This is Part 1 of 3-part series…
“Can you hear me? Tell me your name.” My brain tried to understand the words, but the man’s voice seemed far away. My eyelids fought me as I struggled to keep them open. The man was standing by my side, bent over me, moving quickly as he talked. I couldn’t figure out why. I was lying on my back, floating weightless next to the man speaking. My breath was heavy and echoed in my ears while the summer dusk air brushed my cheeks. I was outside. Floating outside. A brightness blurred my vision. I was dreaming, surely. Dreams are so strange. Why couldn’t I move?
The man said again, “What’s your name? Can you tell me your name?”
I knew my name. “Becki.” I slurred the word out as if I were inebriated, feeling my heavy breathing work against it. It was unfamiliar somehow. I realized there was another man on the other side of me. The voices of the two men sounded as if it were ten. Nothing would focus. Voices were swirling around my head like a drum song. Not loud, but stern, urgent. The drum song drowned out the clicking and whirring and buzzing. Noise. So much noise.
And then, nothing. Blackness. Silence.
When I opened my eyes again, I was in a small room. My breath had normalized, but I was still on my back, still floating. I was in a bed, strangely comfortable. A gentle squeeze of my hand by someone shifted my eyes slightly to the right. My brother sat at my bedside, his thumb stroking my hand. I was safe now, I knew, but from what? My body was unwilling to move, relishing in the strange floating sensation. My neck tightened against some force holding it still as I made an effort to turn my head toward him.
My brother spoke in that calm, peaceful way you see angels speak on movies, welcoming a soul into heaven. I felt now like we were both floating, but knew we were not in heaven. The smell of the room was too sterile. I recalled the bizarre dream from earlier and realized it was all real.
“So strange,” I thought to myself. You hear people often say that their dream felt so real. I was baffled by how my real felt so dreamlike.
“Do you know where you are?” My brother carefully prodded to see how coherent I was. My mind was awake, but foggy. I struggled to put together an answer that made sense.
“Do you know what happened?” he asked.
“You were in a car accident. You got hit by bank robbers.”
He continued in his gentle tone. “Yeah. You stopped the bank robbers.”
At this point, I couldn’t remember anything that had happened in the accident, but when my brother told me that I had stopped bank robbers, it resonated. Even in my disjointed condition, I knew that was a big deal. Half to myself, but out loud, I replied, “I stopped the bank robbers? I’m so awesome…”
I’m not a vain person, but without knowing any details of what had happened, this sounded pretty remarkable. Suddenly I saw myself as a character in a James Bond movie. It’s clear to me now that I was on a lot of pain medication, and had hit my head pretty hard.
I was baffled by how my real felt so dreamlike.
I woke up that morning to a sunny day and a slight cold. It was just another day, like any other. Life had become that way—each day a string of monotony. It consisted of simply going through the motions of daily living, sometimes like a drone. Sounds a bit dramatic. I really had nothing to complain about. I had a good life, it was just nowhere near where I had imagined it would be when I was younger. The lofty goals I had set for myself made for a series of disappointments, as I got older. So there I was at 38 years old, a wake of failed relationships, failed career aspirations, and failed educational goals. That’s how I saw it then, anyway. Still, despite my loneliness and fear of a bleak future, I feigned a smile daily, and made the best of what I had. I had supportive siblings and parents, and a handful of close friends that I could depend on. I broke up the monotony as often as I could by making adventures for myself—I was well-traveled, well-read, and well-liked. I wasn’t ever in the habit of stopping crime before—I usually try to steer clear of bad guys—but I was very content and active. Until that day my life as I knew it came to a literal crashing halt.
It was about 6:30pm one summer evening in early August of 2016. I had just picked up my dog from daycare, and turned a corner onto a main highway. That’s the last real lucid memory I have from that day before waking up in the hospital late that night.
At the same time I was picking up my dog, two men had just robbed a bank at gunpoint. They had split up, and the one with the gun was headed north on that same main highway I had turned on, with the police in hot pursuit. Hearing the sirens getting closer, and desperate to escape, this man jumped the center divider and drove into oncoming traffic. Within seconds, he slammed his suburban head-on into my vehicle, going upwards of 90mph. His car flipped, while mine spun out of control.
The wreck was horrific, but by some miracle, we both survived—and my sweet dog didn’t have a scratch on him. The man left the scene in an ambulance with a broken shoulder, handcuffed to a hospital bed, while landing me in the hospital and a rehab center for the better part of a month, learning how to make my body work again. Within 45 minutes, the choices this man made had earned him a prison sentence of 15 years, and turned my world upside down.
Still, despite my loneliness and fear of a bleak future, I feigned a smile daily, and made the best of what I had.
As the days went on lying in that hospital bed, the extent of my injuries began to unfold: a concussion, a shattered vertebrae in my neck, a punctured lung, a broken sternum, broken right scapula, seven broken ribs in my back, three lower spine breaks, a broken left big toe, and a severely sprained right ankle. The deep tissue damage, cuts and bruising were the least of my worries. My neck was confined to a neck brace that stayed on for the next 5 months. I was quite a mess. I literally couldn’t move without pain. I, the fiercely independent woman that I was, had become completely dependent on other people (usually complete strangers) to do everything for me. And I mean everything. I’ll let your imagination run wild with that. It was all at once incredibly humiliating, and incredibly humbling. Success was measured by walking two more steps than I had the day before. My life had become a daily struggle to rebuild my strength.
Success was measured by walking two more steps than I had the day before.
When my brain was clear again and I could really understand the gravity of the crash, I thought a lot about where my life was. There wasn’t much else to do but think. I came within inches of losing my life—within inches of being paralyzed. When I learned my injuries and knew I would walk again, I couldn’t help but think how lucky I was, and how protected I was.
But I also couldn’t help but wonder, “Why didn’t I die?” Every science lesson I’ve ever had on the laws of motion and acceleration say I should have. Every policeman and paramedic that were on the scene were awestruck that I was alive. What made me worth saving? I never felt like I had much of a purpose in life. I was single with no children. My dreams of being an archaeologist and working in a big museum never came to pass. My pursuit of college degrees in that field had just left me with a pile of student debt. All the promises I’d ever been told I would receive if I followed God just didn’t happen…and really by no fault of my own. I figured I was just an unlucky person. I believed in God, but felt like I had missed the mark somewhere along the way. I’d missed my opportunity to find purpose, so now I just wasn’t that important. So why, with all this, was I important enough to survive this accident?
(Article photo from actual crash scene.)
Stay tuned for Part 2 of Becki’s 3-part story…
You’ll also like Married to the Badge: Not Your Typical Life, Growth After Trauma, A Really Different Kind of Family, When Life Gives You a New Normal, Life Before Skylar, and True Beauty is Found in a Woman’s Strength