I loved driving ever since I was a little girl. At the age of seven, my dad would sit me on his lap and let me hold the wheel while he pressed on the peddles down the streets in our neighborhood. I found thrill and excitement every time I sat behind the wheel and ultimately developed a passion for not only driving, but also cars. In high school I told my dad I was going to become a race car driver. He laughed at me of course, but I was actually being very serious.
After graduating from high school, I stayed home and went to community college for two years while working a part-time job, in order to figure out what I wanted to study. During those two years, I spent a lot of time driving to school, to work, back to school and ultimately home at the end of the day. I drove a 1994 Toyota Corolla that my dad bought for me on my 16th birthday from a family friend. One morning in December 2012 I was on my way to work, driving down the hill right by our house, when suddenly out of the corner of my eye I saw a car headed straight towards me. It all happened so fast, but next thing I knew there was smoke everywhere from not only the collision, but also from the air bags of my ’94 corolla that hadn’t been used in decades. I was shocked, and I was alone. He hit me on the driver’s side, right by my door and I was forced to climb over onto the passenger’s side in order to get out of the car. I saw two ladies running towards me, asking if I was okay and they quickly got on the phone with 911. I found my phone on the floor of the car by the passenger’s seat and started dialing my dad’s number. It’s times like these that make you realize who you really turn to and can count on in an emergency situation, and for me that person was my dad. I knew he wouldn’t over react, would stay calm, and would help me make all the right decisions.
I had never heard fire trucks and cop cars so loud, and they were all heading towards me and the “scene of the accident” as they call it. I remember the firemen put a neck brace around me and took me straight to the hospital. I didn’t think much of it at the time and it felt like it wasn't too big of an accident. I found out later that my car had been totaled, meaning that it could no longer be used. I had been whiplashed, pretty severely from the other driver's car traveling 40 miles per hour and my neck was going to need a long recovery process. I started seeing a chiropractor and he showed me x-rays of my neck where the damage had occurred. He also recommended for me to start using a buckwheat neck pillow for sleeping at night in order to help reform the curvature of my neck where the damage had occurred. This is the one I ended up getting; I have two of them now, one in LA and one in Marin! (https://www.pillowcompany.com/support-pillows/bolster-pillow/).
Six months later, on a July afternoon in 2013, I was on my way to work from college. I had a new car this time, an SUV. I figured I would be safer and more protected in an SUV vs. a sedan. I loved my 2006 Kia Sorento because it was the first car I ever bought with my own money and I was proud of it! I specifically remember I was listening to Lana del Ray, stopped at a red light in San Rafael, CA. Once it turned green, I shifted my foot to the gas pedal and as soon as I hit the middle of the intersection it hit me. My car turned 90 degrees to the right and started traveling down the street and suddenly came to a complete stop. I was right in the middle of the three lanes on 2nd street, but my car wouldn’t move. The other driver had ran a red light with a speed of probably over 40 miles per hour this time. I immediately dialed 911 this time and got myself to a safer place on the sidewalk. I was taken to the hospital again and although I was alone again, I felt much more prepared this time.
These types of accidents, as I later learned, are called getting T-boned because the two cards collide in a t-shape. I never saw them coming and they both hit me the exact same way each time. For weeks I was afraid of getting back behind the wheel and kept having moments of flashbacks to where I would see a car coming right at me out of the corner of my eye, even if I was just sitting in the back seat of the car.
It’s been almost six years since the accidents and I still use my buckwheat neck pillow every night when I sleep. Whenever I don’t sleep on my pillow, I wake up the next morning with sever neck, upper back, and shoulder pain that often makes me feel nauseous and gives me headaches. This is something I have to deal with, but every day I am thankful that those cars hit me the way they did and nothing worse happened to me. I still have anxiety about driving and flashbacks to those moments. The loud sound of the collisions, the firetrucks, and the thought that I could be involved in a car accident any time I drive scars me. I try not to think about it because I don’t want to constantly live in fear, but it’s a part of my past and continues to be a part of my present.
I never would have thought I would be involved in a car accident. Although neither were my fault, it always pushes me to take extra caution when entering an intersection, and even when my light is green I look both ways to make sure all cars are stopped before going forward. The accidents and my injuries are a part of who I am, and I choose to think of them as a learning experience and feel so blessed to have walked away without a scratch!
My story is not meant to scare anyone or tell you that we should always be driving in fear of accidents that may occur on the road. My main purpose for sharing this story was because it's something I continue to deal with to this day, six years later, and more importantly to reach out to anyone who has been involved in an accident of any kind. I believe that (as cheesy as it may sound) although our fears and experiences will always be a part of our past, we don't have to let them affect how we live in the present moment.