Thanksgiving Day will always hold a special meaning for me. I am grateful simply to be alive, and I am thankful for the people who saved my life and nursed me back to health.
On a nice, sunny Saturday morning in July 2016, my family and I were headed to Lake Geneva for a day of fun-filled excitement, when all of a sudden a truck hit our car at an intersection.
When my parents opened their eyes minutes later, our car was in a ditch and a semitrailer truck was nearby. My mom's door was stuck, so she had to climb out of my dad's seat. Both of them came out of the car, and they were shocked to see me on the roadside.
I was face down on the pavement, my face was pale, my eyes were half-closed and I was unconscious. My parents were attempting to wake me up when a group of people ran toward us to help. One of them was an off-duty paramedic who started CPR. After a few tries, I showed a few signs of life, yet struggled to breathe.
My 12-year-old brother, Indhresh, was still in the car and was unconscious, too. So several of the people who had come to help checked for a pulse. They did CPR and were relieved when they saw a few signs of life.
A few minutes later, the paramedics arrived and started treating all four of us in the ambulance. My brother was admitted to Advocate Children's Hospital in Park Ridge, but my situation was so critical that I was airlifted on the "Flight for Life" helicopter to Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, where Dr. Scott Otto and a team of trauma nurses and physicians were prepared to take care of me.
I was in surgery for more than three hours. I had a splenectomy, a couple of rib fractures, spinal fracture, liver lacerations, and a pelvic fracture and dislocation. There also was internal bleeding, and surgeons had to perform several abdominal washouts. I had tubes down my throat for full breath support through ventilators as well as all the monitors and equipment hooked up to regulate the critical functions of my organs. The doctors did all they could to save my life, and nobody lost faith in me.
All the doctors, surgeons and nurses took exceptional care, and the chaplains prayed for my speedy recovery. I had to face many complications during my recovery, such as breathing issues that required a tracheotomy. Also, my wounds weren't healing the fast enough, which caused me to develop infections, but my nurses were always there and gave hope to my parents that I would recover fast.
I felt that all the love and affection I received from my family and friends, in addition to the exceptional professionalism and expertise from the rescue team and the entire Advocate Condell team, helped me the most.
Dr. Juan Alzate treated me in the neurological functions and diagnosis of my spinal injuries. In addition, many other professionals really made a difference in my healing process: Dr. William Watson, Dr. Rajeev Garapati, Dr. Scott Miller, Dr. Eugene Tarasov and Dr. Gregory Caronis, as well as the nurses Casey Stanton and Jeff Sawyer -- plus so many more. Condell is the only Level 1 trauma center in Lake County, and we felt the same level of expertise all throughout the recovery process.
After being discharged in mid-August 2016, I learned to walk in rehab and recover most of the things that I could do before the accident. My caregivers brought me as close to perfection as possible, and as I left rehab, we were fully satisfied that I was ready to be back home.
After being away from home for 3½ months, I had forgotten what my house looked like. It felt very different the moment I stepped in, but I had a warm welcome with balloons and banners and a party with sweet treats and gifts surrounded by my family and friends. I soon was back at Stevenson High School, where my counselor and team worked hard to accommodate this unexpected situation and provided great support and help in my academics. I am very thankful to my school administration and student services as well as my teachers for helping me make a smooth transition into daily school life.
My experience with these caregivers led to my new interest in the medical profession. I am now enrolled in Penwasciz, a volunteer program for high school juniors and seniors interested in the medical profession. This program gives the students a great opportunity to explore and practice the different fields in health care as well as the trauma care at Advocate Condell. This is one way I can give back. I am delighted to be part of this program.
I feel very grateful to God and to Advocate Condell for giving me my life back, and I will never, ever forget the doctors and nursing team.