I woke up this morning with two goals for the day – first, to wash my hair (more on that later) and secondly, to write about the accident while it is still fresh in my memory.
It’s true what they say – that life, which is much bigger than any of us, can change in a fraction of a second. Saturday night began when my friends Omar and Mansour picked Tess and I up from the end of the year Schooling Plus party. We were all so happy and carefree, headed for Hammamet, listening to music and dancing in the car during the two hour trip. We spent much of our night at the Hotel Samira Club – where we watched a Hip Hop show and afterwards went up on the stage to dance. Omar and I were dancing so crazily that everyone stopped, jaws dropped, to watch us. We sat by the pool for an hour smoking shisha and laughing. After leaving the hotel we went to the nightclub Latino for another hour and a half of dancing… and after that we had really tired ourselves out so we got in the car to go to Tunis, 40 minutes away, where we planned to spend the night.
My next memory is waking up on the pavement surrounded by a group of people. I saw our car nearby, which was flipped upside down and flattened. I was overcome with shock. I remember crying and begging for a blanket, because I was so cold lying on the pavement. I felt so helpless and locked into my body. The worst part was not knowing if I was dying.
Eventually I was taken to the hospital by ambulance where I had my clothes cut off and was examined, scanned, stitched and medicated. All I can remember from that first night in the hospital was the pain, the people and details are a blur. I fell asleep for some time and when I woke up I could see the sun shining outside. My friends were transported back to Sfax (the two in the front seat walked away from the accident without serious injuries. Mansour, who was with me in the back seat, injured his leg and his right eye which I hit with the back of my head). The doctors told me I couldn’t leave the hospital. I learned that I had fractured two ribs and my clavicule and had bruised my lung – for this reason I needed to stay in the hospital to be monitored.
The first few days I was in too much pain to move without medication. I slept night and day. I had many visitors come to see me. My first day in the hospital a man came into my room who I didn’t recognize. I asked him if he was AIESEC and he told me that in fact he had been the one who had taken me out of the car after the accident and had been with me in the hospital through the first night. Adn came to see me everyday. He brought his Aunt with him the second day to wash me with a wet towel and change my clothes. It was these small acts of compassion largely from strangers that got me through each day. The hospital staff was wonderful and tried their best to make me comfortable, but as it was a public hospital I was not being given the care I needed. Food was wheeled into my room three times a day but I had no way of getting to it, no silverware with which to eat it, and most importantly wasn’t strong enough to feed myself. One night I woke up needing to use the restroom and had to scream “help” over and over again until a nurse heard me and came to help me sit up and walk the 10 steps to the bathroom. The staff saw that I was depressed and not eating and made the decision to allow a friend to stay with me in my bedroom and take care of me. The fourth night Tess stayed with me and the last night Mansour’s mother took the train from Sfax to stay with me and prepare me for the trip home. I survived 5 days alone in a hospital in a strange city thanks to the kindness and goodness of these people: Adn (and his Aunt), Fadoua, AIESEC Nabeul, Anis, Saber, Loutfi, Khadija, Assil, Fathi, Nizar, Bassem, Mahdi, Maher, Tess and Amel. My deepest thanks to all of you.
I was released from the hospital on Thursday and Omar’s father came to pick me up to drive me back to Sfax. Before leaving Nabeul we went to the police station so that I could file my official report of the accident – did I neglect to tell you the cause of the accident? We hit a car, which had stalled and been abandoned in the middle of the street without its lights on. I know, it is absurd and unfair. I hate that car that could have taken my life, but reflecting on the accident all I can say is “hamdoullah” (thanks God), because it didn’t kill me. We survived and now the four of us get to live in a Destiny’s Child song the rest of our lives.
Now I am back in Sfax on the slow road to recovery. I am staying with Mansour and receiving the best care in all of Tunisia from the Ajroud family. So, getting back to my hair (the other goal of the day if you remember), I haven’t been able to shower since the accident and many times in the hospital I cried over my hair, which was caked with dried blood (Mansour’s, not mine) and sat like a bird’s nest on top of my head. This morning, lying with my head hung over the side of my bed, Mansour’s mother washed it for me in a small tub then went to work for half an hour combing out the knots… it takes little victories to recover from a big accident!
I want to conclude by thanking all of you for your support throughout all of this. You give me the strength and the courage to get through this and to keep smiling!