It was a freak accident. Me, one of my crew-men, and my senior chief went to go defuel a helicopter. I remember seeing him because I walked right past him and looked at him. We didn’t say anything, but I looked directly at him. He was waiting to move a plane. When they parked the plane, I saw a guy cursing and running around. I couldn’t see the other guy anymore because of the view I had when I was defueling. My crew-man was looking directly at the guy and the plane, and his face was frozen. His eyes and mouth were wide open. I walked around to get a view of what happened. The guy had his helmet on, but a blade from the fueling tank had sawed into his head. When I saw him, he had a long gash from the back to the front of his head. It looked like all the blood in his body was on the floor. What messed me up was that I wanted to help him since he was dying. Nobody can do anything except medical, but I really wanted to. I didn’t like watching him die. He was nineteen. We were a few days from Thanksgiving. His wife had a baby on the way at home and we were just a few days from home port. His memorial service was probably the most packed service we had ever had on the boat. I have seen many silver coffins coming off and on that boat while I was in the Navy. It effects me to this day as ex-military because they’re still my brothers and sisters in arms.
I had a stroke in 2013, when I had moved to Denton. For some reason, I had headaches. The pain got so bad that it took me onto all fours. I couldn’t lift my head up, bend it down, or turn it to either sides. It felt like a bunch of needles were on my brain. The day before the stroke happened, I had seizures. I don’t know why. I’m 36, I’ve never had a seizure in my whole life. All of a sudden, I was having seizures and, a day later, a stroke. They later told me it was bleeding in my brain. Me being me, I don’t run to the doctor. I try to figure out what’s going on before I do anything like that. I called my mom and I told her that my legs were having spasms out of nowhere. I couldn’t even put my leg down. I wanted to sleep it off, but I decided to call the ambulance. When they were on the way, the right side of my body was paralyzed. The operator stayed on the phone with me until they arrived. I had to army-crawl on one side to the door to let them in.
After these experiences, I learned to try to slow down. Being 36 years old with kids, I can’t slow down too much because I have to keep up with them. But slowing down so I can learn to live is what I’m trying to do. That stroke could’ve been it for me and I still haven’t done half of the things I want to do. When I got out of the hospital and had full mobility, I started having more fun. You’ve got to learn to live. Life does pass by. You don’t even believe how quickly time passes. It creeps up on you and you have to have something to show for it. You want to do things in life that I haven’t done yet. You need to learn things. Don’t go through life never learning anything because it’s fun and you can connect with other people. Don’t be so fearful and have an open mind about people and cultures.
I was hit by a car in middle school. It was 4 days before my birthday. I was crossing the street and he was turning right. He didn’t see me because I was on his right. My bike flew out from under me and the car kept going. He took me under his car. My leg burned on his muffler. He continued to go, pulled into a parking lot, and everybody at the intersection was losing their minds. The whole time, my body was so numb, I didn’t even feel anything. Everyone was panicking and telling me not to move, but it was a hot day and I was burning on the road. I kept telling them to call my dad. At that time, the Dell Children’s Hospital had opened in my area and the people were wonderful. I owe a lot of gratitude to the nurses there because I was able to walk in four days. I had a fractured pelvis, a bent tail-bone, fractured rib, and a third-degree burn on my leg. I got out of the hospital still using a walker. I had to go back about once a week for several weeks. Whenever they removed the burn scar, they pulled the skin from below my knee to above it and I had a stiff knee. I used to run track, which was something important to me, but I had to stop because I lost my balance and coordination. I haven’t ridden a bike since.
There was a girl who used to go to school here. When we were Juniors, her roommate and I found her in her room dead. She was my best friend. We were at the library on a Tuesday night studying and she was complaining about a headache. I texted her on Friday and I didn’t get a response. She was working full-time and she had a full-time class schedule, so it was pretty typical of her not to respond for a while. That same morning, her mother had called me. It was one of the worst things I had ever expected. She would call her mother every day. So when her mother told me that she hadn’t heard from her in a couple of days, I had a bad feeling. I went to her and her roommate’s place. The place was messy enough to where her roommate couldn’t tell what the bad smell was. When I got into the apartment, the smell was apparent. It was really bad. Her bedroom door was locked, so we had to get someone from the leasing office to help us. They opened the door, but I stayed back in the living room. To be in the same room with my best friend, knowing she was dead, would be the hardest thing for me. I couldn’t do it.
She was my motivation and always wanted to study with me. She was supposed to graduate the next fall with a degree in Psychology. She had just applied for the Master’s program here. It was really difficult to know that someone so kind-hearted was taken from the earth. I decided to come back to school that fall, which was really hard to do. It took me about a year before I could go back into the library. When they had finished the new Union, I was hesitant because she loved the old union. She hated change and would have resented the new Union. Sometimes being on campus causes me to relive certain things. She influenced me a lot. Now I’m trying to finish up and graduate. Had she still been here, I think I would have had more fun, but now it’s like I just want to finish. When I do graduate, it’ll be for her.
I had never been on a rollercoaster, but, after she passed, I decided to go for it. I want to step out of my comfort zone and try new things. I hyperventilate when I’m near an airport, so my goal is to try to get on an airplane in a couple years. I’ve never been out of the country, but I really want to travel. I think we need to simplify and try to focus on a day. Just today. If we can succeed in the things we need to do today, then we get closer to our long term goals. It took me a long time to get to therapy and I recommend that people who need help try to seek it. I think we’re ashamed to let other people in.