Dear Driver, You ran a red light, hit my car and changed my life forever.
You were only a 17 year old girl. You were not drunk or under the influence of illegal drugs or anything like that, I assume you just let your attention slip for a minute, and before you knew what was happening, the damage was done.
I hold absolutely no ill will or bad feelings in my heart for you. I never have and I never will. I know that my car accident was no accident, and that this was something that was supposed to happen to me.
I don't believe that most major things that happen in a person's life are coincidence. That being said, I have often wondered why God chose you to be the one to impact my life in such a major way.
I know if our situations had been reversed and I had been the one to run a red light and paralyze someone from the neck down, I would feel like I had ruinedsomeone'slife.
However, I don't want you thinking this, because it's not true. Yes, the car accident was the worst thing to happen to me physically, but it was the best thing to happen to me spiritually and emotionally, and I honestly wouldn't go back and change things even if I could.
I've learned so much and gained so much, and those things far outweigh all of the physical things I've lost.
I don't forgive you because I do not think there's any reason for forgiveness in this situation. You just happened to make a mistake. I know youweren’t intending to do anything wrong or trying to hurt anyone.
Eight years ago, life was very different for Heather. She graduated from high school in 2002. Heather had high aspirations. This“normal”girl had dreams of becoming a nurse. Heather was driven and did not waste any time on working towards her goal.
Heather was incredibly busy the fall after high school graduation. She was involved in nursingclinicals, a practice that required Heather to work at a hospital or nursing home to learn and hone new skills. Heather’s particular assignment was a nursing home. Her shift began bright and early, 6am.
November 17, 2003 was Heather’s last nursing day. Remembering her last hours in nursing school is bittersweet. It is bitter because she had to let go of a dream; it is sweet because she can vividly recall that last day.
“That morning I took care of a frail, elderly woman who had 11decubitusulcers all over her body, ranging in stages from 1 to 4. (A stage I sore is red; a stage 4 sore is deep and down to the bone.) I gently cleaned and put a fresh dressing on each wound. The woman's husband tenderly wiped her tears as I worked.”
Heather ended her shift at noon and moved on to the next task. She had a full day ahead of her with not much time to spare.
Heather was scheduled to take her Dosage Calculations final, but first she had to drive home to change out of her white student nurse uniform.
After the exam, Heather was planning on heading over to St. John’s Hospital. She had recently been hired as a nurse’s aide at the hospital, but needed to have a physical to complete the hiring process.
Finally, Heather would end her day at the movie theater. Her shift was from 5pm-1am. It ran late, but Heatherdidn’t mind. She enjoyed her job at the theater.
Heather can remember leaving the nursing home, but that is all. She does not remember the accident. The events of that day have been relayed to Heather by family and friends.
Heather arrived at the intersection. She was the first car in line at a red light. The light turned green. Heather started to make a left-hand turn. A car going the opposite direction ran a red light and T-boned her car on the driver's side. That car was going approximately 50 mph. It struck Heather’s car with so much force that she was immediately knocked unconscious.
The force of the impact broke Heather's neck at the second cervical (C2) level, collapsed her left lung, ruptured her spleen, dislocated her pelvis, broke several of her ribs on the left side of the body and caused severe internal bleeding. Emergency 911 was called. Heather arrived at St. Anthony's Hospital six minutes after the call was made.
With a broken neck at the C2 level, she was no longer able to use the diaphragm muscle in the abdomen that is used for breathing. It is a blessing that paramedics arrived quickly so that they couldincubateHeather and get her on a ventilator.
Heather was rushed into emergency surgery the moment she arrived at St. Anthony’s hospital. The surgery was needed to stop internal bleeding. It was also deemed that Heather’s spleen be removed. Any lapse in the time of surgery would have meant certain death for Heather.
Heather’s mom arrived four hours later. She was greeted by a police officer and Heather’s two younger sisters Laura and Chandra. Heather’s mom was briefed of her situation by the emergency room doctor, and then the three were allowed into Heather’s room.
They were unprepared for the number of tubes and machines that Heather was depending on for life support. Her neck was very swollen. It was the only outside sign of the trauma going on within Heather’s body. Her face was perfect. Heather had no cuts or scrapes. The injuries were almost limited to the inside.
The number of people awaiting any news of Heather continued to grow through the night. Friends from school, work and church were anxious to hear if Heather would make it. Only family members were allowed to see Heather, but this did not deter anyone from coming.
Every time the doctor came out into the waiting room with a status update , a hush would fall over the crowd. The report was always the same,“No sign of movement.”
Heather’sbishopand one of his counselors arrived that evening. They were allowed to see her and to administer a priesthood blessing. Heather’s mom does not remember a word from the blessing, but she does know that she saw a tear in Heather’s eye. It was peaceful assurance that her daughter had somehow, someway heard the blessing.
As the night dragged on, friends begin leaving the hospital. Heather’s mom knew her daughter would need not only herpresence, but also her strength. Heather’s mom made the decision to go home and“not sleep.”
Before she left, Heather’s mom spent a few precious moments with her daughter.“You were in a car accident It was not your fault.”Her mother’s voice must have been quavering.“You are in the hospital and the doctors are doing all they can for you. “You can’t move and the doctors say that it’s probably permanent.”
Reaching down deep into her soul, Heather’s mom said to her child what I can only imagine would be one of the hardest things. She gave Heather permission to go.“If you want to go to heaven with Dad that’s okay, but if you want to stay here I’ll be here for you every step of the way and do all I can for you.”
*Please come back next Friday for Part 2 of Heather's incredible, inspirational story. Click HERE for Part 2