‘It was exactly 4:00 p.m. There were no other cars around me for about a mile. I noticed the truck turning left and wasn’t slowing down to turn. In fact, he was speeding up. This was it. I knew I was going to hit him.’

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“It was December 22nd and I had just spent the afternoon shopping with my friend Bailey. My mom was going to be adding me back onto her family phone plan, so I dropped my phone off with her, and Bailey and I hit a few more stores.

Courtesy Lauren Malais

My mom called Bailey when my phone was done, and she told her she’d just give me my phone when I got home. But I was adamant about getting my phone back. I didn’t know why I needed it back so badly. But I did. So, we met up with my mom and I got my phone back.

We went our separate ways.

I had a dentist appointment at 4:30, so I took Bailey home, helped her carry in her stuff, and got back in my car. That day I felt a strong feeling that I needed to put my seatbelt on in her driveway. I thought it was a little bit odd, because I usually didn’t put my seatbelt on until I was leaving her neighborhood, but I put it on right then. I turned on the country station, Carrie Underwood was on, and I started my drive. I pulled out of Bailey’s neighborhood and accelerated and approached the first stop light, it was green for both directions. But I noticed the truck turning left for the other direction wasn’t slowing down to turn. In fact, he was speeding up. This was it. I knew I was going to hit him.

By the time I noticed what was going to happen, it was too late to do anything. Time slowed down. It’s almost as if everything was in slow motion. I took everything in… I looked down; I was going 47 MPH. The speed limit was 45. It was exactly 4:00 p.m. There were no other cars around me or behind me for about a mile. I knew I needed to brake but knew it wouldn’t do much because by the time the truck turned, I was already in the intersection. I knew I needed to turn my steering wheel right so I wouldn’t end up in the intersection. And then, time sped up again. I braced for impact. And I hit.

Courtesy Lauren Malais

My airbag deployed but popped (We’re assuming it was because of my watch). My head smacked the steering wheel, and in that moment, I felt a strong force, as if a hand was holding my chest back… My knees hit the dashboard so hard they instantly swelled. Liquids from the car went everywhere, leaving my hair and clothes wet. My car spun out of the intersection to a stop. The man’s truck rolled 3 1/2 times and got stuck upside down. My car instantly began to smoke. I began to panic. I took my hands off the steering wheel. Put my car in park and opened my door. As soon as I opened my door, I dropped to my knees. I couldn’t walk. But because my car was smoking, I felt I needed to be away from it.

I noticed the large group of people running to my rescue as well as the man in the truck. All the men ran to the truck and all the women ran to me. Practically picking me up and carrying me to the sidewalk. I cried out in pain and confusion. I was extremely concussed. I couldn’t think straight. I kept telling them, I need to call my mom. But I knew she wouldn’t get there fast enough. So, I called Bailey. After all, she was only a mile away. ‘I was in an accident. Drive out of your neighborhood and you’ll see me.’ I couldn’t hear Bailey on the other end. My phone was damaged from all the liquids in the accident. So, I hung up. Hoping she heard what I said. I then tried calling my mom, but off a phone from a bystander. Except she wasn’t answering. I tried multiple times. No answer. Until I realized, I wasn’t calling my mom. I was calling my own phone… I cried more because I couldn’t think clearly at all. I was so frustrated with myself. Eventually I was able to call my mom and tell her I was in an accident. The only problem was, the streets were now flooded with traffic. There’s no way she’d be able to get through.

Courtesy Lauren Malais

Firefighters, cops, and ambulances showed up. I saw Bailey and her mom pull up and run to hug me. All other bystanders were dismissed after giving there witness statements. I sat there in confusion crying to Bailey and her mom. Wondering if it was my fault. It clearly wasn’t, but I was concerned. There was a man trapped inside his vehicle still. But in this moment of freaking out, a random man, who I hadn’t noticed before, came up to me and handed me his business card. He said, ‘My name is Dr. Smiley. I saw it all. It wasn’t your fault. You did all you could do. Call me if you need me.’ I took his card and never did see him again… but to me, in that moment, he was an angel. He was a moment of peace amongst the crazy.

Eventually the cops came and talked to me. They got my statement. They asked if I was wearing my seatbelt. I told them I was. They thanked me and said, ‘If you hadn’t been wearing your seatbelt, this accident would have ended very differently. Too often we see accidents like this, and the driver goes through the windshield. So, thank you.’ Instantly it hit me, that prompting I got in Bailey’s driveway might have just saved my life…

Paramedics began running my vitals and asking me about my pain, but I got distracted. I looked up and saw my mom in her big blue truck, driving through the fields next to the road to get to me. She parked in the field across the street, and the cop that was guiding traffic let her cross. She ran to me. And I instantly began to sob.

The paramedic asked, ‘What pain are you feeling?’ I looked up and said ‘My knees really hurt; I can’t put any weight on them. And my left ankle really hurts. My head hurts. My wrists hurt. My chest hurts, it’s hard to breathe. My back hurts, and my neck hurts.’

I felt like I was rambling on…

By this point, firefighters had spent over 30 minutes trying to get the man out of his truck. I was concerned for him. His truck looked worse than my car, so surely, he was going to feel a lot worse than me, and I was hurting pretty bad… so I prayed for him. Prayed like I never prayed before… I just wanted him to be okay…

Eventually paramedics pulled him out and he sat just 3 feet from me… the man that was in too much of a hurry to slow down and wait for a minute, for me to pass. His eyes looked kind and he looked concerned. I wanted to take his hand and say, ‘It’s okay… I forgive you. I know you didn’t mean for this to happen. But it did. And it’s okay. We’re okay…’ but I never did…. and I regret that to this day….

We rode to the hospital together, in separate ambulances. We arrived at the same time. I asked his paramedics if he was okay. They told me ‘we think so. He was asking the same thing about you the whole ride here…’ My paramedics wheeled me back to my room and I cried. For a minute, I was alone in my room as everyone talked outside. I thanked God for the miracles he gave me. The fact that I knew I needed to get my phone back-I probably wouldn’t have remembered my mom’s phone number without it. I knew I needed to put my seatbelt on sooner than I usually did. I felt someone physically hold me back in my seat when the airbag popped. The ladies who held my hand as I cried while I waited for Bailey and my mom. Dr. Smiley…. my angel. The fact that the man in the truck survived. That day was a miracle.

Courtesy Lauren Malais

I left the hospital in a full leg right knee brace, a shoe for my left foot, and on crutches. The doctor concluded there was too much swelling to see anything and that I should come back after Christmas. That Christmas was the hardest Christmas ever. My body was so stiff I couldn’t open my own presents, so my siblings took turns opening them for me. I spent New Year’s alone on the couch and watched the concert I was supposed to go to with my friends, on Snapchat. I cried… I felt so alone…. but I was alive. My tears of sadness turned into tears of gratitude.

I spent the next 2 1/2 years going to 223 doctors’ appointments. I didn’t get to move out and go to college or start jobs like the rest of my friends. I stayed at home healing. I spent 3 1/2 months on crutches, and over 4 months in a boot.

Courtesy Lauren Malais

With all the tests, doctors found I had nerve damage in both knees, sprained both ankles, sprained both wrists, optical nerve damage from hitting the steering wheel so hard, a bulging disc in my back, neck problems, my chest bones were pressed in and they need to be popped out pretty often now. I even had two breaks in my left foot, but doctors only saw one.

Courtesy Lauren Malais

So, the second one healed wrong and I had to have foot surgery a year later, to remove the chunk of bone that had grown back. I had, and still have severe PTSD and anxiety from riding in cars or hearing sirens or seeing car accidents. I would cry getting in cars for the first year after the accident. To this day, I cry when I see a car accident (mostly because I know the road of recovery they’re going to have to for through and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody). My concussion was so bad that I couldn’t read or write/text. People would have to talk slower and oftentimes repeat themselves for me to understand them. A lot of the times when I would try and talk, things I would say wouldn’t make sense. I couldn’t handle loud noises or fast-moving things without getting an immense headache.

And I don’t say these things to complain or get sympathy. There are plenty of people who have it much worse. I say these things because at the end of the day, I’m thankful for my trial. This trial led me to be the person I am today. I have a different outlook on life and have learned to appreciate everything I’m given. Every day is a blessing.

Courtesy Lauren Malais

Forgiveness isn’t always easy. But I have forgiven the man who caused my pain. I know he’s somewhere out there living his life. And I hope he’s doing well. I hope he has healed completely and can move past this experience.”

Courtesy Lauren Malais

This story was written by Lauren Malais, 20,  of Queen Creek, Arizona. Follow her on Instagram here. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free newsletter for our best stories.

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