We are pleased to share this guest post with our readers:
I’m Megan. I was born on May 6, 1985. I’m 23 years old and I am so thankful that I can say that. I nearly died when I was 22.
It was November 26, 2007. It was the night before Thanksgiving. My partner Shannon & I had been going through a rough financial time, but finally got back on our feet. So we decided to ask off work to visit my family in Charlotte for two days. Originally we had planned on just the two of us going the night before and having a romantic dinner out and then spending the holiday with the family. However, we learned that my sister had just recently gotten back together with her husband and we thought it would be nice to include them in our dinner since we didn’t get to see much of each other.
This soon turned into a dinner of seven because my step brother and his friend decided to come along, and so did my sister’s husband’s friend. At first the dinner was all kinds of awkward, because half of us didn’t even know the others. But, it wasn’t anything a little alcohol couldn’t fix. Soon, we were all laughing and joking and having a great time. The fun didn’t stop after dinner. We were having so much fun we decided to go next door to the pool hall. The alcohol didn’t stop there either.
It was around 9:30pm and we had a designated driver to get safely back to my parent’s house. My sister’s kids were being babysat by her husband’s dad, so we figured why not squeeze just a little more fun in there? We went back to their house to do some more drinking. While hanging out in their garage, we caught eye of the ATV. We thought it would be a good idea to hop on and ride it around the neighborhood a few times.
Shannon got on the back with me once, but was too scared so she decided not to ride it. Something you should probably know about Shannon is that she is not a risk taker. She’s more like a maternal nurturing person. She likes to play it safe and make sure everything is always okay. This night, she decided not to nag me because she knew it had been a while since we’d gotten out like this with no worries and didn’t want to ruin my fun. She stayed in the garage and chatted with the guys while I rode the ATV with my sister. We pulled back into the garage and turned it off and were ready to leave, when my sister and I decided to take it out one more time.
I remember driving it down the street. I remember my sister yelling “Slow down, Megan! You’re going too fast!” I remember U-turning to go back to the house. What I don’t remember is the wreck. All I can tell you is what Shannon and my family have told me, and try to piece it all together.
Here’s what Shannon says happened:
“I was talking to the guys in the garage, when Megan’s step brother (our designated driver) asked, ‘Do you guys hear that? It sounds like Katie yelling.’ Of course, we didn’t hear it because we were all too drunk. About 5 minutes later, he said ‘I’m going to go find out what’s going on.’ Then Megan’s sister’s husband decided to go check things out because he wasn’t back yet. I was still chatting it up and was just waiting for them to pull into the garage when the husband comes running up to us. He tells his friend to lock up his house that we had to go to the hospital. They’d been in a wreck. I laughed it off. I really had only known this guy one night, and the whole night he’d been joking around, so I thought he was kidding. When his eyes told me a different story, I knew something had gone terribly wrong.
I leaned out of the garage and peeked down the street. All I could see were ambulance lights. I cannot describe the feeling that overcame my body. I kicked off my 4 inch heels in the yard and started running with everything I had. ‘Megan, Megan, Megan, Megan’ that’s all that came out of my mouth with every single step. It was like the world stopped and everything was just swirling around me. I passed the ATV which was up against a tree. They were about 30 yards away, one on each side of the ditch. Katie was screaming ‘Help Me! I can’t breath!’ There were about 10 neighbors all standing around.
Megan was on her back surrounded by EMT. I leaped down on the ground next to her. She was lifeless. Her eyes were open but there was nobody inside. ‘Mam, you need to step back.’ Was all I was told. Nobody to tell me everything was going to be alright. I was barefoot, alone, cold, and scared to death. My everything was about to be nothing. How could I be the last one to know what happened? I could have stopped this from happening if I would have just told her to get off. I could have helped her if I was there sooner. This is my fault. The ride to the hospital was the worst ride of my life. Following those flashing lights knowing she was inside and I couldn’t ride with her, was the absolute worse feeling. Getting to the hospital and not being able to see her, was horrible. One second we were laughing and talking and hugging, and the next second, she’s gone.
I saw her being removed from the ambulance and I noticed all of her clothes were off. They had taken off her clothes. I felt so violated for her because I did not know at the time the extent of the injury. The EMT told me she was scared and drunk and she’d probably be fine. I waited for her to walk out of the ER room and come give me a great big hug. This never happened. When I finally got to see her, she looked like a corpse. She was purple, not talking, not moving. Was she going to die? That’s when the trauma doctor told me what had happened during the wreck. Her T-8 & T-9 vertebrae were wedged together. Her spine had been smashed. I had no idea what this meant because I had never had to deal with anything like this before and had no knowledge on the subject. ‘What does that mean?’ I asked him. ‘Is she going to be okay?’ I waited for his reply. When he cocked his head and scrunched his face I knew it wasn’t good.
‘She’s going to have a long hard road ahead of her. She smashed her spinal cord. She has no feeling or movement from here down.’ He pointed above her belly button. I didn’t know how to take this. I was thankful she was alive but I didn’t know what that meant for our lives. I went two rooms down to check on her sister. I first heard she had one broken rib. Then I heard she had two broken ribs. I eventually came to find out she had eight broken ribs (all of them), a broken shoulder blade, broken collar bone, and collapsed lung, all on the right side of her body. She had 2 children to care for at home. How could this have happened? What are we going to do? I have to be back at work the day after tomorrow and so does Megan. What’s going to happen? I ended up calling my boss, and getting as much time off as I needed (which happened to be a month). I still to this day cannot thank my boss enough.
The first two nights she had to stay in ICU to be stabilized. I had to spend Thanksgiving day without her. How could I eat? How could I sleep? How could I be enjoying the holiday knowing what she was going through in the hospital? Of course, she had no idea because she was basically in a coma for about a week. I just couldn’t eat knowing she couldn’t. I moved the food around on my plate and that was about it. I don’t even think I could cry anymore. I had shed so many tears in such a short amount of time my body was exhausted. This did me no good either, because I couldn’t sleep. After she finally got her own room I didn’t leave her side. I stayed in that hospital room 24/7. Sure she may not have spoken a word, or looked at me, or held my hand, but I was going to be there when she came out of it.”
That’s what Shannon has told me from day one. About a week later when I did come to, I had already had back surgery. My surgeon said it looked like someone took a sledge hammer and smashed my spinal cord on a table. They did testing and confirmed I was an ASIA A Complete. For those of you that don’t know, that means that I had no feeling, no movement, and my spinal cord was so damaged I most likely would not get any of it back. I did not see this as depressing. I try to look at life as positive as possible. It’s almost as if I already knew what had happened to me before being told. The first words to come out of my mouth that I still say to this day are “I don’t need to walk to love.”
The hospital stay, from what I’ve been told and can remember, was absolutely horrible. The nurses could not read my charts, or just didn’t bother, because they would ask me to move my legs while trying to do something. I was even asked to stand up and walk to the mobile bed that was going to take me to rehab. I’ve never been so appalled by medical staff.
Just a week after my back surgery is when I was tossed into the Inpatient Rehab Program. Words can’t express how much I enjoyed my stay at Rehab. I’m so grateful that the therapists I had there treated me like friends and not just another patient. I learned from them. Not just about how to live my life in a wheelchair, but that I was still who I was, I was just sitting down. They didn’t judge me, and they didn’t make me feel like I was worthless.
Shannon stayed with me every night. She learned how to intermittently cath me every four hours. She woke up three times in the middle of the night to do this and did it four times each day. She learned how to do my bowel program. She was the only person I trusted to log roll me and lift me to put me in my wheelchair, unless there were four therapists at one time doing it. She learned to give me shots for blood thinner so I wouldn’t get clots in my legs that would travel to my lungs. She did everything. She set my food up for me so I could eat it. She helped me get dressed. She rubbed lotion and massaged my legs and feet every night. She helped me shower. She was there every second. That’s how I know what we have is real.
My family played a major part in my recovery as well. My dad and step mom practically lived in the hospital as well staying as many hours as they could when they weren’t working. My mom was in the process of getting things situated to move in with me to help us. My sister and her partner at the time were sleeping on the hospital room floor to be with me. My landlord was getting our apartment more wheelchair accessible so I had an easier time when I got home. There were three benefits put on in my honor to help raise money for medical costs and so we wouldn’t have such financial burden when we got back home.
Life after my Spinal Cord Injury has not been the easiest. That doesn’t mean I regret what I did. That doesn’t mean I hate my life. That doesn’t mean I think my life is over. I’m grateful every day for what happened to me. I’m alive, and I get to see the sunrise and sunset. I get to spend time with my partner of four years who loves me very much and who I love just as much. I get to spend time with my family and with my dogs. I no longer have an alcohol problem. I live with challenges everyday, but who doesn’t? Mine just may be different than yours. Everything heals with time.
I go to support groups here in Asheville and also in Charlotte to speak with others who are in my situation. We share ideas and stories, problem solve, and just hang out and chat. I’ve met some amazing people along the way. I’ve taken a drivers test and passed, and am getting hand controls installed in our car so I can have my independence back. I will be going back to school to get a degree in psychology. I want to work in a Rehab clinic where I can speak with people who are in the situation I was and let them know their life isn’t over. I want to peer mentor people in my situation who need to talk to someone who’s been there before.
I’m doing something with my life now. I’m making something of myself, and just because I’m in a chair doesn’t mean I can’t do it. You can do anything you want if you put your mind to it. I just have one thing to say about this whole situation:
My legs may have been taken away from me, but my life wasn’t, and I will never forget that.
T7 complete paraplegic 11/21/07