That February afternoon I was in a rush for time. I had Jazz band practice that evening at 7:00 pm and I had to be there because I was to play a solo at an upcoming concert. There was no way I was going to miss that opportunity. The feeling of being on stage was a huge adrenaline rush to me, one that is hard to explain and at odds with how I was with any aspect of my life other than music. I had a plan to ride my bike to the store to buy a pack of gum and if I timed it right, I might catch a glimpse of one of my new crushes from the school playing basketball. I had to rush though, dinner was almost ready and then it was on to practice that evening.
I don't know where my head was that afternoon. I think I just was laser focused at trying to get where I wanted to go and to hopefully see that boy, that I wasn't paying attention to the road or my surroundings. I hopped on my bike and went down my block, crossed the street right in front of an oncoming car. I saw it coming at me but I misjudged how far it was away and there was no turning back once I started. I just peddled faster to no avail. It hit me on the side of my body and flung me 30 ft or so and then I landed on my back but first breaking the fall with my right wrist. The world stopped at that moment and I felt oddly numb and dizzy, like the black and white stars clouding your brain when you have been spun around 70 times before you let go and fall to the ground. I heard my Mother scream and people all around me start to hover before I was taken away in an ambulance to the hospital just a few blocks down the road from us (luckily).
The ride to the hospital took an eternity or so it seemed. The reality was, I was near death and hovering between this world and the next. Several internal injuries, bleeding and a crushed wrist...my instrument hand of course. In the emergency room, I remember asking the nurses if this was going to take long because I had Jazz band practice at 7 and couldn't miss it. They looked surprised at the fact I myself, had no idea how precarious of a situation it was. I think you are going to miss this one but you'll be back in no time, we are sure, they responded with confidence and a tone you say to someone you are trying to reassure but are a little doubtful yourself.
The next recollection I have and I don't quite remember how long it was after the accident, whether it was that evening late or early the next morning, was waking up in ICU and seeing my family gathered around with a Priest to my right and a strange man sitting down on the left in the mix of all of those that were the closest to me. Seeing all these figures, my first thought was that I was dead and seeing myself being buried or at a funeral. I knew who the man was even though I had never seen him before, it was my biological father. The person whom I had only recently found out about and tried to reach out to but with no connection worth speaking about made before that moment. Seeing him along with the priest, I was for sure that if I wasn't dead, I was about to be.
The pain I was in was unbelievable. My lifetime souvenir was a battle scar running down the middle of my chest to to my belly button. At the time, I was afraid to look at how I was marred for life. It was an excruciating experience both physically and mentally. My self confidence was always an issue and in my warped mind at the time, I felt that this would indeed ensure that I would never be loved by a man because of this ugly reminder of a bad decision I made. I have to say that now, it is a symbol of survival and my second chance but there's a part of me that still is self conscious of this old wound. After an extended stay at the hospital, I was miraculously released. In addition to my internal injuries, I also had pins put into my right wrist and the bones reconstructed. I begged for my fingers to be free when they put on the cast because that would be the only way I could play my flute if there was a chance at all. The Dr.s were able to put the cast on in a way that allowed my fingers to move, that although it was doubtful I could play for a long time, I could at least hold out to the hope that it might happen.
I was told it was my heavier weight that probably saved me as it cushioned my body from the impact. Ironic, isn't it? The part about me I hated the most, was one of the things that spared my life. After I was released, I tried my best to cope with the situation and get back to school but there was something still wrong. I couldn't eat or drink anything. I was vomiting at any ingestion of food or drink and loosing a great deal of weight. Back to the hospital I went to discover that my small intestines had collapsed in part and emergency surgery was necessary.
The recovery from the second surgery was an even worse experience than the first. They had to re-open that fresh scar and slice through the same muscles just cut open a couple weeks beforehand. I felt like I was split in two and with one wrong move, my body was going to open wide with my guts spilling out all over the place. I know I got addicted to pain pills for a period of time and turned angry for many months as I recovered. But, I knew I'd get better and was determined to rise above, the anger didn't overpower my will to recover. I also was adamant that I'd somehow play in the concert and perform my solo no matter what because I worked hard for it and just maybe, I'd get noticed in my new school and be a bit more accepted.
After that second stay at the hospital I remember we were in the middle of a move to a new home. Another dramatic change in a year that I wish never happened in so many ways. My Mom remarried, we moved to a new town, changed schools, my accident, and another move within that same town..it was a lot to handle to say the least. I was at the new house recovering, still slightly dozy and out of it from the pain medicine, when we had another guest. It was my biological father again. It was the second and last time I would see him. I really wanted to see him and get some answers and hopefully forge a relationship because honestly, deep down inside, I truly felt abandoned by him. The visit was short and a bit awkward as to be expected. He told me about his new family and wished me well. In the end, he decided that pursuing a relationship with me, would not be in the best interest to anyone as we all had a new life but he was glad I was going to be eventually okay.
The events of those few months forced me to grow up and make decisions on how I was going to lead my new chance at life. I have to admit, some of what drove me at first was anger at the rejection I felt from my biological Father. The drug induced haze of my pain meds eventually wore off as I slowly weened myself off of them. It took a clear mind to realize how truly blessed I was for being spared and how I wasn't going to take my new life for granted anymore. I was going to do the best I could possibly do at anything I did because it could all be taken away in a heart beat. I witnessed that first hand.
Several weeks after all of this happened I remember stepping on the stage holding my instrument in the hand that bore a cast. I could feel the eyes of the audience stare at me and hear the whispers start to rise from the crowd. That is the girl that was in the accident they were remarking...or at least that's what I thought they were saying. The song I played along with the Jazz Band was Stairway to Heaven. How ironic is that? I felt that was a turning point for me, I had survived and would not be walking that stairway just yet. It was a miracle and one that I could not have accomplished alone but with the grace of God, strength of my family and friends, along with my determination...I had come back from the dead.
The long scar still reminds me of a battle overcome, a victory lap I get to take because of its existence. I still and always have been self conscious of it, especially in intimate settings. It sets me apart from the others and always will, but it is a gift that I have been given. They didn't know if I'd be able to have children because of the severity of injuries, but I've had two more miracles since that day and have been blessed with amazing boys I could never imagine my life without. As for my biological Father, I know that I still have issues to work through because of the chain of events that happened and maybe someday will truly be able to see past the abandonment and rejection issues that have hung over my head for most of my life. I decided after that last visit that someday I'd be famous and that he'd see my name somewhere because of an accomplishment I achieved and have a tinge of regret for not wanting to be a part of my life. I know, silly right? One of the biggest lessons I learned though from this huge turning point in my life is that I'm a survivor and truly, we all are deep down inside of us. You have to be willing though to overcome your own demons, your own insecurities, and rise above the pain it takes to step over the obstacles you are faced with. Sometimes the pain is literal and sometimes it's metaphorical. Sometimes it's a bit of both.
Lastly, I also learned that no one can do the work...it has to be you. You have a choice, always.
February 23rd, 1983. It was the day my life began again.