It's funny the things we remember and the things we don't. I remember like it was yesterday my 3rd grade father/daughter dance. I danced the night away in my pink and black dress while my dad watched, smiling at me the whole time. Fast forward to high school, I was one of four freshmen to make varsity cheer, but I can't seem to remember anything from that first football game. I remember the days I spent in New York just two days before my incident, but I can't tell you what took place in the morning hours of June 7th just before the moment that changed my life forever.
Have you ever regretted doing something immediately after doing it? My first thought after the gun went off was "Oh No, What did I just do?" I didn't want to die.
I was making all of the wrong choices. For me it felt like my world was ending because no matter what I did, or what I said, I could never be the child, friend or student that everyone wanted me to be. I was too hard on myself, too critical of every single thing. In reality, I was just making mistakes, and they didn't really define me like I thought they did. Things in my life weren't as bad as I was making them out to be, they never really are. Lying on the floor going in and out of consciousness, my life flashed before my eyes. I remember hearing my mom cry out after she found me. Hearing the fear in her voice was something I had never heard from her. I remember hearing her tell me "keep breathing Emma, please just keep breathing" and then silence.... darkness.
I was airlifted to Our Lady Of the Lake Hospital and rushed into emergency surgery. My injury was critical and no one knew if I would survive. The bullet entered my body in the upper left chest area traveling upward severing the left carotid artery completely, causing massive internal bleeding. Several blood clots traveled to my brain causing me to suffer multiple strokes during surgery. A large hematoma formed and was pressing on my spinal cord from C5-T2 causing permanent bruising. There were bone fragments lodged in my spine from the blast, and the bullet nearly missed my skull exiting the back of my neck. The damage I had done was extensive. I was lucky to be alive.
I believe that traumatic events disorient our memory. Waking up in the Trauma-Neuro Critical Care Unit with surgeons, nurses, family and friends coming in and out, I had no clue what happened. It wasn't until I started to hear people talking around me that it all came rushing back. I didn't know how to feel; I felt sadness, regret, fear. But the one feeling that I felt from the beginning and still feel to this day is Thankful. Thankful that something that I had done to myself, that should have ended my life, was instead a wake-up call. Thankful for my second chance. Thankful to have witnessed God's mercy and everlasting love.
So where do I go from here? I'm a paraplegic, living my life in a wheelchair, with a paralyzed left hand and a very weak right one. I have a stent in my carotid artery and rods and screws in my neck. I think back to the day in TNCC when I tried to move my legs and couldn't. I was still intubated at the time, so I couldn't speak. The nurse came in and was doing something with my legs and feet. She must have seen the fear in my eyes as I watched her because she asked me "Do you want to know why you can't feel or move your legs?" I nodded my head and she began to cry with me as she told me that I was paralyzed. I have often thought, "Is this God punishing me for trying to take a life... my life?" But then I remember how I was told that I may never walk again, that I may never feed myself or dress myself, or even be able to use the bathroom on my own. All of these things I'm learning to do again. As it turns out these are just moments in my life; a life that I am blessed to still have. I know that I am just in the middle of God's masterpiece of a plan for my life, and in His faithfulness I trust; look how far He has taken me already.