It’s the call no parent ever wants to receive. Saturday night and you are relaxing at home. You receive the news that your child has been in a bad car accident far away from home and is trapped in the wreckage. Time stopped still for me that night and my brain can still replay the frantic voice of my daughter’s boyfriend over the phone and my girl’s screams in the background. You can never unhear that.
They were several hours away from here at the time, heading out on their dream vacation to Montana where they were going to accomplish many fabulous, bucket list adventures. All their dreams were shattered in the broken glass of a freak accident — a demented wrong-way driver who hit them head on at 70 miles an hour on the freeway.
The days that followed are a bit of a blur, frankly, as they tried to figure out exactly how broken her back was and how to manage her pain. Her boyfriend Aaron and I stayed with her in her hospital room in Vacaville, which did make things a lot easier — thank you, Kaiser — since we could help her and her nurses keep her as comfortable as possible. I was so grateful they allowed us to do that, where many hospitals were still crying Covid and not allowing visitors let alone sleepovers.
Friends who didn’t live that far away brought us coffees, cakes and cheer. Our son came from Sac and helped get what remained of their possessions out of the destroyed truck and provide physical help and support where he could. It was such a bittersweet time, filled with the anguish of such a wretched accident, the pain and suffering of my child and then the unprompted kindness of so many people all around.
Complete strangers contributed to the GoFundMe for them so that they could get the down payment together for another vehicle, others helped with getting the medical records transferred from Vacaville to home. There was a beautiful outpouring from the best of humanity that filled my heart during those very difficult days.
I did wonder if we were going to be staying at Kaiser Permanente Vacaville for the indefinite future. It took a while to convince her to get into a vehicle; so, we kept having false alarms with our lovely nurse Glenn, as he would wheel her out as far as the passenger side door and then she would feel faint, and he would have to take her right back to the ward. I quietly asked him if he could drug her just a little, so we could get her home, but that didn’t work either.
He was calm and patient and told us she just wasn’t ready — that made all of us feel better and especially her. During the finally successful ride home, never mind the good drugs, she sat up wide-eyed and “helped” me drive all the way to the house, pointing out every obstacle or blade of grass that might hurt us. To this day, she’s not a good passenger. Like, at all.
A year on and the slow journey of her recovery is ongoing. She is still doing physical therapy, still dealing with medical bills (there are so many) and collection accounts when one gets missed. The never-ending fights with insurance make you crazy on a daily basis — I have had to take over that unenviable task; it’s too much for her psyche to manage — and she is still trying to finish her nursing course, as she has been determined to do all the way along.
There was to be no help from the guilty party, since she had dementia, no insurance, no driving license and no assets. It has taken my daughter a while to stop wishing ill on the person who did this to her.
No matter, some of us would rather she had focused on her recovery and not her career over the past several months; through this rotten dose of luck, she grew a grit and determination in her life outlook that will set her up well for the future. She slipped badly at the fence, but like a true racehorse, she got up and was determined to finish.
I shall be so proud to attend her graduation in September, along with many other proud parents, I’m sure; but so especially proud of my warrior girl that she overcame all the odds and still managed to secure her goal of becoming a nurse.
Life happens when you are making other plans and we will never understand why really lousy things like that can happen to hardworking, good people — but they just do. You cannot hold on to the bitterness and the resentment; you can only soldier on and be glad you didn’t lose her along the way. That awful thought has hit me in the head more than once over the past year.
You can only absorb one of life’s many lessons — in that people are basically good, people like to help other people and when you are down and out, you can very often see the best in others.
She wanted to mark the one-year anniversary of the crash. I honestly wanted to forget it; but I acknowledged that it was an important part of her healing and moving forward. She bought Aaron a gift to mark the actual day and we talked about how she hadn’t wanted to hug me that day when she said goodbye to leave on their trip; but I had made her do it anyway. Lessons to be learned there too — never leave angry. She couldn’t even remember why she was upset with me.
A year on and we are all a little wiser. We changed out our vehicles so that they would withstand a crash like that one did — thank you, Ford. We have rechecked our insurance coverages and made sure they count for more than just a fender-bender in the larger scheme of things. We don’t take things for granted in the same way — that people who leave will always come back. I should remember that from way back when — my grandpa was killed in a car accident — but I had forgotten it for a little while.
It’s been a rough ride, but it was ours to endure, and we are all stronger for it. Francoise’s victories in the next couple of months will be made even sweeter for all she has endured along the way.
Francoise Kallista Liberty Mason Jensen — my precious daughter.
Roll your eyes all you will. I am so blooming proud of you. I love you more than you will ever know.