‘I almost died this summer’

A horrible car accident on March 16, 2017 left the Hendrickson family badly injured. Annabel barely made it with many damaged organs, a couple of broken bones, and countless numbers of bruises. This is her story.

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How do you spend your family vacation? Strapped to a hospital bed? Getting fitted for a back brace? What about icing a concussion with two broken hands?

I don’t know about you, but the Hendricksons’ didn’t have much of a choice.

It began at the end of an innocent family trip. They departed the bright city lights and bustling traffic of St. Louis, heading home. About 10 minutes away from Iowa City, another car was about to cross the highway from a gravel road branching off of it. Without looking twice, the driver made a grave mistake and pulled onto the interstate.

They collided.

“Whoa, what just happened?” The sudden reality of the crash didn’t register immediately. Annabel tried getting out of the car, only to find that she was stuck. She remembers it being hard to breathe until finally, help came and collected her family from the scene of the accident. Unfortunately, when she got to the hospital, it wasn’t much better. Nurses and doctors randomly came in and out to give her medicine for her continuous vomiting, but for the most part she was left alone and confused. It didn’t help that she had a lot of painful tubes sticking out of her as well.

I had a ton of internal injuries. I had my liver, lung, and kidney damage, and then a hole in my stomach, and then my pancreas was smushed, so part of it died, and then I had a broken rib and a chip off of one of my vertebrae which I didn’t even notice.”

— Annabel Hendrickson

Annabel ended up suffering from a multitude of injuries in different organs. “I had a ton of internal injuries. I had my liver, lung, and kidney damage, and then a hole in my stomach, and then my pancreas was smushed, so part of it died.” She said, “And then I had a broken rib and a chip off of one of my vertebrae which I didn’t even notice.” Of course, all this took a while to fix. She had to go through an extensive nine hour surgery, which was much longer than the doctors had presumed.  “[During] my surgery, the surgeon even came out and said, ‘this is gonna take a long time'”.

Annabel wasn’t the only one who got hurt in the accident. Her older sister, Makenna, suffered from a broken back and ankle. She could have easily been paralyzed, but luckily went home with only a back brace. Her father broke both his hands and got a concussion from a flying cup of yogurt hitting him in the head during the accident. Her mom, younger sister Ivy and the family dog got off relatively unscathed, with a seemingly broken finger, a stubbed toe and a scratch on the nose.

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I had to have like five people helping me walk.”

— Annabel Hendrickson

For Annabel, the recovery process was incredibly demanding. “The first time I saw her I got really scared, ’cause she had all these tubes everywhere and I didn’t really know what was going on,” said Makenna. Annabel had seven tubes total, two of which she didn’t get out until months after the accident. During this time, her movements were very restricted and there wasn’t much she could do. “For a while, I didn’t walk. I mean, I couldn’t even sit in a chair for a while. At first, they wanted me to sit in a chair ’cause [of] my back. I’d been slouched over and they wanted to see if I could help things move through. I actually did throw up because I sat in a chair.” Annabel said, “but the next day I walked for the first time and it was really hard. I had to have like five people helping me walk, and I just walked down a couple doors and turned around and went back in a wheelchair. I couldn’t even turn around.”

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I ran four miles [recently] and I’m proud of my progress… I couldn’t even walk around the block at first.”

— Annabel Hendrickson

Once she was discharged from the hospital, Annabel didn’t give up. She kept working at it, and now runs miles at a time. “I would always walk with my mom back when I started school again and I was only doing half days… me and my mom would go out to lunch and do laps around the block.” she said, “I ran four miles [recently] and I’m proud of my progress… I couldn’t even walk around the block at first.”

It was good news when Annabel got out her tubes and stuff.  She had six or something, so whenever she’d get them out we’d be happy ‘cause it would be like one step closer.”

— Makenna Hendrickson

 

 

 

 

 

Even through the struggle, the family was able to stay positive about their difficult situation. “It was good news when Annabel got out her tubes and stuff.  She had six or something, so whenever she’d get them out we’d be happy ‘cause it would be like one step closer,” Makenna said. Annabel’s dad, because of his broken hands, was deemed unable to ride a bike as he usually does to get to work every morning. As a joke, his coworkers got him a unicycle. “For a while we just had this unicycle in my hospital room and all the surgeons would be like, ‘Why is that there?’” Annabel said. “It’s a long story.”

If you’re just there for them, it makes it a lot easier.”

— Maddie Ephraim

Annabel found her own happy moments to hold onto as well. “Annabel was really excited about getting an iPhone because she had just a flip phone before, but it was lost in the accident, so she got an upgrade,” said Maddie Ephraim, Annabel’s close friend and frequent visitor. She and a couple of other friends chipped in some money to buy Annabel flowers, and made her a card. “If you’re just there for them, it makes it a lot easier,” she said.

Since the incident, the family has learned to be more careful of an unexpected turn of events. “Every time we go on a trip we’re like, ‘Is it worth it?’ Like, what if we get in another car accident? Is this gonna be worth the fun?” Annabel said. “We’re a lot more cautious now and I feel like we kinda appreciate things more.”

She could have died, and I could have been paralyzed, but we’re all alive and it’s good. Just make sure to look on the bright side.”

— Makenna Hendrickson

For those going through a similar situation, “Make sure to look on the bright side, ‘cause even though something bad happened, like you know, Annabel. Sure, she had a lot of stuff, but it could have been a lot worse. She could have died, and I could have been paralyzed, but we’re all alive and it’s good,” said Makenna. “Just make sure to look on the bright side.”

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‘I almost died this summer’