It had been four months since my near-death experience. Flying cross-country was challenging enough – I really was not aware of the obstacles that lay ahead. Death Valley, California.
Death Valley is the lowest place in the United States with the highest recorded temperature (134°F in 1913) in the world. I wanted to celebrate the fact that I was alive and loving life, so what better destination?
Much of Death Valley National Park can be toured by vehicle, which was great for me. You see, a few months prior while traveling in South Africa with my brother I was involved in a horrible car crash. I don’t remember being hit, and I was in and out of consciousness during most of the rescue. The only thing I remember is hearing the raw anguish in my brother’s voice as he tended to me, his gut-wrenching pleas for medical help when he saw how badly I was hurt, and feeling his hands on my face and a kiss on the top of my head.
Even in my altered state, the agony and torment in his voice broke my heart into a billion pieces and that 10-second memory haunts me every day.
They had to use “Jaws of Life” pneumatic cutting equipment to extract me. Moreover, I sustained a ruptured diaphragm which resulted in my stomach and intestines herniating into my thoracic cavity, a collapsed lung, my left femur being completely severed, six pelvic fractures, a broken wrist, and multiple cuts, bruises, and contusions. Multiple surgeries, seven nightmarish bed-ridden weeks in a South African hospital, and months of physical therapy ensued.
But here I was, determined to take on the world again, albeit still with a substantial limp, residual pain, and assisted by a crutch. No complaining from this girl as I re-entered my world of travel. I was well on my way to a 100% recovery. Life is too fantastic and precious to not work hard toward making it all you want it to be.
Read the rest of After the Crash: Celebrating Life in Death Valley in Epicure & Culture.