Life's Like This
Part 1 - Accidents Happen
By Curtis Grace
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It was their first date. She was sixteen now, and her parents had reluctantly allowed her to go out with him, only three months older than her and in possession of a drivers license. They were having the time of their lives, visiting restaurants and movie theaters throughout the night. At one such stop, he parked his Toyota Celica on the curb at the restaurant while they looked at menus.
The beggar only wanted some money or food. He just wanted to survive the cold winter night. He needed to make some quick money. Seeing the Celica in the street, he walked over to it. He peeked in the windows. There was nothing of value in sight. Frustrated, he threw a handful of shredded tin in front of the car's tires.
Unsatisfied with the menu, they left the restaurant.
Andrea Williams was an outgoing, athletic, diverse person. She was easy to get along with, and people considered her fun to be around. Of course some people had their differences with her, but nothing huge.
Chris Raines was a shy, athletic guy who enjoyed the company and companionship of women, but never was able to make the step from friend to the next level. With Andrea, though, he had been honest with his feelings, and he discovered that she shared them. He had been surprised it was that easy. That was a year ago, and they were still going strong.
He put the Celica into gear and went forward, over the tin scraps. Several of the pieces stuck to the outside of the tire as the vehicle pulled away, into faster traffic.
On the main road, the heat on the tires caused the metal to embed in the rubber.
Andrea sang to her favorite song on the radio while Chris laughed when she messed up the lyrics.
The pressure on the largest piece of tin drove it into the first tube.
A loud boom resonated through the vehicle. Chris heard the tire wobble and shake, and he prepared to pull over to the side of the road.
Suddenly, without warning, the entire left tire blew off, immediately turning the Celica to the left, over the median and into oncoming traffic. Chris desperately struggled to compensate for the turn as he engaged the parking brake.
Robert Jenkins saw the silver Celica careen out of control and cross the median as it approached. Before he knew it, his Taurus had slammed broadside into the right rear panel of the Celica.
The impact flipped the Taurus over the back end of the Celica, and momentarily straightened the Celica's spin before the Silver car was once again hit, this time in the left rear by a red Dodge Ram. The Celica rolled over and off the road, into a nearby creek.
Chris was still fully aware, and once he lost control of his vehicle, his arm immediately went to protect Andrea. As the Celica was buffeted by the Truck and rolled down the hill, a searing pain seized hold of his right hand and he heard a yell from Andrea.
The Celica landed on its passenger side, halfway in the creek. Chris quickly removed his seatbelt and used his left hand to use a swiss army knife to cut the belt off Andrea. Blood was running down her head, but she was alive, making grunts and moans as he freed her from the belt. He kicked out the windshield and screamed as the glass gouged his calves. He continued to kick until he could fit the both of them out of the car. Water was filling the car, and it was moving downstream, towards a rapid. He pulled her out with his left hand and hooked her arm around his neck. He began to swim for the shore.
Robert Jenkins was not cold and wet, he was burning alive as his ruptured fuel tank exploded and flames engulfed his vehicle. People rushed out of their cars to try and help him. No one descended the hill to help the occupants of the Silver Celica that had started the chain reaction.
The driver of the Dodge, however was an ex-Navy SEAL and knew that he had seen the car roll down the hill after he had hit it while missing another vehicle. He grabbed his first aid kit and sprinted down towards the creek.
Chris fought the current as he waded upstream in waste deep water with Andre clinging to his neck.
The ex-SEAL saw Chris struggling upstream. Forgetting the risk to himself, he jumped in after the two teenagers.
As Chris took the next step, he felt impending doom as he slipped and fell backwards. At this point he knew he was going into the rapids. Andrea was now unconscious, so he struggled to keep her head above water. He didn't realize it, but he had locked his arms together in order to keep her from floating away.
The ex-SEAL reached them as they entered the rapid. Chris had changed tactics and now cushioned her head in his chest as he hit rock after rock. His head, back, ribs, arms and legs screamed in protest. Finally they were out of the rapid. Mustering the rest of his strength, he pulled her onto a rock island. He laid her out and checked her heart rate.
The ex-SEAL swam out of the rapid and swam towards the teenagers. The guy was a mess. Blood flowed from his head. His right arm was limp, it was a shattered mess. Cuts oozed blood on his legs. His left ankle just hung from the lower leg. And he was giving the girl CPR. The ex-SEAL had seen some bad accidents, and knew what it was like to have a broken bone, much less a shattered arm and a head injury. By the ex-SEAL's estimate the kid should have been out cold. But he was resuscitating his girlfriend with two broken arms and several broken ribs. The girl only had a huge gash on her head and she was unconscious. Acting on impulse, he allowed the boy to resuscitate the girl.
Chris was a lifeguard. He knew CPR like the back of his hand. 2 breaths, 15 compressions. 4 times check. He repeated the process until he established a heartbeat and a breathing rhythm. He then passed out.
The ex-SEAL checked the boy. He was unconscious and his heart rate was dangerously low. The girl was worse. She was barely breathing and alive. Feeling that the girl would die if not treated immediately, he picked her up and crossed the calm part of the stream and headed for the highway.
The Ambulance was there for the Jenkins man only. No one had mentioned another vehicle. When the EMT saw the man carrying the girl in a fireman carry, he suddenly realized they needed another ambulance.
"What's her condition?” asked the EMT as the ex-SEAL approached.
"Critical. Single Trauma to the head, she's barely alive dude. There's a boy down there as well, he's a little more stable, but not much. I'm going to get him," said the ex-SEAL. He placed the girl on the stretcher and ran down to the creek.
"Where's their car?" asked the EMT. The ex-SEAL pointed to the beginning of the rapids. The roof of the silver vehicle was barely visible. The EMT let out a curse.
They moved Chris out of the creek and up to the ambulance. He and Andrea were loaded into the Ambulance. The ex-SEAL assisted in the back by pumping fluids into the bleeding bodies. The dead body of Robert Jenkins would wait for the next Ambulance.
Chris and Andrea were separated in the emergency room. Doctors quickly stripped off their tattered clothes and began to search for the problems to fix that would save their lives.
Chris's right arm had a six-inch gash to the bone, or what was left of it. It was shattered. It was gushing blood. Some deep cuts were on his legs as well. His ankles were broken, and his legs probably were as well. He had no neck or spine injuries, but he had broken most of his ribs and had a nasty gash on his head. Both his hands and his left arm where broken as well.
Andrea had only the single blow to the head. It was bleeding profusely and the skull was cracked and exposed. Doctors suspected the worst. Total brain damage.
Using the information on Chris's driver's license the hospital contacted his parents, and they contacted Andrea's parents. The ex-SEAL waited in the waiting room for them.
When they arrived, he introduced himself
"My name is Randy Miller. I was involved in the accident your children were injured in. I don't know how it started, but somehow their car crossed the median and another car hit it, then I hit their car. It rolled onto the creek. Your son saved your daughter's life. He pulled her out of the car and was pulling her to shore when he slipped and went down river. That's when I got down there. I jumped in as he slipped. He once again kept her safe by protecting her. They entered a rapid. He used his body to shield her. He got beat up really bad in there. He then resuscitated her by the time I got to them. Your daughter has a nasty head wound, and ma'am, your son has nearly broken every bone in his body except his neck and back. If it's cool, I'd like to stay until we get a report on the situation," said Randy in a long, slow explanation.
Andrea's parents had believed that the whole thing was Chris's fault, but the man's explanation made it seem like he saved her life.
Chris woke up. He was in a hospital room, not the emergency room. He looked around. He didn't see Andrea. He had a cast on every appendage of his body, and he had a body cast on over that. The nurse peeked in to check on him and was surprised that he was awake. She turned and yelled, "Doctor! He's awake!"
A middle-aged man in a lab coat entered the room and approached Chris's bed.
"Mr. Raines, you've had quite a week-"the doctor began.
"Cut the crap. What's wrong with me?" asked Chris.
"You have broken the following bones. Your upper and lower right arm are shattered. We had to operate to set the bones. Your upper left arm is fractured. Eight of your ribs are cracked. You have a small crack in your skull. Both your ankles are broken. Your legs, miraculously aren't broken. The cut on your right arm tore open your artery and you lost a lot of blood. I tell you, I'm in shock. I was told that you performed CPR on your girlfriend in that condition. But as far as other injuries go, you have no brain damage or spinal damage. You sprained and tore several ligaments, but that's all," said the Doctor. If Chris could have laid his head back and swore he would have, but he couldn't, so he just swore.
"And Andrea?" he asked.
"Your girlfriend?" asked the doctor, trying to prepare an answer.
"No. No. She, she can't be... ", started Chris.
"Dead? No, she's not. That's the miracle. Tell me, when the accident happened, where was your right arm?" asked the doctor.
Chris thought hard.
"Against Andrea, keeping her safe," he replied.
"When did you break your right arm?" asked the doctor.
"When we were rolling into the creek. What does this have to do with Andrea?” asked Chris.
The doctor picked up a rock off the air conditioner it was slightly larger than a cement block.
"This is the rock that broke your arm. It came through the windshield. That was when you saved her life the first time. Then you cut her out of the seatbelt. Then you shielded her body with yours as you tumbled and broke more bones than you have fingers. Then you performed successful CPR with these injuries," said the doctor.
"She died, didn't she?" asked Chris.
"You saved her life five times, so we got to save it one more time. She sustained a heavy blow to the head from this rock, even with your arm in the way. She has sustained brain damage as a result. In order to operate on her brain to reduce swelling, we placed her in a drug-induced coma from which she has not yet regained consciousness. But she is alive," said the doctor.
"Was the accident my fault?" asked Chris.
"They found shreds of tin in your exploded tires. They think you ran over them earlier and that the pressure on the tires forced them to puncture the tube. Then your tire exploded and you know the rest," said the doctor.
"What now, for me, I mean," asked Chris.
"Once your bones set and heal, you'll go into intense physical therapy to try and regain full use of everything. You'll have some more surgeries. You might be able to return to school in time for your senior year. You will be able to resume normal activities soon after your high school graduation, and you might be back at your previous physical state by this time next year," said the doctor.
"What about running, like track and cross country?" asked Chris.
"Maybe in time for your senior year, but no contact sports," replied the doctor.
"And Andrea?” asked Chris.
"Depending on the degree of her brain damage, she'll spend several months in mental rehabilitation until whatever can be done for her is done. It's a long and painstaking process, but it’s the only way," said the doctor before leaving a tray of food on the table. Chris's mother entered and began to feed him. But he couldn't pay attention. He had lost his life for a year and a half. It would be living hell.
In a month and a half he was out of the body cast and only wore a full cast on his right arm. He was released from the hospital, but he remained with Andrea, watching her, hoping she would wake up. He wanted to tell her he loved her. Life had screwed them. Maybe Life's just like this, he thought. Maybe they were meant to suffer. He sobbed. Everyday friends and family visited. And everyday he was stared at like he didn't belong. Even though the beggar had been charged with reckless manslaughter for Robert Jenkins death, the Williams family blamed him for the accident, no matter how many times doctors and witnesses told them he had saved her life. It was complicated, and it made him frustrated. On this day, they were alone. He talked to her as if she were awake. His stomach growled and he realized that he hadn't eaten since lunch the previous day.
"I'm just leaving for a while Andrea, I love you," he said, kissing her lips before opening the door to leave.
"Where you goin?" came a low raspy voice from behind him. He turned around.
Her eyes were open and she was moving her hand.
"To go get something to eat," he replied. She had been fed nutrients and fluids. She hadn't eaten since the afternoon of the crash.
"Can you get me something? I'm starving," she asked. He smiled and closed the door behind him.