On the evening of June 23rd, 2005, my family and I were taking a walk on the west side of Little Falls, Minnesota. I remember having a strange anxiety that night and didn’t know why, but little did I know it would affect my family and I for the rest of our lives. I had a pretty normal life as a kid for being 10 years old, nothing unexpected happened very often. I thought this would be a normal night for my family and I but things can easily change from having a great and normal life to a complete travesty in a matter of seconds.
My family and I were walking around on the west side of town and decided to go and see if my dad’s boss Chuck was at his apartment. He had recently bought an older apartment building so that he could fix it up. We waited outside the large white building, but nobody answered, so we decided to go to Chuck’s dealership to see if he was there instead. This was where Chuck kept over a dozen tigers and lions as well as a bear for pets. I was always scared to go there and I especially didn’t like my dad having to work there everyday. After arriving, Chuck wanted to show us an owl that he had recently acquired. This owl was kept in the same room that the tigers’ and lions’ cages were kept.
My Point of View
While my dad and Chuck were talking, I wandered out of the room to search for my mom and brother Steve. My dad signaled me back towards this room because he didn’t want me to get lost or injured. When I walked back into the room, that’s when I noticed Chuck holding a hair-brush in one hand and his other hand on the small latch for one of the black cages. I thought to myself, “he better not be opening that thing” and sure enough. Chuck opened the latch to the cage where the fully grown lion and tiger were together. Even before he could open the door the tiger lunged forward from its cage and I saw it coming right at me.
Hearing nothing but shouting, I remember turning away from the tiger and putting my hand out behind me to shield myself from the charging animal. The next thing I remember after that was being on my hands and knees, looking at the floor and seeing nothing but blood rapidly dripping down. At this point, the lion came out of the cage too and grabbed me by the neck then blacked out again. I woke up to having my face being dragged several feet across the cold cement floor. When I opened my eyes, it was like as if I was looking through a red stained-glass window. I remember screaming in my head, “God, please take me now, please don’t make this last any longer!” Blackness again.
After a while, I could hear the sound of being inside a helicopter, then everything went silent again. I don’t remember anything else until I woke up in the hospital 16 hours later. The first thing I saw was a nurse standing there and I asked her if my dad was ok since he and Chuck were in the same room as I was during the attack trying to get them off of me. I fell back asleep and woke up a short while afterwards to seeing my mom, dad and brother standing along the sides of the hospital bed. Again I asked my dad if he was okay, and he said he only had a sore wrist. It was about a month later I found out the story of how I got to the hospital.
My Family’s Point of View
I was told while my mom and Steve were calling 9-1-1, my dad and Chuck were rushing me out the door and into the car to go to the hospital. My dad was driving our white 1998 Monte Carlo at over 120mph as Chuck held me the whole way there. From the Little Falls hospital, I was airlifted to the St. Cloud Hospital, where I was for a few minutes before I was airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) in Minneapolis.
List of Injuries
My hospital stay was about four months total. After spending a few weeks at HCMC, I was transferred to Gillette Children’s Hospital in early July. I spent the remainder of the four months there recovering from all of my injuries. The most horrible injury I suffered was a fracture of my spine at C1 and C2, which is right below the base of my skull. That’s what left me a quadriplegic (paralyzed from the neck down) and having to be ventilator dependent. From the force of being thrown against the cement floor, I had multiple fractures of my orbit (the bone surrounding my eye), a fractured jaw bone on the right side, severe lacerations on my face, neck and chest. My carotid artery had been torn apart, which carries the main blood supply to my brain. This then resulted in a right middle cerebral artery infarction (a stroke). Also from the impact of my head hitting the floor, I endured a subdural hematoma (brain bleed), a tear in the lining of each of my lungs and finally, the last of my injury list was pneumopericardium, where air entered the inside lining of my heart and caused it to fill with fluid.
New Outlook on Life
After recovering from all of my injuries, I have a new way of living that I’m still trying to get used to at times. This new way of life is very difficult and sometimes I absolutely hate it with a passion. I have had to adjust to not being able to walk or breathe on my own ever again as well as losing my independence and every single bit of privacy. Still being able to speak, eat and think normally, I hold onto parts of my previous life. Now at age 19, I’m looking into a career in marketing since I enjoy the finding, buying and selling aspect of a small car flipping business my dad and I have for a hobby.
Even though I do not like how things turned out at all, my life has changed dramatically and I have to manage to adapt. There’s so many things I wasn’t able to try before getting hurt and now probably never will unless I invent special devices on my own. But there’s no way I can afford that. So if I could get some links to quadriplegic friendly driving related devices I’d really appreciate it.
On a Positive Note
Try not to take everything for granted and live life to the fullest whenever you can. It literally only takes a couple seconds to have your life change dramatically. Keep your head up and don’t let people or other things get in the way of your life long dreams. Remember that if you’re ever having a bad or depressing day.