A Nightmare on the Water
I barely remember the boat ride, but I do remember having the time of my life. It was nearing midnight on July 4, 2015. The fireworks had ended, leaving us with a beautiful full moon over the calm flat lake water. My cousin Jenna wanted to go for a boat ride, so my dad took her, Jeff (her boyfriend) and I out. My dad had grown up boating, and lived on this lake for 16 years. So this was a normal, perfect evening for a boater to go for a ride.
It started out perfectly, laughing with the wind and holding on to each other. I moved from the front seat to sit in between Jenna and my dad because we wanted to be closer to each other. I remember the feeling of pure joy, being with some of the people I love most in this world. We turned around to head home, and that is the last thing I remember before waking up in the water, like I had been drowning.
It felt like a nightmare. I was the only one completely submerged, but I held on to the rock that Jenna was face down on. I noticed that my left leg felt weird; I wasn't really in pain but it felt like my foot was coming apart from my leg. For a split second I was terrified that I'd be paralyzed the rest of my life, but my situation wasn't my main concern. Jenna's face was in the water, so I tried lifting it out, while I heard Jeff desperately repeating her name. I knew deep down she was gone, but I tried giving her CPR anyways. I quickly learned it was impossible since I could not rest my weight on anything.
I heard my dad barely making out Jenna's name as well. He was seated, propped up on the rock with blood on his face. I could not even see Jeff. He was on top of the rock, completely out of my view. I have never been more terrified in my life. No more than a couple minutes had passed before I started screaming for help.
We were, what felt like, in the middle of nowhere. I have no idea how long I cried out for help before I finally heard people call back to me. What I found out later was that a young boy and his sister were playing flashlight tag on the opposite shoreline when he heard my screams floating across the water, so he told his mom. There were five incredible strangers that came to get us, using flashlights to guide their way because their pontoon boat had no lights. I remember being in pain when they pulled me out of the water. I remember them checking for Jenna's pulse only to realize she had none. My dad was still alive at this point, asking as best as he could if we were okay. Once we got to shore the ambulance took me to the hospital.
Although my mouth was a parched desert, I could not drink any water because they were prepping me for surgery. This seems so trivial after everything I had just gone through, but it put me in extreme agony. There were times I wanted to start crying over how thirsty I was. I do not remember when I found out that I had shattered my left femur and degloved and broken my left heel, but I know I was relieved it was not anything worse.
I remember panicking about giving them my home phone number to tell my family what happened. Once my mom arrived, I immediately asked about my dad. I had been hysterically asking the nurses since I arrived at the hospital, but they just kept saying "I don't know, sweetie." I already knew Jenna was gone, so when my mom told me my dad did not make it, I felt dead inside, more pain than any physical injury could ever cause. It had to be a nightmare. I started sobbing immediately, repeatedly screaming that this could not be real. My mom tried calming me down, telling me I needed to save my strength for healing. I was so messed up from the pain medications and the shock my body was in; I just became numb.
They put my leg in traction which was easily the most physical pain I have ever been in. The next few hours before surgery are just a blur of being painfully thirsty and doped up on medications. My surgery took around four hours, where they put a titanium rod in my femur and two screws in my heel, with about thirty stitches. For ten days there was a high risk I could die from an infection due to my open wounds and being in the lake water. I had to take shots daily in my stomach to help keep me from dying of a blood clot.
For two months I had to keep my leg propped up on pillows (non-weight bearing), as opposed to the three months they originally thought I would need. I'm grateful that my recovery was faster than expected. I've been out of a boot since October, but am still working on gaining my strength and flexibility back.
My cousin's boyfriend Jeff unexpectedly passed away in October. He had suffered a head injury that we think was the cause. He remembered more from the accident than I did. Jeff had shared that when we were heading home in the boat that evening, everything suddenly became black. One of the guys who rescued us said it was as if someone turned the lights out. He looked up and saw a black rain cloud had suddenly covered the brilliant full moon. Jeff said it was impossible to see anything, that only a split second before we hit the rocks there was a faint outline of something.
There was a boat of six people with cellphones anchored nearby where we crashed, but they did nothing to help us.
The amount of gratitude I feel towards the people who saved my life goes beyond the depths of my soul. And even though I have never experienced this much heartache, I am so fortunate to be alive, and I plan on making the most of my time here.