I was lying in a hospital bed, weeping, thinking I was never going to walk again.
A terrible, horrifying car crash had left me partially paralyzed from the waist down. On July 3, 2004, we only had one vehicle. Mr. R was working for a furniture company as a driver. He had a helper named Tommy who we had become friends with. Tommy and his wife also only had one vehicle, so his wife and I took turns driving to Orlando to pick up the guys after their shift so we weren't both stuck at home all day with kids and no vehicle. It was my turn on July 3rd. Mr. R's mom was living with us at the time, and so I left the kids with her since it was quite late, about 10:30pm.
I picked up the guys, drove to Florida Hospital to get gas (we have our own gas pumps, and I can use my company ID to get gas, which I do when I'm broke, it comes out of my next paycheck), and hopped on I-4, heading east to Deltona. I was approaching Altamonte Springs, and Mr. R reminded me to be careful because Red Hot and Boom was letting out. That is their city's fireworks spectacular that they do on the 3rd instead of the 4th every year. We were quickly approaching midnight when the show was over.
I switched to the middle lane so I could avoid the traffic merging from Altamonte Springs. It didn't matter. A woman in a white 4 door sedan barreled onto I-4 and went right to the middle lane. I swerved to avoid her. It had been raining. My wheels skidded, and I hit the left guardrail, and bounced right off. I hit the guardrail so hard that I then flew into the right guardrail, right where there was a lake. I was screaming in fear, and all I could think of was my children. Our van kept spinning, and it bounced off that guardrail, back into the middle lane of I-4, where I was promptly hit by a Suburban and T-boned by an Expedition, I think.
Mr. R was able to hop out of the van with no problem, as it was my side that was hit. Tommy had been asleep in the backseat without his seat belt. He had a deep cut on his leg and was losing blood quickly. Me? I was trapped. I literally could not move. Then I heard sirens. Within seconds, a paramedic had crawled in where Mr. R had been. "Hi there. I'm Jason and I'm here to get you out."
"Hi Jason. I'm Sarah and I'm ready to get out of here!"
Unfortunately, they had to use the jaws of life to rip open the door to my minivan, as the front had caved in over my legs. After about 40 minutes, I was free, but there was no walking away for me. I was carried by a few strong paramedics, whisked to Florida Hospital Altamonte, and admitted overnight.
Doctors could find nothing wrong with my legs, yet they weren't working. One physician chalked it up to shock (really!) and told me I should regain my strength in a few weeks. I did walk out of the hospital one day later, but it was with a walker and it took me forever, but I didn't want to get used to a wheelchair. I also had a broken sternum from hitting the steering with such force. The same doctor who told me I had shock, told me, "It's a good thing you're so overweight. Your fat saved you. Had you been a skinny gal, your chest would have caved in and you probably would have punctured a lung."
I was covered in glass, bruises on my left side from head to toe, broken sternum, and faulty legs, but I was going home. To this day, some of my worst nightmares include spinning in a car in the dark.
But I'm here, and I survived, and I'm now walking and bicycling and so very glad to be alive for my children. I almost didn't get to come home to my family 5 years ago. Talk about Independence.