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I was a normal kid, going to school, hanging out with friends, and spending time with my family; but all that changed when I was finishing up my last day of my freshmen year in high school. It was a sunny, 80 degree, June afternoon with no clouds in the sky. School let out at 2:30 when the final bell rang. I was walking across the green grass in front of the school towards a blue spruce that stood tall with its needles gently scraping the sky. I loved to sit under that tree and just watch the school buses go by. But that day was different.
Instead of sitting under the tree, I stood next to the school with a group of about eight of my gothic friends under the sign that read, “Rockford Freshmen Center.” We were joking, rough housing, and laughing at each other like normal teenage kids do. It wasn’t long until my bus came to take me home, or to my street at least (I lived on a dirt road and my bus couldn’t drive down it because the road was too narrow). When I got on the bus, I couldn’t hear anything but the noisy kids. Stepping over bags and legs in the isle, I made my way to an empty seat in the back. I was so exhausted from the hectic day of going to class and dealing with obnoxious people that it didn’t take long for me to fall asleep. The next thing I knew, somebody had a hold of my right foot and was shaking it to wake me up.
“SHANNON!!! HELLLLLOOOO….. HEY DUDE! WAKE UP!”
“Huh??? What… wha??? Whaddya want??” I said as I opened my sleepy eyes.
“Don’t you have to get off?? Isn’t that your stop?”
“Huh??” I looked out of the window and… “OH S***!! Thanks dude! HAHA wow… THANK YOU!!”
“HAHAHA YOU’RE WELCOME! HAVE A GOOD SUMMER!!”
“YOU TOO GOOD BUDDY!” I said with an ear to ear grin as I stepped off the bus.
You know, come to think of it, it seemed like everything was going exactly as planned, and that made my day. ANYWAY…. Back to my story… as I got off my bus, my dad picked my two foster brothers, Robert, A.J., and I up to go “job hunting” for the summer. ‘Til this day, I can remember the vehicle my dad was driving. That’s because we still own it. He was driving a tan ’86 Chevy Celebrity with that memorable black hood with “SS Grocery Getter” decaled in white on the front that my dad and I spray painted a couple weekends prior to my last day of school.
I opened up the back hatch of my dad’s classic car, tossed my tan backpack in, and closed the hatch again. I made my way to the rear driver’s side door and got in the car.
“Hey gorgeous! How was your last day?” my overly zealous dad said with a great big toothy smile on his face.
“It was… interesting… but no different than any other day… you’ve got your obnoxious kids…. boring teachers… mystery lunch… same ol’ same ol’…how ‘bout your day guys?”
“It was ok…” Robert responded.
“How ‘bout you A.J.? How was your day?” questioned dad.
“A.J.? AAAAA.JJJJJJJJJ.?????” I turned my head to A.J. who was sitting next to me, “A.J.?”
“Hmm? Whatja say?” he said as he took off his headphones.
“How was your day?” dad, Robert, and I repeated simultaneously.
“Oh… sorry… it was alright. Same ol’ same ol’. WOW!!! Is it just me, or are the gas prices getting higher?!?!” he said with great animation as we passed a BP gas station and the traffic light turned to yellow.
The amount of curse words coming out of everyone’s mouth as we came into the intersection still amazes me. It was as if time had literally slowed down. I turned my head just in time to catch a glimpse of a pair of headlights from a very large pickup truck heading straight for the “SS Grocery Getter” decals on the hood of our vehicle. It was then, that our hard work, and time spent on painting that hood together went to waste.
Just as I closed my eyes and reached for A.J.’s hand for comfort, another car struck the rear driver’s side door where I was sitting. The tremendous amount of force jammed the door shut and slammed my head against the B-pillar where the driver’s seatbelt connects to the vehicle. And that was about the time when everything went silent and white. It was as if I stepped into a wormhole and was suddenly standing in the middle of nowhere. There weren’t any trees, no birds, no ground; there wasn’t ANYTHING! It was just me standing in what seemed like heaven, or the “in between.” There was one thing I saw though. There was a silhouette of a man walking towards me from WAY in the distance. He was tall and slender, and holding his hand out for mine as he came closer and closer, and he spoke. His voice was as soothing as a warm cup of hot cocoa on a brisk winter day.
“Shannon. Come. Take my hand and walk with me. You’ve been injured, but you’ll be just fine. It’s not your time, go and live your life. Live every second! I’ll be watching over you, and remember that I will always love you.”
The smell of burning oil, and the sound of what seemed like twenty sirens coming from fire trucks, police cars, and ambulances; and the sound of the “Jaws of Life” echoed in my head as I struggled to open my eyes.
“Shannon… Shannon… look at me…”
“ahhh… my face….” I mumbled as I slowly opened my eyes and saw a firefighter kneeling where the rear driver’s side door used to be. He was a skinny, bald man who wore what looked like an orange vest.
“CAAAAANN YOU HEAR ME? Squeeze my hand if you can… where does it hurt?” he questioned as he gently plucked shards of glass off my face and out of my eyes.
“MY FACE!!!! MY FACE!!!” I screamed out as I burst into tears.
“My back hurts… wha… what happened?”
“My name is Bob. You’ve been an accident. You’ll be ok. We’re gonna bring you to the hospital just to get you checked out. Can you tell me who the governor is?”
“Haha close enough… now, we’re gonna put you on a backboard and on a stretcher…” he then looked up at his fellow firefighter and said, “Hey Mike, you wanna do C-spine and I’ll wrap her head?”
“Sure. What does she have?” Mike replied.
“She’s got a laceration starting from her hairline and it ends at her cheekbone.” His attention returned to me and he said, “Now, Mike is gonna hold your head so we can get the backboard under you.”
I heard the back hatch open and in crawled Mike, the firefighter. He placed both of his hands on either side of my jawbone just under my ears, and his thumbs on the back of my head. Not even two minutes passed when the rear passenger side door opened. I strained my eyes to see who it was and I saw that yet another firefighter was making his way into our once valuable classic vehicle with the backboard. He slipped it behind me while Bob strapped me to it.
“Don’t mind me…” Bob said with a friendly smile as he reached between my legs to retrieve two black straps and secured my legs to the backboard. “OK… now I’m gonna wrap your head with this gauze, Mike is gonna put a C-collar on you, and we’ll be taking you on outa here.”
They did just that. Bob wrapped my head with the gauze starting at my right temple, and to my left temple. He must have wrapped my head with about five or six layers of that gauze… I don’t really remember that part all too well because I was going in and out of consciousness. Mike let go of my head to put the grey and white C-collar around my neck and said, “Alright… I’m set… Bob, you set?”
“Yup… I’m just about done here. Shannon, are you ready?”
“Sure thing Bob…”
“Alrighty! Let’s get you outa here… on the count of three…”
All three firefighters that were working on me started to count and pulling and pushing me out of the car and onto the stretcher.
“One… two… three…” they all counted as they laid me down on the seat.
“One… two… three…” they started pushing me head-first out of the car.
“One… two… three…” I’m half way onto the stretcher. All I could see at the moment was the BP gas station sign and a few power lines.
“One… two… three…” they counted as they lifted the rest of my body out of the car and scooted me onto the stretcher. The stretcher made a “CLICK!” noise as it was raised up and the locks went into place. I looked at Bob and asked, “Have you seen my glasses? They have black frames… I had them on…”
“Uhh… no… I’m sorry. They must have come off during the accident… I’ll look around for them and give them to your dad when I see him.”
“Ok thanks… I’d be surprised if my glasses even survived this… hahahahaha! Oww! I forgot… my face…”
At that moment, I was being lifted into the ambulance. “CLICK!” there went the locks as the wheels on the stretcher folded in. My dad climbed into the ambulance after me and sat down on the seat next to me. Then after my dad, a paramedic climbs in.
“Hi! You must be Shannon! I’m Rebecca.” The paramedic greeted me with a very kind smile and stuck a needle in my hand to start an IV.
“Wow… I’m just meeting all kinds of people today! But what’s with th…” I must have blacked out or something because when I opened my eyes, Rebecca and my dad had a whole other conversation brewing.
“Hey dad? Have you seen my glasses?”
“Hey sweetie… yeah I found them in the middle of the road. They must have flown off during impact. Here.” He put my INTACT glasses back on my face.
“HOLY CRAP! THEY DIDN’T BREAK!!!” I must have gotten so excited that I blacked out again, because when I opened my eyes, I was in the E.R saying, “LIGHT…” every time a light went past my line of vision until I came to a stop in a room where the walls were nothing but curtains. A nurse came in through the curtains and took my vitals and clipped the heart monitor onto my left pointer finger, looked up at me and said, “The doctor will be right in to stitch you up…” she turned right around and left. On my right, my biological brother was sitting in a chair and holding my hand. I have never seen him cry until that day. He has always been strong for the family.
“Heyyyy…. How you feelin’?”
“Like shit… are… are you crying?”
“What?! I don’t know what you’re talking about….” He tried to cover up the fact that he WAS crying by turning away as he wiped away his tears.
“YEEEEAAAAHHHH….. you aaaarrrreeeee…..” I smiled at him… “I see it in your eyes… they’re all red...”
“Oh shut up…”
After a few minutes of awkward silence, the doctor finally showed up with my mom.
“Where’s Robert and A.J?”
“Robert is already discharged and waiting for you across the hall with dad. As for A.J, he’s going to have to stay here for a few weeks.”
“What’s up with him? Is he OK?”
“Well… his spine is broken and he needs to have some surgery to repair it. How’s your back? You were sitting next to him… weren’t you?”
“I’m a little sore… but I feel fine…”
The doctor was about five foot, eight inches tall, lean, and had short red hair.
“Hi, I’m Dr. Robinson. I heard you were in an accident… how are you feeling?”
“My face hurts, but other than that, I feel Ok…”
“I see you have a laceration… don’t worry, I’ll fix that right up for ya.”
“Now, you’ll have a scar but it’ll go away after a while. I’m going to suggest you use Maderma on it after it’s all healed up… just so that the scar would go away a little faster.”
He turned around and prepared a syringe so he could numb me temple for repair.
“You’re gonna feel a little pressure and a little stinging… that’s just because I’m numbing it up a bit so I can stitch it up.”
An hour and sixteen stitches later I was discharged from the hospital, but I hadn’t left yet. I wanted to see how Robert, A.J., and my dad was doing, so I went to visit them with my mom. I found Robert in a curtained room much like the one I was in, only everything was on the opposite side of the room. Robert was still laying on the stretcher, but he was also discharged.
“Hey dude! How’s it goin’?” I said as I walked up to the stretcher.
“Hand’s broke… I grabbed the ‘oh shit’ handle…”
“You’re lucky… my face is screwed up…”
“Shannon, your face was already screwed up…” Robert smiled as my face dropped. “Just kidding… love ya sis…”
“Love you too bro…”
“Hey you should check on A.J. I heard he was hurt pretty bad… could you go check on him for me?”
“Sure thing good buddy…”
I walked out of the room and heard the painful screams of my brother A.J., and immediately started walking faster. Standing in the doorway of the room where my brother was, I saw that he was tethered to the bed and he was wearing a full-body back brace.
“AHHHHHH!!!!!!” he cried.
“MY BACK!!! MY BACK!!!” he turned his head to look at me. I could see that he was in a lot of pain because his eyes were all red from crying. Then he started to get scared. “I can’t feel my legs… OH MY GOD! I CAN’T FEEL MY LEGS!!! I CAN’T MOVE!”
I reached over him and pushed the call button that was on the wall and a nurse came in.
“What’s the problem?”
“I can’t feel my legs!”
The nurse started to examine A.J. she poked, prodded and groped his legs.
“Can you feel this?”
“How bout this?”
Then she poked him with her pen.
“Did you feel that?”
“Feel what? I didn’t feel anything…”
“I’ll be right back…”
The nurse turned around and left for about ten minutes then returned with a doctor. The doctor walked over to my brother and did the same exam that the nurse did. And A.J. gave the same answers.
“Well A.J…. I’m sorry to say this… but you are paralyzed from the waist down. Now, in order to fix this, we need to operate immediately. What we’re going to do is repair your spine with some rods and screws. And hopefully by then you can feel your legs again.”
“Hey Shannon?” A.J. turned his head to look at me.
“Could you go tell mom and dad?”
“Sure. Where are they?”
“They’re across the hall…”
“K… I’ll be right back…”
I walked across the hall and into the room where my parents were. Mom and dad were sitting on the edge of the bed and dad was holding his side in pain.
“Hey dad… A.J.’s paralyzed…”
Mom turned to me, “WHAT?!”
“He can’t feel his legs. The doctor checked him out and said that he’s paralyzed from the waist down. He’s being rushed into surgery. How are you feeling dad?”
“I have three broken ribs, a concussion, and my knees are bruised... more importantly, how are you feeling sweetie?”
“I’m ok… my head hurts… and I can’t remember what happened… why am I here? Why are you guys here?”
“Well, do you remember being picked up from the bus stop?”
“I remember that, but what happened between then and now is a little foggy…”
“We were in a car accident. The lady was talking on her cell the whole time! I can’t believe her! She was on that thing before, during, and after the accident! She was the one that caused it! There was another vehicle involved but it took off before the cops showed up. It’s amazing! If we were only hit in the side, you wouldn’t be here right now!”
“Wow… she was on her phone?! That’s CRAZY!”
We didn’t get home that day until ten o’clock that evening. The next few weeks were hell. My face was swollen beyond recognition. My eyes were swollen shut for two weeks. I stubbed my toes more than ever those couple of weeks. My jaw was so sore that all I could eat were french-fries from McDonald’s and Burgerking. I kept on forgetting things like turning the oven off when I wasn’t using it, and forgetting what I was doing in the middle of doing it. My parents eventually got very concerned about my forgetfulness and took me to a brain specialist. Turns out, I have a mild to traumatic brain injury.
I struggled immensely through High School and I am now struggling to get through college. I now have issues with frequent migraines and memory loss. A couple of years ago, I found out that my brain injury is permanent and I will never be able to fully recover from it. It has been six years since that fateful day and I still tense up when we cross that intersection because I know that if we only got broad-sided, I wouldn’t have been here today.