Vanessa never expected that her late night car ride to the airport could go wrong so fast.
I couldn’t wait. It had been two years since I’ve seen Max. He was finishing school at Kingsborough Community College in New York, while I am finishing school at NAU. I was on my way to pick him up at the Phoenix airport, but I wasn’t sure how to get there. I figured if I just get to the airport, I can figure it out from there. I kept checking my phone. Waiting to see when he landed. *Beeeep* “I just landed. I’m at Terminal 4.” My excitement was building up. I couldn’t wait to see him.
That’s the last thing I remember.
The piercing headlights of a utility truck caught me off guard. The truck ploughed through a red light, nailing the side of my old Honda. My face slammed against the solid airbag causing my nose to shatter. My hair wrapped in the crushing door; the broken glass shredding my face. The impact of the rolling car snapped my ribs – piercing my chest. I couldn’t breathe. I could hear the metal shattering beneath my body. The smell was awful; something was on fire.
The panic set in. The car had rolled with my door pinned on the ground. Through the shattered windshield I saw a hint of yellow and orange. My car was on fire. My hands fidgeted - looking for the seatbelt. Soon the heat became intolerable. The car filled up with smoke. “I can’t die like this. I can’t die like this!” I was desperate.
But then it was silent and everything was black. The silence pierced my ears. In the distance I hear sirens. Are they coming for me? I tried calling for help but the words wouldn’t come out.
Everything seemed so calm. I was disconnected from the world. I was looking down above my body; I thought for sure I was dead. Suddenly I felt like I was being sucked back into my body.
I was in the ambulance. It felt like I had been pierced in the chest. Everything was blurry. People were asking me questions but I couldn’t respond. I wanted to scream, to call out for help, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t move.
I woke up in the hospital. Confused, I reached for the oxygen tube up my nose, trying to rip it out.
“Woah! Woah! Vanessa – calm down. It’s ok. You’re ok.” It was Max. I was crying but I couldn’t feel the tears run down my face. I was burned. My entire right side was charred.
“You’ve got to calm down. If you calm down I can tell you what happened. Just take a deep breath.”
I took a deep breath. “How long have I been here?”
“You’ve got to keep your voice down. I know you are in shock, but you not in great condition.”
He grabbed my left hand, careful not to grab my burned flesh. He looked me in the eyes. “Vanessa, on the night you came to pick me up from the airport you got in a car accident. Do you remember that?”
I just laid there, staring at the ceiling.
“The car rolled, trapping you inside. Your hair was trapped in the door and the seatbelt was jammed. The car caught on fire and eventually made it to the inside of your car. By the time help arrived, your side had been burned. When they got you out of the car they thought you had died, but they were able to revive you.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“When they got you to the hospital, they discovered you had broken ribs, a broken nose, severe burns and a collapsed lung. They immediately went into surgery, and then you were put in a medical induced coma for 3 months.”
“You aren’t in stable condition yet, so you still have to stay here for a little bit. It’ll be alright.”
No, he was lying. It wasn’t going to be alright. How could everything be alright? I sat up, yanking at the IV tubes keeping me alive. I was so mad. Why me? I wanted to leave this sterile hell; 3 months was long enough. I ripped the needles out of my arms, attempting to run out the door – but I collapsed.
“Max…” I called out. Black started to fade in around the edges of my eyes.
“I’m right here - but what were you thinking?! Those tubes are keeping you alive!”
“I...I know…. Thank you Max.”
A nurse ran in the room and said Max needed to leave. A doctor and a few more nurses ran in. “We’re losing her!”
Max refused to leave. They didn’t focus on him though; they were trying to save my life. They lifted me from his arms onto the bed. They were panicked, doing everything they could to keep me alive. But I was done. I was done fighting for this life that seemed pointless to live, so I stopped living it. Then all the nurses froze. One of the nurses fell to the floor and cried. Another nurse hugged Max. “I’m so sorry, she’s gone.”