1. The Defining Moment

One defining moment changed my life for the good, for the bad, and most importantly, forever.

It’s funny how memories work. Sometimes, when you want to remember, you can’t, and other times, when you want to forget, all you can do is remember, over and over, like a carousel. Your mind is trapped by the memory, trapped by the defining moment. Tirelessly repeating. Endlessly searching for other options.

It’s funny how that works, as if your mind is searching for options in retrospect. You know, like when you have an argument and that witty comment comes to you a few minutes after the heat ends. But there is no way of going back and in time and changing what you you said or didn’t say. When the argument is over, it’s over, and all you can take from it is knowing that you should have said what you didn’t say or maybe the opposite, that you should have never said what you did. It’s the same with a defining moment, only the repetitive nature lasts longer; sometimes, it never leaves.  After this major life event, there was no exit, no solution. I can tell myself I should have done that, or I shouldn’t have done that, but in this case, it wouldn’t have made a difference.

Thinking back to that morning, before it happened, nothing stands out really. It was a morning just like every other morning, one I would normally forget. I didn’t wake up on the wrong side of the bed, and nothing was particularly wrong. It was a day like every other day, except for one important fact: that morning, I was running late. Maybe it’s not even worth pointing that out. I ran late often. I still run late often.  I am my mother’s daughter, and tardiness is second nature to me.

In those days, when I was running late, my mama would drive me and my cousin Clara to school. Clara was in middle school and would get dropped off at our house early in the morning, because the schools in my neighborhood were better than the ones in hers, and her parents wanted the best for her. Since I was still in elementary school, my bus would leave way before she got dropped off. But this particular morning, I was running super late and I had missed the bus so my mama was going to take us both to school.

I remember it still as if it just happened. It’s sharp, clear as glass. I grabbed my backpack and my shoes and slid into the front seat of my mama’s everest-green 1995 Toyota Corolla. The car was almost brand new – it couldn’t have been more than a few months old. I remember how much she loved that car. She’d had a Chrysler Caravan prior to purchasing the Corolla. It was a nasty maroon van, the kind you see in those old movies where families pile into their minivans and no one is particularly happy about being there. It was the same for us. No one liked the minivan, and my mama hated driving it.  So when she got the Corolla, it became the light of her eyes – she honestly loved that car and never really minded driving it as much as she did “La Van”, as she called it.

I sat next to my mama as she drove us to school. Like usual, she talked about pretty much everything on the drive. She repetitively spoke about my tardiness, and I zoned out. She’s always had a way of repeating herself, so there was no real need to listen to every detail. I sat there, scrambling around my seat, looking for my socks. I couldn’t find them, so naturally, I unbuckled my seat belt. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking – how was that a good idea? It wasn’t. It was not a good idea, but I did it anyway. I squirmed in my seat and managed to put both socks on, and then I bent over to tie my shoes. I guess I was bent over too long. Maybe, if I had been sitting up straight, I could have helped somehow. But really, there was nothing I could have done.  When I made it back up, it was too late. All I could see was the car heading right toward us. And it all happened so quickly. A quick blink and BAM. My blood pumped through my body like a hurricane swarms through water, fast and steady. My legs were shaking; my palms were perspiring. Our car was smoking, and the other car was in the middle of the road. My ears were ringing. Was I alive? Was everyone else alive? Could I move? My family was fine. I was fine, or so it seemed. My mama stepped out in a panic. Clara was sitting in the back seat, still in shock. I got out of the car and circled around, not knowing what to do.

Clara stepped out, and all three of us stood outside by the Corolla, watching as the ambulance took the driver of the other car away on a stretcher. I felt so lucky. There we were. We had just had a major accident, and all three of us walked away from the accident scene without a scratch.

From that point on, I can’t remember much. My brother came to the rescue and I got dropped off at school. The rest of the day is a blur. I continued my life as if I had just ran over a tiny bump in the road.

Somehow, that accident became such a defining moment in my life. It became life before the accident and life after. I know now that life is filled with defining moments, filled with madness and craziness that comes in so many different ways, from so many different directions. But at that age, I hadn’t had too many defining moments other than the death of my father, so a defining moment like this one made a huge impact on me.

Two weeks after the accident was when everything started. It was then that the pain came crashing down like a million tiny needles hitting my entire spine. It was then that I realized I had trouble sitting in a chair for too long. It was then that my physical body was letting my mind know that things were off. I went from the age of nine to eighty in a split second. I couldn’t run during P.E., because my body ached all over. I felt like I was dying, or maybe like a train had just crashed into me at full speed. Every ounce of my body ached and I didn’t know what to do. I thought for sure that the accident had ruined my life and that I would be in pain forever. Somehow, I was right – I would be in pain, forever, and I would never be the same.


Photo Credit: deathtostock.com

42 thoughts on “1. The Defining Moment

  1. Thank you so much for this comment. I think it’s very important to look at all the options before opting for spinal fusion. Unfortunately, I was never given many options. I was presented with having surgery or possibly death. Surgery always comes with so many negative consequences and it should be the LAST possible option. It’s really great to hear that Matt has improved so much just be stretching. Is this part of some sort of treatment? such as CLEAR, or Schroth Method?

  2. Wow, what an experience. Love how you write with such imagery and comfort. I felt like I was right there with you when listening to you mom and then the accident. You are one courageous, lady!

  3. Wow that was intense. Feels like I came out of the accident myself.
    Hi Eliana, missed your posts for a long time now. I am a curvy spine and I too had no choice but to go for surgery. Life has never been the same after scoliosis.

    1. Hello! Thank you for not giving up on reading my blog. I’ve decided to rewrite all my original post and add a ton more. I now have a schedule and will be posting around every two weeks. How long ago did you have surgery? It’s so crazy how much things change. Especially after surgery. I think I thought it was all going to be back to “normal” but it was nothing like that. It’s really great to hear from you 🙂

      1. I had my surgery in 1999 (wow I didn’t realize it has been that long). I too thought everything would go back to normal after the surgery. I was so wrong.
        When did you have surgery? Really looking forward to read more from you. I can totally relate to most of the things you had to go through. Nobody understands a scolio better than another scolio :).

      2. Oh wow, we had surgery the same year! My first one was in 1999 I was 12 years old at the time and my second one was in 2005. Where are you fused? It;s hard to explain what we go through, because even if you tell someone you have scoliosis they forget or they do not realize how big of a deal it actually is. How are you doing today? Have you had any other complications?

  4. Eliana, wonderful use of imagery in this post! I could literally feel the intensity of the emotions that you underwent both the day of the accident and the discovery of your pain. Living with pain is draining–both emotionally and physically. I commend you for your bravery and resilience. Happy to have you following my blog and I look forward to reading your future posts!

    1. Thank you so much for the comment and for taking the time to read and follow the blog. It’s really nice to know that it does translate into feelings 🙂

  5. Wasn’t diagnosed with scoliosis until I was 11. They did not put a brace on me, because that would cost my parents too much money both for the brace itself and the appointments to monitor my body’s progress. You are very lucky you got treated for it at all!

    1. Thanks for sharing! I know what it pain it is not to have insurance and to always be worried about the cost. I didn’t have health insurance at the time of diagnosis. But when I got surgery, I got Florida kid care to cover the cost. I was lucky to live in a state that provided health care for kids and I was really lucky I was able to have the surgery. By the time I had surgery my curves had progressed to around 80 degrees and 50 degrees – it was tough. Have you had any treatment for it recently? How’s your pain?

  6. No one can know “that moment,” your pain, your suffering, your forever. What does shine through for all the world to see is your bravery, your enthusiasm, your reaching out, your encouragement, and on it goes.

    In all your torment … you have become a gift to those who need your light.
    blessings ~ maxi

    1. Thank you, Maxi. Your words mean more to me than you can imagine. I thank you a million times over for taking the time to read my blog. Sending positive thoughts your way.

    1. I am really happy to hear that I was able to take you to the day of the accident. I’m not always sure I am conveying the right feeling so feedback is always appreciated. Sending many blessings your way 🙂

  7. Thanks for sharing your experience and as yourself, life has thrown some curve balls and sent me on a path around the world. I also enjoyed Switzerland and some EU countries before returning to America…Cheers!

      1. Hi Curvyspine. I never lived in Switzerland. Lugano would be nice indeed. I have worked for companies in that region and/or visited on vacation. Switzerland was on my list for a place to live next but I’m on a different location now. Cheers!

  8. I’ve known too many people who had back surgery and wished they hadn’t. Just like there are bad doctors, there are bad chiropractors, too. I was fortunate to find excellent chiropractors. My first visit to a chiropractor was at the age of 23. I remember how the spine twisted and his explanation about why my back hurt so much. I’m now in my 60’s and the right shoulder is slightly higher than the left, but with chiropractic treatment my back improved over the years.

    When my son was in an accident, I was sitting in the back seat. He’s tall and the car had a hanger that usually is only above the windows of the back seats. His head hit the protrusion. I insisted that he go to the emergency room. He finally did so. Later he found out that if he hadn’t done that, the insurance ;laws in his state would not have paid for treatment when mild brain was discovered. Sometimes the problems don’t show up until days or weeks after an accident.

    1. It’s true. Every doctor is different and every case is different. In my situation, I sometimes wish I hadn’t had surgery. Being fused makes everything slightly more challenging, but at the time, I was only 9 years old and I had lost all hope in chiropractors. Regardless, having surgery saved my life. I wouldn’t be alive today had I not gone through it. As far as accidents goes, it’s true. Sometimes you need something like an accident to happen to make you aware of the underlying issues you may be experiencing ❤️

  9. Beautiful. Very well written. You have the talent of carrying your reader along with you, into the story. The accident and the aftermath, are both cruel gifts of fate. Looking forward to read all your posts one by one.

    1. Thank you so much. I really feel like I have relived this period in my life over and over. I think the repetitive nature of my memories makes it a little easier to write the story. I hope you like the rest of it just as much 🙂 Sending lots of positive thoughts your way!!

  10. is this accident what caused your scoliosis? I’ve been in many. sorry to hear it was so traumatizing for you.

    PS I sent you a message about a survey i created that’s related to scoliosis. 🙂

    1. I have idiopathic scoliosis, which means, I was born this way, but the accident was what led to my diagnosis. It wasn’t super traumatic so much as it was memorable. It’s hard to forget the day that led to a scoliosis diagnosis, which led to my life changing completely. It became life before the accident and life after.

  11. I love your writing! As well as your story and background. I’m curious, for your blog post’s, are those photos your own personal photography?

    1. Hi Miles! Thank you so much. I am a bit shy about my writing, so it’s always nice to hear people enjoy it 🤗 I’ve taken some of the photos, but some of them I’ve borrowed from freeimages.com and I hate stock photography. I’ll have to go back and give credit where credit is due!

  12. absolutely love and adore you blog and this post is so close to everything I believe in that it make me think that we are a blogmates 🙂

  13. I believe that you’ve been lucky on several levels. I’ve heard Japanese cars are safer than American cars of old. You had someone to cover the cost. You were in an advanced country and you later had chance to tour the world.

    I’m glad that you mentioned all that, have a positive outlook and thank God for His blessings. One can thank her way out of any misfortune and turn it into a blessing. Be strong, you got an amazing story to tell the world.

    1. Hi Berni! Thank you so much for reading my blog. You know, my life, much like so many lives out there, has been filled with extremes. It’s been so incredible, yet so difficult. I wish things were handed to me, but they weren’t. So many times, I’ve had to fight for my own survival. My family did not have a lot of money, so all the traveling I’ve done, is because I took out massive student loans, which I still owe close to $200K. But, I did that, because I felt like if I wanted to travel, I needed to do it while I was able to travel. I can’t imagine traveling as much as I have as an elderly woman. I have been so fortunate, I thank God and my angels (who, I am sure watch over me), for all the many blessings I’ve had come my way. I am telling my story, because I think it’s important for people to understand that scoliosis is a difficult condition to live with and I am just doing my best with the cards I was dealt.

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