I’ve always been reluctant to tell the story of my accident. It’s not exciting. But to some, it may be interesting. So here’s the tale of how my life in a wheelchair began:
As we drove to Liza’s house, my mom asks, “What are you two girls doing tonight, Kelley?”
“I don’t know,” I snap at her inquisition.
“You know the rules at home extend to wherever you are. You’re fourteen, remember that.”
“Really?” I roll my eyes, stare out the window, and snidely smile to myself.
“Hey, be grateful. I don’t know this girl, so you’re lucky I’m letting you stay the night at her house!” My mother spits at my attitude.
We often fought, and because we lived so far in the country we spent too much time driving around. Often in the car with her, I daydreamed about throwing myself out of the moving vehicle with a perfect roll, standing, and running out into the cornfields to catch butterflies, or I’d end up a bloody mess, dead, road-kill to be run over again and again. It depended on my mood as to which I would choose. But, I was a teen in defiance of all the adult world wanted me to be.
“Don’t do anything stupid and call me before you go to bed.”
“Thanks.” Dry I say, “Sure thing.”
Although my mom didn’t allow me to go in cars with boys yet, I smile knowing we were going to be picked up by some junior boys from a neighboring town to get some beer and drink somewhere. The excitement of breaking the rules makes me pounce out of the car, like a cat escaping, as soon as she pulls to a stop in Liza’s driveway.
“Bye. Have…” and I slam the car door. I run up the steps and ring the doorbell. Within a minute, Liza appears.
“What’s up, girl! Come on in!” Her curly hair teased high and wide, Liza leads me to her bedroom.
As we stand facing the full-length mirror, I beg, “So, what’re we doin’ tonight?”
“Rob called and said they’re going to be here in about an hour. He’s bringing his friend Shane. I guess we’ve gotta go out to Valpo to pick up a dude and some beer from a friend of theirs.”
“Are they cute?”
“I don’t know Shane real well, but I guess he’s not bad. Rob and I’ve been friends since we were in diapers, his mom and mine were high school friends, so I can’t judge him. Neither have girlfriends though.” She winks.
Time at that age passes so slow. That hour feels like an eternity, and as they pull up, I yell to Liza, “I’ve gotta pee, hold up, I can’t go all bloated with two cans of pop!”
After Rob honks the horn for the second time, Liza opens the front door, sticks up her middle finger, and screeches, “Give me a minute, asshole! Come on, Kelley! Wipe and let’s go! Your ass looks great!” She giggles, catching me checking out my own butt.
When I turned thirteen, I decided to quit gymnastics, basketball, and track. I wanted a team sport with much less stress. So, I followed my childhood dreams and became a cheerleader. Unfortunately, my true desire was to meet more boys around school and go to upper-class parties. By April of my freshman year, I was on the road to success.
As I climb into the back seat of Rob’s red Firebird with white wings on its hood, the dome-light illuminates their unattractive faces, and my heart sinks next to Shane. Then, Ron squeals his tires, like he ran over a dog, and peels out in front of her house.
I think to myself, I’m grateful my mother’s not around. Driving with morons is not appropriate behavior for your age, she’d say. This guy drives like a moron! Why the hell does he have to go so fast?
As he races us down a deserted country highway, the cornfields fly past my window at what seems like light speed. My tummy drops as he takes a quick right, then a left, swerving through stop signs and curves to come to an abrupt stop. Rob and Shane jump out and run up to a leaning yellow house. They knock, wait…knock again. Then, they jaunt back to the car empty-handed.
And back on the road we go. Finally, we arrive at a pool-hall in town. After a wasted evening with two high-speed hicks who couldn’t talk, I walk in thoroughly pissed off. With no faith in Liza’s choice of friends, I decide to plan my own night’s end.
A group of seniors stand playing pool, so I leave Liza and head to a male “friend” I recently snuck out with to drink one night.
“Where you been? What kind of douches are you hangin’ with tonight?” Todd asks in his usual way, anything but polite.
“Driving all over B.F.E. with some dumbass friends of this girl in my biology class,” I say, rolling my eyes high. “What’re you doin’ later?”
“Why?” He looks coy, “What’d you have in mind?”
“Well, how ‘bout you pick me up over at the Pop-Warner Field at one? It’s in her back yard.”
“Sure. You wanna drink or play?” Todd grabs my clenched cheeks, pushing himself up to me.
“I guess you’ll see…” As he stares down at me, Liza comes up and grabs my arm.
“Kelley, we’ve gotta go! I can’t be late for curfew! This place blows anyway.”
I follow her back to Rob’s car, and he peels out, like we’re in a race for our lives. This is the last thing I remember before my life changed forever.
They told me a dog ran into the road, and Rob swerved to avoid hitting him, which made him lose control of the car, careening us I into a telephone pole on the road I took every day to school. (I later learned that this wasn’t true. He was just going 30 mph above the speed limit for the curve.)
Rob was thrown out of his driver’s side window, to roll without a scratch. He ran to a close house to get help. In the front seat, Liza broke her neck, but they saved her spinal cord in her extraction. And Shane broke his arm on the telephone pole. My story was different.
They had to cut me from the car. The Firebird had spun around the pole like a sling-shot, throwing me unseat-belted to the top of the car, shattering my vertebrae at T-6 and cutting my spinal cord completely, so close to making me quadriplegic.
When I awoke in a hospital room, strapped to a bed that turned my lifeless body while I slept, I was a paraplegic at fourteen with my whole life ahead.