It was a sunny Saturday evening in May 2014, the day after I completed the final year of my degree at Reading University. I had come back home to Birmingham for my best friend's hen party.
I don't remember much of what happened next due to my injuries so I have had to piece it together.
At around 7pm, I met up with my oldest friend Beccy and we walked through Lightwoods Park, Bearwood, making our way to the bus stop so that we could go into the city centre. As we stood waiting for the bus, a car travelling at 101 mph, which I later learnt had been racing another vehicle, lost control and mounted the pavement, smashing into the bus shelter that we were standing in.
"I appreciate all the little things so much more than I did before."
Beccy and I were thrown metres into the park that was full of people, some of whom gave us CPR until the ambulance arrived. Sadly, Beccy didn't make it and was killed instantly. We were both 21 years old.
I woke up from a coma six weeks later to the worried faces of friends and family. I didn't know where I was or what I had been doing with my life. It was really hard to talk and I had no energy. Everything was super bright because I hadn't used my eyes for a while, part of me thought that I was dead. When I finally got the energy to speak again I asked my mum what had happened. I felt utter disbelief. I thought it was a horrible lie.
It was a while before they told me what happened to Beccy, as I had suffered multiple bleeds to the brain, which made it difficult for me to retain information, but I knew something was wrong. All of my friends except her had contacted me. Eventually I was told. There are no words to describe how I felt. I have known her for as long as I can remember. We were best friends in primary and secondary school. She was the closest and oldest friend I had. It was just so hard. I wish I could talk to her.
I spent three months in hospital recovering from my injuries. As well as the brain injury, I had sustained fractures to my left arm, right wrist, the whole of my left leg, collarbone, sacrum and several bones in my neck and my right hip were shattered to pieces. Both of my lungs had collapsed; I had nerve damage to my left arm and severed the sciatic nerve in my left leg; and new bone grew outside of the skeleton in my right hip, which held my leg in place and meant I couldn't bend down for months.
I had to relearn everything, from being able to bend my fingers to learning how to walk again. Three years later and I am still undergoing surgery due to unresolved issues from the accident. I suffer from 24-hour nerve pain, ranging from a feeling of pins and needles to a sharp electric shock. This is likely to continue for the rest of my life. I've had 60 hours of surgery so far, the latest involving the amputation of my little toe due to a bone infection. Last November, I lost the ability to use my left foot to walk due to the infection and if my current problems do not resolve I will have to have my leg amputated.
My life now is learning to adjust. Before the accident I was really active. I would go running all the time. I used to do 12-hour shifts as a waitress, standing on my feet all day. I would cycle to work and go on regular 12-mile walks with my family. It's been a struggle to try and adjust to not being active. I am trying to work with what I've got but it's very hard – not being able to stand up and carry anything because of my crutches. Even carrying a cup of coffee from one side of the room to the other I can't do. If I want to get up and go to the toilet it's a big effort. I appreciate all the little things so much more than I did before.
The driver who hit us had gotten into a drunken race and at first he claimed he was innocent, but finally admitted causing death and serious injury by dangerous driving. He was jailed for eight years. He should have been charged with manslaughter instead: killing someone with a car is not a lesser crime. Whatever sentence he got, it would never have been enough for what he did to us.
I try not to spend my life angry at the people responsible. I'm lost for words as to why anyone would drink while driving. It has a ripple effect – it's affected my friends and family and Beccy's family have to live with the fact that they have lost their daughter for the rest of their lives. Her family still struggle with it every day.
I don't want to ask why, because I survived and Beccy didn't. It's not "why did it happen to me?" but "thank god that I survived". I have appreciation, whenever I find it hard I think it could have been worse. It's the biggest struggle to try and deal with, both the loss of Beccy and my loss of independence.
I can't remember my life before Beccy became part of it, when I was four years old. She is simply irreplaceable. We must do everything possible to prevent incidents like this from occurring, so that other people do not have to suffer in this way.
Harriet has written a blog https://thistooshallpass464.wordpress.com/ documenting her recovery.
Posted: 8/21/2017 3:52:26 PM