Part 2 of 3: Praying for Pain
I was still in the van. No one else was still in there except for Terrence, who was struggling with the car door. Blood ran out of a gash on my forehead, soaking my eyebrows and clinging to my eyelashes like dewdrops. The atmosphere reeked of gasoline.
But twisted against the mangled door, I was hardly aware of any of that. My thoughts were turned to the pain in my back.
I had never been in so much pain before. I can’t even describe it. It was astoundingly excruciating, agonizingly hurting. I wasn’t sure how I’d get out of the van. Then it hit me: Don’t move, Veronica. You might have a spinal cord injury. If you move, you could make it worse.
Big, fat tears rolled down my cheeks and mixed with the blood that streamed down my face. I was trapped! God, please get me out of here, I prayed desperately. Never before had I felt so claustrophobic. I passed out once more.
The next thing I knew, I was hearing someone speak softly to me. When I looked up, I recognized Mr. Miller’s face. “Mr. Miller?” I said faintly, trying to stay conscious as well as keeping my tears in their place.
“Let’s get you out of here, kid.” Mr. Miller reached for me.
“No! Don’t touch me!” I responded. You might have a spinal cord injury. If you move, you could make it worse, I repeated in my head.
“Veronica, we need to get you out of here,” Mr. Miller insisted, getting a good footing on the wrecked car and a firm grip on me.
“Let go!” I repeated, but it was too late. Mr. Miller had already picked me up. I screamed helplessly before blacking out.
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“Veronica, are you OK, honey?”
I glanced up. “Hi Mom,” I greeted flatly, ignoring her question. I was anything but OK. That morning, when I had woken up to the smell of cleaning agents and the sound of monitors, I had made a terrifying discovery: from my waist down, I couldn’t feel a thing. At first I wondered if my legs had been amputated, so I pulled away the stark white covers only to reveal that my legs were intact. Then I considered that I had had a surgery on my legs and that I was still under the effect of local anesthetic, but when I studied them, there was no sign that an operation had been done on them. I despaired. Jesus, I have a terrible feeling about this, so please give me my pain back. I need to feel my legs!
“Hey, sweetie,” Mom cooed. “You’re finally awake.”
“Have I been unconscious for long?” I asked her.
“It’s the next day now,” she explained. “You’ve been unconscious since yesterday afternoon.”
I nodded slowly, mentally recalling the past day’s events: touring the academy with my class and the nice high schoolers, cheering in anticipation to Mr. Miller’s surprise, Pastor Kevin joking about driving stick-shift. Then the songs we sang at the top of our lungs, Pastor Kevin shouting at me to sit down, and then the din that filled my ears before everything went black. Then Mr. Miller had pulled me out of the crushed van against my own will.
“Mom, do you know how we crashed?” I asked. “Did everyone survive?”
Mom paused thoughtfully – maybe even a little sadly. “I think everyone survived. I hope so.”
I felt my body (except my waist and legs) tense up. “So what happened? How did we crash?”
Mom sighed. “I really don’t know any details. At one point of your trip to the park there was a sharp bend. Another car was coming from the opposite direction, but by the time Pastor Kevin saw it, it was too late. He tried to avoid the car, and the van hit a large boulder by the side of the road. The van flipped a couple times before smashing onto the highway. That’s all I know.”
My eyes filled with tears. “Mom, during the accident, I hurt my back really bad. Now I can’t feel anything waist down. What’s wrong? What happened to me?”
“The doctors are running some tests right now.” Mom said that so quietly that I could barely hear her, but when I understood what she had said, I was able to silently finish the sentence for her: “Expect the worst, Veronica.”
I heard the hospital room’s door crack open. A man’s face peered gingerly at us, as if he was afraid that he was interrupting an important conversation.
Mom glanced up at him. “Doctor?”
“Yes, um…” The doctor hesitated when he laid eyes on me. “Mrs. Williamson, can I talk to you out in the hall, please?”
“Of course,” Mom replied as she got off the chair that was next to my hospital bed.
A few anxious minutes later, Mom and the doctor reentered the room. “Veronica,” the doctor said. “I’m Dr. Hodgson. I’m sorry I have to tell you this, but you’ve been paralyzed waist down. We doubt you will ever walk again.”
Boom. There it was. No more track, no more basketball, no more Pathfinder campouts or playing tag with the little kids at school. All because Mr. Miller moved me when I’d told him not to.