November 25, 2009, the day before Thanksgiving. My daughter Caisla was out of school for Thanksgiving. She was grounded, but begged me to let her deliver a cake she made to her boyfriend for his birthday. She’d be there and right back home. The last time I spoke to her she called me with a question about the cake. Then I went about my errands for the next day. I was in the library at the counter, when my phone rang. The caller was Caisla’s cousin of the same age, but I couldn’t understand her, she was hysterical, crying.
I managed to understand their location, something about the boyfriend…the car… and headed that way. I was actually irritated, thinking they were just involved in some teenage drama. On my way, about a five block drive, I wondered if she was fighting with her boyfriend. We are and were a law enforcement family and I know how emotions can run high, so I called the police department just to see if an officer could meet me over there just in case. The dispatcher, who I knew, said, “Hon, everyone I have is there.” I will never forget that.
She didn’t lie. When I turned the corner, everyone was there. The chief of police was on the phone, firetrucks, ambulances and a small crowd of EMTs surrounding a body on the asphalt. I could only see a small bare foot sticking out from between them, but I knew it was my daughter.
Both cars were smashed and being towed. Blood, glass and teenagers filled the intersection. She was motionless, blood coming from her ears and nose. I talked to her and I was really calm until they loaded her in the helicopter. It was then that I begged her not to leave me. They pulled me away from her and she flew away, to another state. I would have to follow by car.
Her name was Caisla Renee. She woke up from her coma insisting she was Renae. Eventually we changed her name legally and Caisla is gone forvever. For me, she’s been gone since I got that phone call.
Her diagnosis is Traumatic Brain Injury. It is permanent, chronic and she is twenty years old. Five years have passed and we have many ahead.
The very first person to her side was Aaron Cook. He is a firefighter from another town who was off duty. I credit him with saving her life for a few reasons. She was surrounded by teenagers who could have moved her etc. Aaron of course secured the scene, and put her in c-spine. He also called EMS on his radio…no 911…precious minutes saved and he was immediately able to calmly tell them vitals, location…everything he knew they would need to know. Most important, he was there, when I wasn’t. He talked to her, she wasn’t alone. In those first seconds…she might have been able to hear… She was still Caisla. He was the last person, the only person there, as she slipped away.
Obviously many people saved Renae…but Aaron Cook had to save her first.
The last five years…have sucked. I hear a lot of “at least she survived.” I don’t argue… But SHE didn’t. No one gets that. I have a new daughter and I love her. I take care of her everyday. But the daughter I knew and raised, she died at 4:18 pm on the corner of 8th & Chestnut. I have yet to mourn that loss. There’s no time.
Our life is 100% different. Renae will never leave home. The dreams we both had for her life….gone.
We keep going because we have no choice. I’m sure there are things I’ve gained…strength, knowledge, empathy. I have a new husband and step children and a life I wouldn’t have found if circumstances were different, but I am always asked… Would I trade it all? Would I go back? Absolutely. I would do anything to go back to that day… To say no.
I’ve had so many people… Other TBI parents…tell me how strong I am…what an inspiration I am. I’m not. I don’t ever feel OK. I will never be OK. There is no silver lining. I guess all anyone can do is the best they can. It’s OK to be mad. It’s OK to remember. People want to sugar coat everything and be cheerleaders… But there’s just nothing to celebrate sometimes. I’m really not a negative person.. But on this topic. I’m just real.
I’ve seen more than one accident scene and seen what a car does to a soft human. No one was drinking in my daughters accident…no cell phones…only 40mph.
We take so many things for granted. We laugh at our kids when they rev their engines or hit a curb or a trash can. Cars kill. They kill more than guns or cancer. We keep treating them like accessories instead of the high powered machines that they are. Driving tests are a joke. Driving age is way too young. I don’t know why this doesn’t get more attention. I hate cars.
Story written by: Cherilyn Hearn
This story was seen first on Real Imprints.