Thick warm blood slid down the side of my face, sticking in places, tickling my chin as it trickled slowly down my neck. Numb and confused my ears were ringing. People were looking at me but my mind was completely blank.
Suddenly, a memory of the bone crushing impact slammed me back into reality. I can’t move! I can’t breathe!
I’m panicking and start crying out for someone to get me up. I can hear metal being pulled and people trying to climb in to get to me but I know I’m stuck.
Towels are being placed around my eye to stop to blood getting inside and a woman is talking to me. “What is your name, what day is it, how old are you? Where were you going?”
Furious I want her to shut up! Doesn’t she know I’m trying to sleep? Of course I know what day it is, it’s… and I was…
I’m too tired. I can feel myself drifting off to sleep, falling backwards into my own body. But the voices won’t leave me be.
REBECCA! REBECCA! LOOK AT ME! OPEN YOUR EYES!!
I struggle to open my eyes and get hit once again by an extraordinary wave of pain. I’m going to be sick. Why does it hurt so much! I start to sob quietly, every jerking movement shooting waves of pain down my spine.
Oh my God. That car, it hit us. In the midst of my pain, I feel a sense of calm and acceptance. This is how it ends for me now. Death is here, with me, I can feel it beckoning me I want to release myself into it’s arms.
Somehow I’m at peace. I’m ok. But the voices, they won’t stop and let me sleep. Stop it! I want to go now, I don’t want to answer your stupid questions!
“Rebecca… look at me”. I hear him behind my seat and I look up into my brother’s face. Why is he here? He’s not meant to be here. The anger I had felt towards him these past few years melted away as I saw his face crippled with fear. “I’ll stay with you, you’re going to be ok”. His hand held mind and I now have something to focus on.
Finally the emergency teams are arriving and after what feels like forever, I’m freed. Strapped from head to toe I’m rolled onto my side to vomit onto the road.
Transferred to an ambulance, the questions keep coming, keep me awake… God – I’ve told them 50,000 times already what my name is, how old I am and what day it is – why can’t they bloody write it down?
The sirens are screaming in my ears as we take off, despite the speed, I’m not rolling around in the back, I can’t I’m completely strapped down.
The doors open at the rear and I look straight into the eyes of another familiar face.
“Daddy!” the sob catches in my throat… “I’m so sorry, don’t worry, I’m ok, I’m going to be ok”. They pull him to the side and despite their hushed tone, I can hear them “She doesn’t look good, you can go in with her, but take it easy ok, she’s not doing very well and we don’t know anything yet”
Oh shit – really? Really, now I get to die? After I have to see their faces?
Fuck you life – that’s just an asshole thing to do. I should have gone before when I felt free. Not now, not while I have to look at them.
I’m quickly wheeled off and into a room hooked up to all sorts of machines.
Questions, more questions, then another familiar face. Mum. She’s here now too. It feels like forever that I’m lying here, people coming in and out.
All of a sudden, a new face comes in and I’m passed a cup. They unhook me and tell me to give a sample. Mum looks up confused and I push myself up to sit. Oh God – I’m going to be sick again. I throw up in a bag, then gingerly slide myself off the bed and step carefully towards the toilet.
I can’t do it.
I feel like a 90’s cartoon character, run over by a rock, walking like I’m being blown all over the place. I can’t stand upright and every muscle twitch is excruciating.
“I can’t do it, I’m sorry..”.
“OK… well just take that cup home and this bag and when you can do one, bring it into pathology and drop it off. You can go”.
I can go? No X-ray… nothing? What? Mum begins to protest but it falls on deaf ears. They’re busy. We sign the papers and I limp to the car.
I lay in bed for the rest of the day in agony with a few panadol for relief.
It must have been instinct. I can’t describe it as anything else. Get UP! Go now, walk. Get help. Get UP!
“Mum – mum – mum “ I try my hardest to call out but the words are stuck in my chest as I struggle to breathe. I push myself up and move slowly, purposefully towards their room.
“Mum, mummy – I don’t feel well, I feel really sick”.
“Shh honey – go back to sleep. It was the accident. You’ll probably feel sick for a while still”.
I turn and start to walk back to my room . I only get halfway before I hear the voice again. “NO! TURN BACK – GO GET HELP”.
“Mummy, something’s wrong, I really don’t feel well”. They both sit up now and Dad turns on the light. Instantly their faces change and they leap into action. I’m carried to the car and strapped in. Dad yelling he’ll call an ambulance but GO just go start driving and we’ll meet you there.
Gasping for air, I feel an immense pressure in my chest and pain radiating throughout my entire body. I pull the lever to lower my body to a lying down position in the front seat and quietly beg Mum to just get me there. Please.
I don’t remember much after that. I remember someone meeting me at the front with a wheelchair and being raced through. I’m put into another room where I’m laid down on a bed and checked over before being transferred upstairs into intensive care.
Tests were ordered. X-rays, CT Scan with contrast, MRI… I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink until they’d all been carried out. I was terrified, but again, underneath all that I was angry. Why had they let me go?
The results came in. I’d been off school with glandular fever and chronic fatigue which came on after the stress of the investigation. My spleen was still enlarged and had ruptured slightly but the bleeding had since stopped. I’d be ok. I also had fractured ribs with torn intercostal muscles, compression fractures in my spine, my left hip had been wrenched out of it’s socket and was now hanging loose with the damaged ligament holding it somewhat in place and swelling to the brain where I’d hit the dashboard which explained the confusion and memory loss.
Perhaps they were just pleased that the injuries would likely all resolve without major intervention but I was mad as hell. I tried to ask “Why didn’t anyone give me an x-ray when I came in? Why was I sent home?” My questions simply shrugged off with a simple “I’m sure they did what they thought was right” as the oxygen was put back over my mouth. Later, overhearing at station handover “there had been some confusion in ED earlier today”. Oh good – so they were just confused, that was all!!!!
Had I not felt so unwell, I probably would have pushed it further but after a few days, I was moved out of intensive care and onto a ward, then finally, allowed to go home with a long list of specialists and surgeons that I needed to see.
This was the start of an incredibly long journey that defined my life between the ages of 16 – 21. I have a permanent 20% disability on my entire left side. Rehab, having to essentially learn to walk again, redevelop my balance and cope with chronic pain, repair the damage to my pelvis, discover that I’d likely never carry children of my own, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, hydrotherapy, physiotherapy, women’s specialists, surgery… the list went on.
For someone who lived to learn, who loved to get lost in history, philosophy and literature, school was now over for me. My plans of going to university were over. I tried to get a job but as an ‘on-paper’ unskilled, uneducated young girl with a chronic back injury, a compensation claim under my belt and on a disability pension meant that even my applications to work as a cleaner were ignored.
I sank deeper and deeper down into depression and spent most of my days in bed. All I wanted to do was dream. My dreams were vivid, I could dream in colour, I could be anyone, do anything and be anywhere.
I dreamt often of the man I would marry, the children I would have and the life I would create. But then I would wake up, head to my twice a week disability support services appointment and try to work out a plan just to get myself of the hole that I had unwillingly found myself in.
But still I would dream. Because if I could dream, I knew I could create. And if creation was the very beginning of life, then there was always a chance that somehow, someway I would be able to redesign my life into the one I believed I was still destined for.
That life and love, would eventually find a way.
“You have to dream, before your dreams can come true” – A. P. J. Abdul Kalam