, the chiropractor was able to adjust her neck in such a way that Meghan started to breathe. This man just saved Meghan's life.
I don't know the events from this time to the time that Meghan was taken to the Tremonton Hosptial, where I briefly heard her moans. But from the Tremonton hospital, Meghan's was Life Flighted to a hospital in Salt Lake, where she would receive a blood transfusion and remained in an induced comma for 3 days while they evaluated her injuries. Meghan had a severe head wound that the doctors were very concerned about, not knowing how it may have affected her brain.
As miracles would have it, Meghan's head wound did not affect her brain in any way. Besides the horrendous bruising that comes from being in a car that barrel rolls 7 to 8 times at 85 miles per hour, Meghan suffered a broken femur, hand, and knee cap. I suffered a collapsed lung and dislocated hip. Although, it took months for us to physically recover and some of our injuries give us problems every so often, our injuries were significantly minimal compared to the accident we had survived. We both know that Heavenly Father protected us that day and used very specific people, with the needed skills, to be there for us when we needed them most.
The miracles surrounding this event still blow me away.
-Due to my chair being reclined I was able to move into the back seat where the damage to the car was less
-Our friend decided not to come
-A soon-to-be EMT, a 911 dispatcher, and chiropractor with emergency training all "happened" to be driving by
-The car stopped at just the right position to save Meghan from death
-Some how our injuries were minimal compared to the accident
-Because we did not go to BYU-Hawaii that summer, I ended up going to another school in Orem, Utah (Utah Valley State College) where I met and had a class with my future husband, Pat.
-The Lord worked through a total stranger to answer my mother's prayer to the point where she heard my own mothers voice two states away.