My cell phone rang at 9:39 p.m. It was my daughter’s friend. “O GOT HIT BY A CAR!” I made her repeat this four times because I couldn’t grasp what she was saying. It was as if she was speaking Latin.
We were in the city. My 16-year-old daughter, two of her friends, my husband and I. We dropped the girls off at the venue of a concert they were attending. We went off to celebrate our anniversary with a romantic dinner for two. My husband and I were back near the venue, ready to meet them. But somehow, something went terribly, horribly wrong.
Luckily, we were only a few hundred yards from where it happened so we were able to get to her quickly. The emergency vehicles were already there, restoring order, strapping our daughter to a body board. She was alive. Stunned, bleeding, beaten up, but alive.
My husband was screaming at me over the sirens to get the other girls home. I didn’t want to go, but I knew I had to. I couldn’t leave two bewildered, shocked and terrified 16-year-old girls alone in the city. I went into autopilot. Not really sure how I was putting one foot in front of the other. Moving forward on pure adrenaline.
There was the hailing of a cab, the hour and a half train ride. The dead cell phones. No contact with my husband or the outside world. I was terrified of what could have been.
I think this is where I lost it. Even though I saw her with my own eyes. I saw her sitting up, saying words. Still, evil thoughts seeped into my mind. “What if she has internal injuries? What if she bleeds out? What if I have to plan a funeral? How does a parent go home without their child?”
Then the sensible thoughts would come. “No, she’s fine, she was sitting up, she was talking. She’s fine. She’s going to be okay. I know this.” But the bad thoughts would inevitably return again. This went on for over two hours. I was in agony.
During my journey, I remembered something my mother had given me years ago. It was a Novena. I keep it close by, in my wallet. I took it out and read it over and over again. There is a line missing on the crease from years of being folded. But it didn’t matter. I just kept reading, even if part of the prayer was gone. I was clinging to all hope. Praying that my little girl would be okay. Begging for her life.
Finally, I made it back to Manhattan. To the hospital where my daughter was taken. The night in ICU. The machines hooked up to her. I would jump at every beeping sound it made. I kept looking at the screen to make sure her vitals didn’t change. And if any one of them went up or down by more than a number, I was at the nurse’s desk, getting confirmation that all was fine.
I never felt such fear, dread and despair. I was moving on pure adrenaline. I was going through the motions, making strange decisions, not making sense, not able to form full sentences. My tongue felt too large for my mouth. The stench of fear was exuding from every pore of my body.
There were times when I was petrified that my mind was playing tricks on me. Those first hours were covered in a haze of fog. I wasn’t quite sure that what was happening was actual. I questioned myself and my surroundings repeatedly. Afraid to ask anyone if my daughter was really okay. Afraid of knowing what the truth might really be. Afraid of my haze dissipating and the outcome being completely different.
My heart didn’t stop pumping at full capacity for a good 24 hours. Every nerve ending in my body was at the surface of my skin, screaming to push through. The bile at the back of my throat, the uncontrollable shaking, the head shake as if to say, “this can’t be happening.”
She was in the best care, in the best hospital in the city. But I was frightened still.
And then the details started dripping in. Slowly, peeling away the layers. But making me tense up with every fact. Making me gasp in horror. So incredibly grateful for her presence, her life. Still, those horrific thoughts entering my mind of what could have been.
They say she was hit by a car that was going 40 miles per hour. The doctors couldn’t believe how lucky she was. It was a miracle. Minimal damage. Not a broken or fractured bone. A possible brain bleed. Some contusions on her brain. Bumps and bruises over almost every surface of her body. Some stitches on her scalp and forehead.
The angels were working double time that night. I feel blessed. We all do.
It has taken days for the sound of her friend’s voice to fade. The voice that gave me the terrible news. I will never forget it, but it’s not in the front part of my mind now. I can close my eyes without visually seeing my beautiful child, the child I spent hours delivering just 16 years earlier, flying through the air and hitting the ground after being struck by a vehicle. It has taken me days to stop saying to myself, “what if?”
I have learned a lot in the last two weeks. I have learned to be more grateful for my life. I have learned that my child is strong and so am I. I have learned that I have many wonderful people surrounding me. I’m learning to have more patience, to be present.
I have realized that I need to work on myself a little more. That “normal” is underrated. I have realized that there is no room for judgment. That every human being has a story and we need to be compassionate toward each other as much as possible. I have realized that I need to pay attention and spend each day as if it were the last. Because in the blink of an eye, everything can change.
I am so incredibly thankful that my daughter has come out of this incident pretty much unscathed. Just a limp. A small reminder of what could have been. I am thankful that she doesn’t remember it. This is a blessing in and of itself.
I feel like the luckiest mother in the world. I hold her a little closer. Appreciate her every moment more. All it takes is the blink of an eye. This I know is true.