Author: Danielle Howard, TCU Student, Fall 2014
I did not have a typical High School experience. After dropping out of school and returning a year later, my only goal was to graduate as fast as possible. Senior year, I spent all of my time going to school and work, and going home to study. I wasn’t concerned with building relationships or having the social life that most teenagers have, and I didn’t realize that I was missing out on so many memories. Many people have stories of near death experiences and life-changing moments that led to clarification and inspiration, but my experience was much more than that. One single moment caused me to completely change the way I live.
Early one December morning during my Senior year, I woke up in excruciating pain. I could hear the steady beep of a heart monitor, and the muffled whispers of people nearby. When I opened my eyes, the fluorescent hospital lights made my headache spike to an unbearable level of pain. My mind was racing as I tried to summon up any memory from the previous night, but I came up blank. When I tried to turn my head, I realized that I had a neck brace on, and I was strapped to the bed, restricting my movement. This was the scariest moment of my life. My body was numb, and I was terrified and alone. I could hear the beep of the heart monitor picking up speed with my panic. When I opened my mouth I couldn’t form words, I could only cry.
Late the night before, I was in an accident that resulted in a Grade 3 Concussion. The impact paralyzed my diaphragm, leaving me unable to breathe. When I ran out of oxygen, my heart stopped. I didn’t regain a heartbeat for the eight minutes that it took the paramedics to arrive and begin defibrillation. When they shocked me for the fourth time, my heart miraculously restarted.
I don’t remember most of that night or the following weeks of recovery, but I do vividly remember the overwhelming regret that filled me when I realized that had the paramedics arrived just a few minutes later, that would have been the end of my life and up to that point, I hadn’t accomplished anything significant. I was stuck dwelling on the past and worrying about the future, and I was so busy trying to grow up that I forgot to live.
Because of that moment of impact, I am a living, breathing cliché. I believe in putting my all into everything I do, and never turning down an opportunity to make memories. I believe in living moment to moment and making peace with the past. I believe in acting now and thinking later, but never looking back with regret. I believe that sorrow is just as significant as joy because every experience we have shapes who we are. I believe in taking advantage of every moment we are blessed with, because one instant of impact can end everything.