Stuck in the moment
After a car accident, a college student learns patience and discovers a richer life
By Arturo Arrazola
Everything began on a Tuesday evening after I left the university for the day. I was driving home, and a car came out of nowhere as fast as a bullet and collided with the front of my car, causing a seven-car pile-up.
I just remember a flash and then the pile of wreckage, from which my life was spared by a miracle.
After I regained consciousness, I was in shock. Then I started looking around from my smoky car. I saw metal everywhere and could hear the sirens from the firetrucks and ambulances. I didn’t think I was hurt, but when I tried to move I felt pain in my leg and hip. I realized I had broken something.
The firemen got me out of my car and loaded me into the ambulance to transport me to the hospital, where I had X-rays done. I had broken my hip. I called my brother that night, and he called my mom and passed the word around about what happened.
The next day I had surgery, and now I have a nice new metal piece holding my leg and hip together.
After about five or six days in the hospital, I went home to start working on some very light recovery and therapy. Each day I had to do some exercises to regain my mobility and elasticity.
Those first few days and weeks were very hard because movement was difficult. Getting around the house was quite a challenge, and my mom or dad had to help me do things I’d been doing on my own since I was six: putting on socks and shoes, getting in or out of bed, showering, sitting and getting up, getting dressed — basically anything that required movement.
You learn to be independent as you grow up, so to have someone do those things for you again feels pretty awkward, but I felt their love. It made me stop and appreciate the little things, like them bringing my lunch to the table.
My patience definitely grew during this time. At first, I had hoped that I would heal quickly and be back to my normal routine soon. But the second time I saw my doctor, he told me I would have to use my crutches for three more months. That was hard, because I was mentally ready to start walking. I had to accept this and take it slow from crutches, to cane, and about four months later to two feet.
Physical therapy helped me see how lucky I was. I was there with a lot of people and saw their suffering, and I realized mine was nothing compared to theirs. Yes, I was using crutches, but I was walking.
Other big challenges came with my injuries and tested both my patience and my hope and optimism. Since I couldn’t go to work, I lost my job. Large hospital bills quickly piled up.
I wasn’t able to attend university either, so halfway through the semester I had to withdraw from all my classes. The school wouldn’t let me shift the classes online, but they wouldn’t give me a refund either. Basically, I felt robbed of time and effort, homework, books, and all the money that the university kept.
Another challenge I had to face once I was better was getting in the car again — I was scared of having another accident. The only way I could do it was praying and trusting I’d be fine. Once I started driving again, it got better because I trusted my abilities again and felt safe.
What is most frustrating is that you are stuck in life in that moment and you can’t do anything else. I had great grades at school. I had a decent job that worked with my school schedule. I had everything the way I wanted it to be. Now I felt in limbo, because I wanted to move on, but I had to take it slowly.
It made me think that for whatever reason, it wasn’t the right moment for all these things, and sometimes you just have to wait and things will come your way.
What happened to me was a little like what happened to Jesus on the cross. The most striking thing about him is that at a certain point he felt there was no hope, that he had been abandoned. And everyone can feel the same way when they go through rough times, and that happened to me.
But you have to get up and say, “This is part of life, another trial that you have to deal with, but eventually it is going to be okay.” It helped me to think that Jesus who had experienced these dark moments was with me.
Thanks to my family and friends I could put sorrow aside and move on. Besides my parents, my girlfriend was also always there to help me and take me to physical therapy. I was feeling trapped in the house all day, and I like to be outside, so when my friends came to visit me and we had a dinner together, the change in the routine was a great thing. It made me forget about the situation.
Time for gratitude
I had time to ask myself, “Am I doing this right? Am I going for the right things? Am I spending my time on what’s important? What can I change and what can I do better?” And I felt that yes, there needed to be a change somewhere.
Unfortunately, our Western mentality is that we have to be successful, have a career, make nice salary, have a house and a car. You think that you’ll start living life in a good way when you are 30, that these things will make you feel stable.
And you kind of rush through it, not paying attention to your daily living because you’re focused on your end goal. You skip a lot of good things, like enjoying the nature around you, and you forget about the present moment.
I did. I just wanted to get this class done, get my paycheck, going, going, going. We have a rush mentality, but we only have the moment, and that’s where our focus needs to be. I was thinking too much ahead and not really enjoying the daily things. In the long term that rush makes your life very frustrating.
Now I take the time to be more grateful, to find more pleasure in the simple things, like being able to brew my own coffee or put on my own shoes, or simply being able to walk and move like I used to.
I’m thankful to God for letting me live and that I survived such an experience, because at the end of the day he is the one that has the final word on everything, and sometimes the human ego doesn’t let us see what is better for us or what is ahead of us.
Now I’m back in school, and I hope I can get back to soccer soon. The more my family and I share the experience, the more we find closure. I’m trying to not worry about the money, but to focus on getting healthy again and just taking things one day at a time.
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