Place Essay Winner Juanita Lopez (City) My Car Accident



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2nd Place Essay Winner Juanita Lopez (City)

My Car Accident

Many people have incidents that may change their life’s path completely. A major event that changed my life completely was a car accident that I was in with my youngest brother and father on November 6, 1999. It was around 1 am., when my father, brother, and I were coming home from my cousin’s Quinceañera, which is similar to a Sweet-Sixteen party.  When we were at the party, my dad started drinking and eventually became drunk from all the alcohol he consumed that night. When he was driving on the freeway, he either fell asleep or had a reaction to the California Highway Patrol's emergency lights and crashed against the vehicle. My dad died instantly, I became unconscious and my brother woke up at the scene. Since I was not aware of anything, my brother Abel was the one to give all of our information of who we were to the California Highway Patrol sheriffs. Luckily, the sheriffs were at the scene, acted quickly, and sent for a helicopter to pick us up. When we arrived at Children’s Hospital, I was calmed and aware of things according to my mom, although now I do not recall that moment. My brother on the other hand was in so tremendous pain; he kept crying. I was immediately rushed into surgery where they removed part of my colon, replaced part of my aorta, which ruptured and put a graft, they gave me blood transfusion, and finally the doctors put rods on my spine since I broke most of it. Minor to that, I dislocated my jaw and had an open wound on my hip that was caused by my lap belt and had a few bruises. As for my brother, he was out of danger only having minor

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surgeries on intestines and back. As days and weeks went by, I slowly recovered from that terrible accident that almost left me dead, and according to my surgeon I was given 72 hours to survive. My family from all over the State came down to San Diego to support my mom and help her pray for my life, my brother’s health,  and for my father’s passing. 

I remember always asking for water and food, the nurses would tell me that I could not eat until I was better. I was so happy when I was able to put food in my mouth, but unfortunately my stomach couldn’t resist it so I had a feeding tube inserted to my stomach to help me get my nutrients that I needed. It had been around three weeks after my accident when I learned about my dad’s demise. My mom told me that when I was unconscious I would ask for him a lot, and she would tell me that he was hospitalized at Sharp Hospital because that was a hospital for adults. When my mom would tell me that my dad was at the hospital, I would shake my head saying no, I guess deep down in my soul I knew he was gone. The coordinator for the playroom had taken an interest in my brother and I, and it was she who told us that the doctors couldn’t do anything to my dad when he crashed against the California Highway Patrol, and I remember vividly saying back to her “he died, huh?” and her respond was a short yes. I don’t know if it was the fact that I couldn’t cry because of the stitches on my stomach or because I didn’t know how to react to the news that my father was no longer alive, but I couldn’t shed a tear. 


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Months went by and I was taking physical and occupational therapy, and that is when I learned how to do my daily routine all over such as dressing myself, pushing myself, showering, etc. By then I was already ten years old because my birthday was a month after the accident. When I was ten, I was learning how to do things that I already knew from before, but since my accident occurred; I had to re learned them differently. Instead of roller-skating, which I would spend hours doing, I was learning how to push my wheelchair. Instead of using my legs to walk, I was using my hands to move around in my chair. There were times when I would give up and I did not want to go to therapy. I tried very hard to do such things, I wanted to go out and play just as a normal kid would do, but I could not, and I learned that at a young age. Eventually, I returned home and I had to adapt to my new lifestyle. I had to be in a low fat diet, go to therapy once a week, and on top of that, I had to return to school. Going back was hard; I was in the 4th grade. Many friends would love pushing me around campus and others would always ask me what happened to me. I was never shy to tell them unlike my brother. I thank God for giving me a wonderful mother and family, who helped me throughout my hardest years. My uncle who is my dad’s brother promised to him that he would be a father figure to my brother and I and he has done a good job. 

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Growing up as a teenager in a wheelchair was hard at times but I always tried to make the best of it count. I was always making friends in school because they would take an interest in me since in a way I was different from them. I gained many friends and teachers always liked me. I would think I was likeable because of my disability, but I started thinking back prior to my accident and remembered that my teachers had always liked me. I concluded the reason why they liked me was because of the person that I was; my personality attracted to them not because they felt pity for me. Many of my teachers would always tell my mom how proud they were to have a bright student in their class and that students like me who take an interest in school made their job worth it. There were times when I would miss a lot of school due to my disability, but I always tried to catch up on my assignments and it showed because I would get good grades, eventually I graduated with my class of 2008.

When I was in high school I was introduced to a program called “What’s Next?” and it was for people with disabilities. At first, I was not interested to join, but a nurse that I have known for many years pushed me to join it. I felt like an outcast there, although all of the members were disabled I did not feel like one. That program helped me understand others with disabilities and changed my point of views that I had about not just myself, but others. I’ve learned to accept who I am and that although I can’t walk because I’m paralyzed from my legs, I

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know I can achieve anything I set my mind to. I do not pity myself, I know I am talented and I know I have been successful in life. I admit that being in a wheelchair can be difficult, but I have adjusted. I am able to live a good life although I sometimes wish I could walk again. I am just thankful to be alive. It gets me angry when I see how people live their lives so careless and take what they have for granted. I wish I still had my father and being able to walk. All I can do is cherish those moments I had with my dad and I thank God for giving me the opportunity to know how it feels to run, unlike others who are born with spinal cord injuries that have never even walked. 

Now that I am 21 years old, I can say to anyone that I love the life that I live. I'm attending college, and it has been one of my best experiences after high school. I enjoy learning different materials, and I've gained more knowledge about life itself, and those strengths not only my brain but also my soul. If I can change anything, I am not sure if I would. If I did not have my car accident I would not have succeeded the same way, and my dad would have been too strict with me. Since I had my accident, I always tried to better myself and push myself to be the best that I can be and show society that just because someone is in a wheelchair or have a disability doesn’t mean they are worthless and are unable to do things in life or become someone. I always like aiming high; I set goals in life and one day I will reach them. I keep in contact with most of my teachers including elementary teachers, and all of them have always told

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me that they have always imagined me as someone successful in life, becoming perhaps a professor. They have said I am an inspiration to them, others, and everyone that meets me because I change them in a good way. Sometimes people are too quick to judge before getting to know someone. My 9th grade teacher told me to never give up and change for the better; he has been aware of my strength as a person and has always trusted my judgments. I have told him that I want to make my mom and dad proud of me, I know my dad always watches over me from the heavens up above, and my mom is my reality, my backbone here on earth. I also want to make my younger brother proud of me so that he can use me as an example not to give up, and to succeed also. I have older half brothers who I didn't grew up with, and they unfortunately didn't choose the right path therefore they now tell me to not give up and make them proud, and that's what I'm trying to do every day. I hope to become a professor someday, and give all of the knowledge I have, and will continue to gain to people. Overall from what I've encounter, I do not hold any remorse against my dad or anyone, although he was at fault for that horrific accident that changed my life. Things happened for a reason, and I have learned to cherish life for I do not know when I might not exist. God gave me a second chance to live, I know I have a purpose on this earth and I am willing to pursue that purpose.


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