(I’m so excited to share today’s guest post written by Lucia Zimmerman.)
The evening was perfect, one of those classic-movie summer nights when everything goes right. We had gone swimming until late in the evening, then drove the back roads, the wind blowing through our hair as we sang along to our favorite songs. A spontaneous stop at the ice cream shop and a fireworks show added icing to the cake.
But the really special thing about the evening?
The memories came rolling back, of another night three years ago. This time, it was a cold winter evening ending with twisted metal and blood instead of ice cream and fireworks, sirens instead of music, and a helicopter lifting off from a roadside field with my friend inside.
Monica, along with her mom and her sister, was driving to a friend’s house that evening. A passing car hit a deer. But instead of being flung to the side of the road, the impact pitched the deer across the road and through the windshield of Monica’s car. Those few seconds forever altered her life.
Monica received the full weight of the deer in her chest and head. It crushed her collar-bone, skull, and damaged her facial nerves and throat. The doctors consider it a miracle that she wasn’t killed on impact. When I saw her for the first time after the accident, she was unrecognizable. She was in the hospital for two weeks, followed by a series of surgeries and checkups. The injuries affected her memory, her personality, and her appearance.
Monica recovered, to a certain degree. It seemed as if she was fighting off a cold or infection every other week. But she thought everything was fixed, if not perfectly healed. That summer was full of highs and lows, with the highs lasting longer and longer until she was healthy enough to resume her normal life. With an admonition to not do anything too tiring, the doctor gave her a clean bill of health.
The next year, she contracted meningitis. A long week followed, but Monica eventually recovered from it. Once again she was sent home with the caution,“Don’t overexert yourself, and you should be fine.”
But she wasn’t fine.
In May of this year, Monica stayed home from school because of a slight fever. Suddenly, her temperature spiked alarmingly, and she no longer responded coherently. In a panic, her parents raced her to the hospital.
This time, though, the doctors discovered why she could never fully recover from any cold or flu strain. A small crack at the base of her skull was allowing harmful toxins to seep into the brain. It had never fully healed from the accident three years earlier. Even worse, the brain was now settling down into the hole. This placed extreme pressure on that part of the brain. Any slight bump could give her a serious concussion.
Neurosurgery. Spinal tap. ICU. Words I never imagined I would hear in relation to one of my closest friends.
Coming into her room in the ICU mere hours after the surgery was finished gave me a shock I will never forget. She lay there, her blonde hair framing her face, hooked up to an IV and countless monitors. I have never seen someone so pale before. Only three days earlier, we had taken a walk in the late-spring sunshine and played catch with her Rottweiler, then collapsed in the grass and laughed our hearts out. How could she have plunged so far, so fast?
It was a harsh beginning to the summer. For a period of time, her family didn’t know if she would ever come out of that hospital alive. Every day, we waited for an update. Every day, the update remained the same: hanging on, but not improving.
Then it gradually changed. She’s feeling much better. She ate her entire lunch today. She’s coming home next week. She is home!
And so, on that July night, as we drove home, I couldn’t help but smile. We’ve been through a lot. We have even farther to go. She’s facing another round of surgeries, this time on her mouth and face. The goal is to attach the severed facial nerves and repair damage done to her teeth.
Through it all, her smile hasn’t dimmed. Her laughter hasn’t stopped. Recently she told me, “Honestly, I’m not afraid of anything anymore. After all I’ve been through, what’s the point of having fear?”
We don’t know what lies ahead. But we’re friends.
No matter what.
About Lucia: I am a small-town girl living in Mifflintown, PA with my large family and various cats and dogs. Jesus and music are the two great loves of my life. Although I am an introvert, I like being around people. I’m extremely competitive and passionate about being real. I love winter, yet don’t like dreary, rainy days, and my favorite colors are blue and gray. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org . I’d love to hear from you.