The Accident

Note: Names in this story have been change to protect the guilty.

When I was a young teenager, my parents warned me that Mexico is a dangerous place. In high school, I was forbidden from visiting there. Going to Rocky Point, Mexico for Spring break with my friends was ALWAYS out of the question…

Until I turned 19 years old.

His name was Craig and I was dying to be with him. When he asked me to go to Rocky Point with him, and I was overjoyed.  He was a client at the salon I worked at and all the girls drooled over him. Every time we saw his name in the appointment book we all were ecstatic, he was DREAMY! He was tall, handsome, had the most gorgeous green eyes you could ever imagine, a nice build and we all thought he was a great catch.

Out of all the wonderful women that worked in the salon, Craig invited me to go to Rocky Point as his date for a vacation he had won through his sales company. I was in a state of euphoria and my mind floated up into the clouds of heaven. Yes, it was THAT dramatic. Until… the clouds evaporated into thin air and I fell back onto earth into my parents' living room.

Cue the dramatic music.

I was a legal adult at the time, but regardless of my age, I still respected my parents' opinions, advice and decisions, so I still felt the need to ask them if I could go on this trip.

So, there I was in my parents' living room asking if I could go to Rocky Point. My mom and dad both sat there with puzzled looks on their faces probably wishing I never asked that question because I already knew how they felt about Rocky Point. They simply did not want me to go there, but, since I was 19 years old they said, “You are capable of making your own decisions and if you truly want to go on this trip then we respect your choice… even though we don’t feel 100% comfortable with it." Automatically I popped out of the recliner with excitement and gave Craig an official yes.

Bon Voyage!

On April 4th, 2008 Craig and I (along with several of his co-workers) departed from Phoenix, Arizona. We were officially on our way to Rocky Point, Mexico (Yay-fun!). As we got closer to Mexico all I could think about were my parents warning me about the dangers down there, the drug wars, fights, giant guns and kidnappings. As we drove further into Mexico I witnessed some scary things -- the Mexican police walking around with big guns, the religious candles on the side of the roads from accidents (or murders) that took place… and not to mention the trash all over the place, it was scary because I had never seen an abundance of anything like that before. My heart started to sink, I began to blab to Craig about all these negative thoughts that were running through my mind. He told me that I was basically over thinking the place and to calm down because we were about to have the time of our lives…

“Time of our lives” is supposed to mean fun, stress-free, relaxing, worry free vacation, right?

Well…not so much in our case. Check out what the definition of  “the time of our lives” turned into.

The moment we arrived at our gorgeous beach front condo we were stoked and ready to go explore the nightlife.



We headed into town after the sun went down. As soon as we arrived at a bar/ restaurant called Mannys I didn't like it one bit. We bar-hopped to a couple of other places but I never felt comfortable anywhere. I felt like piece of meat surrounded by strangers, hungry wolves that were ready to eat their prey. I felt dirty, so I nagged Craig to take me back to the condo.

I sound like a snooty brat, but I promise I’m not. I just don’t like it when strangers oogle my goodies and make me feel like prey!

We were dropped off by a local taxi at our gorgeous high rise condo.

Now that’s more like it, just Craig and I with the condo alllll to ourselves.

For the rest of the night we relaxed on the balcony, the weather was warm, and the ocean breeze was blowing through my hair as we drank champagne and chatted the night away…

Never mind it's Mexico. We weren’t that classy. What really happened: I grabbed the Jose Cuervo and chugged some margaritas…. AAAAAARRRIBAAAA!

That night I slept like a baby, until the awfully chilly ocean breeze swept through the curtains and woke me up at 6:30A.M. We left the sliding patio door open and it was very cold. I shivered in the morning light. It was clearly very early and we were the first couple to wake up. I rolled out of bed and stepped into the kitchen. To my surprise the kitchen and living room was COVERED in butterflies! Vivid shades of purple and orange fluttering wings EVERYWHERE -- there had to be hundreds. I could not believe my eyes. We were on the 14th floor of an ocean side condo, so where did these butterflies come from and how did they get up so high?! I tried to run and grab my camera so I could capture this marvelous moment, but by the time I tiptoed back to snap a picture, the butterflies disappeared. The whole army of butterflies scattered with a blink of an eye. But that image still sticks in my mind to this day…I wish I could give you a visual but I guess this image was meant for my eyes only.

Craig and I next grabbed a delicious and nutritious breakfast, went into town to do some shopping and then came back to the condo so we could make plans with the rest of the crew.

As a group, we decided to go to this bar called The Reef for lunch...

 Instead of driving our Lexus’s and Cadillac’s through the Mexican beach town, we decided to ride our ATVs. We didn't want to get robbed and look like we had oodles of money. I hopped into a Dunebuggy and sat on Craig’s lap as he squeezed me tight while his boss Harvey drove us.

We arrived at The Reef safely, and we had a good time for a couple of hours. Then once again it was time to go back to the hotel to prepare for the evening festivities.



We walked outside to the sandy parking lot. Craig wanted me to ride my own ATV back to the condo, but I said no because I had no idea how to ride one. And so once again I got in the passenger seat of the Dunebuggy.

I made the choice to take the Dunebuggy because it had a seat belt, and the ATV did not have any form of safety harness- that's was the main reason why I got in the Dunebuggy in the first place - THE SEATBELT.

Once again, I was a passenger in the Dunebuggy. We were ordered to strictly go back to the condo, so we could all plan our next move, but on the way back Harvey asked me if it was okay if he could take us for a joy ride in some sand dunes for a little bit.

I was SO scared. I have never been the type of person to do extreme sports, but I’m such a push over. Feeling very uneasy about the situation, faintly I told him “umm surrrrre...”

Deep down I know Harvey knew I wasn’t comfortable, so to make me feel better he promised me that Dunebuggys were made not to flip, and I trusted him because I didn’t know any better.

Buckle your seat ladies and gentlemen it’s about to get toasty.

He took off like a bullet into the dunes. I couldn’t help but scream in silence…and then my inner screaming could not be contained any longer…I started to scream my head off…it got louder and louder and all of a sudden my seatbelt popped off!

Now it’s getting real.

SO now I made it apparent that this circumstance was NO longer okay. I slapped Harvey in the knee and screamed “MY SEATBELT CAME OFF STOPPP”...

Harvey stopped in an instant. He jumped out of the vehicle and re-clicked my five point seat belt. I felt a sense of relief for a brief moment until I started to wonder if it would happen again. It was such an uneasy feeling I just knew something bad was going to happen. I just KNEW it.

Once again, Harvey kicked up the speed. Pedal to the metal all the way, he started to go faster and faster...and at this point a mysterious feeling came across me. The most uncanny intuition tiptoed through my bones and I knew something dreadful was about to happen.

So I turned to God and I said a prayer. These were my exact words "Dear God this man has my life in his hands please don't let anything bad happen to us"...literally no more than five seconds later... he took a turn too fast and to this day I am not sure what went wrong but we flipped head first 5 times.

The dunebuggy went BOOOOM, BANG, BING stuff was flying all over the place.



I had my eyes open the whole time watching sand fly everywhere. The sand was hitting my face at rapid speeds to the point that it no longer felt like sand…I felt like I was getting bombarded with shotgun pellets. We were tossing and turning I thought it was never going to end. My mouth was open but I couldn't scream. It was bizarre.

Have you ever had a dream where you are falling and you’re trying to scream but you can’t get it out? That’s what happened.

While the vehicle was flipping, my body hopped up from the seat a couple of inches and then slammed back down compressing my vertebra. My right foot got caught under a steal rod foot rest and smacked against it.

The dunebuggy landed up right on all four wheels -- missing one wheel. It had flown off in the midst of the chaos.

It felt like time had froze.

I was frail. There I was slouched and stuck in my seat. Winded, I was gasping for air, crying, begging someone to help me out. I could barely move. Then I looked over to Harvey to see if he was okay -- BUT he was already out of the Dunebuggy.

I thought he was coming to help me out, but NO, he got out to jump onto someone else's ATV and he sped off, far away from the scene, without even asking me if I was OK. He straight up ditched me.

At this point I thought I was going to die. The excruciating pain was unbearable…
I have no idea how I made it through the next couple of hours…

Just when I thought I was out of luck, out of nowhere, Craig comes back to look for Harvey and I. From far away he saw the crash scene. My knight in shining armor came to the rescue, and behind him were people in our group and some strangers that also came to help.

Still winded I was begging him to “please *gasps for air* get me *gasps for air* out of my seat *keeps gasping for air”…Craig’s co-worker unbuckled my seat belt, grabbed my hand and I swung both my scraped up legs over to get out.

I had no idea that those were the last few steps I would take for a very long time…

Out of nowhere, a Rocky Point Ambulance arrived at the scene.

I was so far out in the dunes that the ambulance could not reach me. The Rocky Point EMT carried a stretcher through the sand. The EMT put me in a neck brace and slowly got me onto the stretcher. After a bumpy walk across the sand dunes I was placed into the ambulance and transported to the Rocky Point hospital.

The ride to the hospital was horrifying.  Craig was holding my head while I whaled and cried like I have never cried before. The pain was excruciating, my chest felt like it was on fire. To make things worse, I looked over and begged the EMT to help me but he sat at the other end of the ambulance listening to his mariachi music not making one move to help the situation. I was screwed.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse…

I finally arrived at the Rocky Point hospital. Let me just tell you what happened in a nutshell.

1. My clothes were stripped off/ cut off.
2. I was threatened to be cut open with a knife because the doctor said I was internally bleeding.
3. My baby toe was hanging by a string and the doctor decided to sew it back on—the sew job looked like a 1st grader did it.
4. Craig was freaking out so bad when the doctor came at me with a knife that he got kicked out and locked out of the hospital.
5. I had no idea how to communicate with the doctors because I don’t speak Spanish.
6. After 45 minutes of being stuck in ER all alone I could no longer feel my chest down.
7. I was carelessly swung from a blanket and dropped onto an X-ray machine.
8. The doctor told me there was nothing wrong with the X-rays. (Clearly he was wrong because I was paralyzed.)
9. The doctor told me if I didn’t move my legs then I couldn’t leave the hospital.
10. Nurses put drugs in my IV so I would pass out over night.
11. I was basically held hostage in the hospital for 24 hours.

24 hours later…

I woke up to commotion in the hospital. The drugs made me dazed and confused. An American Hispanic lady rushed into my room in a panic. She was apologizing and saying “I am so sorry the doctors were supposed to call me if there were any Americans injured, your injury is very serious and I am going to help you get out of here.”

Finally, someone who knew what they were doing came to the rescue.

She helped me get transported to the boarder via ambulance. When I reached the U.S.A boarder I was met by an American EMT. He was covered in tattoos (very intimidating)…he gently transferred me onto an American stretcher. He looked at me and in a very stern voice he said “This is a very serious injury we are going to get you some help.”

The ambulance dropped me off at helicopter pad in southern Arizona. I was then air-vacced to St. Joseph’s hospital.

Doctors at St. Joe’s contacted my parents for the first time since the accident. They arrived at the hospital within minutes. I was in a neck brace helplessly looking up at them. I will never forget the look on my daddy’s face and the hurt in his eyes as he grabbed my hand and quietly said “Baby, everything is going to be okay.”

Immediately I went into a CAT scan machine and I found out my t7 and t8 vertebra shattered into my spinal cord...and I had broken my foot in 4 places.

I was in shock. The doctors in Rocky Point took X-rays and lied to me. They let me suffer with a broken back for 24 hours...only one word can describe those doctors down there. CRUEL.

That day the number one neurological surgeon was not working, but my injury was so serious he was called in for my emergency surgery. His name is Dr. Nicholas Theodore. And thank God he was able to come in.



Dr. Theodore along with his medical crew at St. Joe’s had to move fast. My spinal cord was swelling…I could not go on with life without surgery...all the shattered pieces of bone that smashed into my spinal cord had to be removed.

I signed a waiver and said my “love you’s and see you laters” to my family and I was wheeled off into surgery.

After a 6 hour emergency surgery I was told I would never walk again. My spinal cord was severely damaged and now I had new pieces of hardware holding my back together (rods and screws to be exact). I was in ICU for 7 days… I experienced unbearable pain that week. I must have had some amazing angels watching over me because I have no idea how I got through those days.

I was then transferred into a couple different wings of the hospital. I was stuck in a wheelchair and in hospital rehab for 3 months.



I never once believed that I was never going to walk again, I told everyone that I was going to be fine, I prayed more than I ever have, and I was on a mission to walk out of the hospital. I would NOT accept the wheelchair...I hated it!

I was positive, optimistic and I told everyone I would walk again. Some believed in me, others didn’t. Many were in disbelief saying I would never walk again because it was "impossible.”

I guess no one ever told them that with God all things are possible…

About 4 weeks after being paralyzed...I was frustrated. It felt like my legs were dipped in concrete--stiff, and unresponsive. I couldn’t take it anymore so I started to stare at my big toe and yell “BIG TOE MOVE BIG TOE MOVE” and it MOVED the TINIEST BIT.

I get so excited when I tell this part of the story, gives me the chills eeeek!!!

And because I used so much brain power and focus to move that toe, a couple seconds later I fell asleep.

When I woke up, some doctors did not believe that I moved my toe...they said it was just a twitch! I was angry! I saw it move, I knew it moved, I made it move, it wasn’t a dream or a twitch!

There I was again, like ground hog day, in my white walled hospital room frustrated that people didn’t believe in me. I told myself, I will prove them wrong.

So there I was again, focusing on my toes…telling them to move. Miraculously my left set of toes all started to wiggle! And then a couple days later my left ankle moved...then a few days after that my left knee started to move...then my whole left leg was moving!

A few weeks later my right foot (the broken one) was taken out of its boot cast... my baby right toe started to move....a few days later all my right toes were moving...and slowly the rest of my right leg was moving...IT WAS A MIRACLE!

3 months later I walked out of the hospital with a walker, looking back at the staff and those who doubted me. Saying in my head “I told you so”.



To this day I have been rehabbing for 3 years... I walk with a limp...and I have terrible balance and that's why I cannot wear heels yet.



There is not one day that I step out of my house that someone doesn’t ask me what happened. I ‘ve been teased and called names because I walk slowly or I use crutches and I’ve been yelled at for parking in handicap spots by people who judge a book by its cover. I have told my story literally over 1000 times (yes, I counted) and I used to get depressed because I was constantly reminded of the worst day of my life on daily basis- over and over again. When people asked what happened I would smile and tell them but they didn’t know that it was so hurtful to talk about it and at times I would come home crying because I hated being asked what happened, I hated being reminded of THAT DAY and, I just wanted to curl up in a ball and not leave my house.

It was painful…But one day I changed my way of thinking I thought to myself, I am beyond blessed to be walking and I have an incredible and rare story that nobody else can have. I started to react differently to people who asked what happened to my leg. I am grateful and I light up because I am so happy and blessed that I am indeed walking.
Today I love seeing the reaction on people’s faces when I tell them I was paralyzed and now I’m walking, I believe it gives people a lot of hope that anything is possible, you just have to believe in yourself.

I am grateful to be alive and walking, regardless of my imperfections.

Believe it or not…this story is the cut and dry version of what happened to me. I didn’t want to spoil the book I am writing…I would love for you all to read it when it’s finished…there are many more jaw dropping moments…it’s like a horror/mystery/action/suspense/heartfelt movie in the making!

Check out my recovery video!
http://vimeo.com/4127567

The recipe to my miraculous healing:
Infinity cups: Support from family and friends
Huge part: Dr. Theodore and his phenomenal surgery skills, great nurses, extraordinary physical therapists and Tony Robbins DVD’s.
Infinity cups: Faith
Infinity cups: God
Infinity cups: Guardian angels
Infinity cups: Determination
Infinity cups: Motivation
Infinity cups: Positivity
Over 1000 cups: Vitamins
Over 1000 cups: Muscle Milk
0 cups: prescription drugs
0 cups: Negativity
ALL MIXED IN TOGETHER WITH LOTS AND LOTS OF LOVE!

Post Accident & 3 Years later update:

Harvey the guy who caused the accident, paralyzed me and put me in the hospital for 3 months, AND put me through tons of pain and physical therapy over the past 3 years has not tried to contact me AT ALL. He has not asked me how recovery is going...I’ve been told by some sources that he is well-off but, he has not offered to help me with continuous therapy or rehab...he continues to vacation his life away like it never happened. It used to break my heart, but sometimes in life there is nothing you can do to change someone, what goes around comes around.

And as for Craig, we have not communicated since Feb 14, 2010 after he screwed me over and stood me up on Valentine’s Day. He is probably one of the biggest losers I ever laid my eyes on. Mr. Dreamy turned into Mr. Nightmare. But the lesson I take from him is that you will never know someone’s true character until you see the way they react when you are hurt- physically or mentally and that’s the lesson I will take with me for the rest of my life.

Many people say they want to go hurt these guys for me because of what happened. But why? I am a strong believer in God and I don’t think he gives us anything we can’t handle. I took a terrible experience and turned it into something positive. I am blessed that I learned thousands of important life lessons that it could take a regular person a whole life time to learn.

I won’t lie, the situation I’m in has sucked, I have gone through some really frightening moments and excruciating mental and physical pain (not only me but my family and friends because we were all in it together). I never thought the day would come that I would say this but, this accident was a blessing in disguise. I have learned more about myself, my family, my friends and my body than I have ever known before.

On the road to recovery I met some of the most amazing, talented, smart, compassionate, sympathetic and magnificent people, that I probably would have never met if I wasn’t paralyzed.

I used to cry all the time because I thought I didn’t deserve to go through this horrible experience (and every now and then I still do because I am not physically as strong as I used to be). I used to ask myself, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” And after months and months of wondering and revisiting this question I came up with a conclusion:  Every now and then there are events that happen in our lives that we don’t deserve and can’t control, but we can control how we respond to them. You can either take a bad situation and make it worse by dwelling on the fact that it is bad OR you can turn it around and make the best of it, using it to help you become a stronger and wiser person. We all will face adversity at some point in our lives and this is what makes us who we are today, God wants us to be strong individuals. He is not against us.

When something bad happens to you think of it as a blessing because there is always a gift in it for you, and you can always do something amazing with it. We all have the ability to interpret all the events that take place in our lives, it’s our job to determine what we are going to do with them. You are blessed if you face adversity because the way you respond and learn from it will bring you closer and closer to the secret to life.

I have officially learned the secret to life.

15 comments:

Jeremy Lockhart said...

Hey Cat. My name is Jeremy and I do the website for the Health & Wealth Raffle that I'm sure you're familiar with. I was putting together something for the Raffle's Facebook page that has your story on it and so I searched the web really quick and found this site so I could read more about your story. I just got done reading and it was definitely inspiring. I actually have a friend that was recently in a boating accident in Havasu and was flown to St. Josephs for help. I'm glad she's in good hands.

Anyways, just wanted to say hello and thanks for writing about your story!

catkozuch said...

Hi Jeremy! Thank you for reading, I'm glad you came across my blog :)

I hope your friend is OK, and I'm glad she's at St. Joes...they are the best and I hope she has a speedy recovery!

Thanks for stopping by :)

Katie said...

aww.. I remember how excited you where when you moved your big toe :) and look at you now... you said I'm gonna walk out of here, and you did :)

Lukasz Bebnowski said...

Hey Cat, I came upon your site purely by accident – and am glad I did! Your story is amazing and a true inspiration to us all. Your story is an eye opener... reading your story made my issues seem so insignificant.

It's really fascinating how Harvey never bothered contacting you to see how you are or help out in any sort of way... how can he live with himself I don't know.

As for Craig... well... his loss really! There isn't a shortage of guys like that - having said that, nice guys do exist, however a bit more rare these days.

You're full of positive energy, vibrant, a true battler, excited about life and this shows through your words you write on this blog and radiates in the pics that you post. You make it look so easy even when it's not!

Keep it up!

Lukasz

kelly : pinetothepacific said...

Cat, thank you for sharing your amazing story! It brought tears to my eyes several times, and I just think you are AMAZING! Your spirit truly shines through this blog, and you are an inspiration. xo

Anonymous said...

Hi Cat, who or what is the name of your God?

Crystal Roles said...

what an amazing story Cat, I am glad you are using your experience in a positive light. With God, all things are possible! <3, crystal

Proverbs 4:20-22 My child, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.

Jeff Sobotka said...

Cat,
I honestly don't know how I wound up on your blog (Facebook I think) and was amazed at your story and but even more so by your recovery and positive attitude. You should be very proud of yourself.

This will be mandatory reading for both of my teenage kids so they understand the dangers of Mexico but more importantly the power of Faith in overcoming adversity. I'm looking forward to reading more of your work.

God Bless You,

Jeff Sobotka

jkd said...

Wow I just read this. I am amazed at your strength and I am so glad you walked out of that hospital. You are my hero!

God is watching & Harvey will be punished.

Luisa Rodríguez said...

I've been to this blog many times before and I had never read this story. Girl, you're a rock star!!

Many blessings,


mustbeliberating.blogspot.com

Cyn said...

Hey Cat! I found your website through Katie "Running on Happiness". I wanted to thank you for sharing your story and I am tearing up right now. Your story and this website has made my day and will always be! I really admire your passion, kindness, and positive outlook in life. I hope that I can also find the secret in life like you do. Thank you again for sharing with us on this website. I pray that you will be able to dance and walk on heels again. YOU ARE MY NEW HERO!

Anonymous said...

You're a hero indeed!

I really really admire the way you handled all this.

also, I wanted to tell you that you can't see on a X-ray that you're paralyzed. I hope this doesn't upset you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you God for giving us such a beautiful gift, Cat Kozuch. What a Giant!

Anonymous said...

"One Last Time"


Can I hold you one last time
To fight the feeling that is growing in my mind
I know I did us both all so wrong
I know I'm not always all that strong

A-b-c-d-e-f and -g
Oh that reminds me of when we were free
Before life began to tear us apart
Remember those classes when we thought we were so smart

Ooooooooh
Ooooooooh

We were lovers in every way
Left school together, went back to my place
Now I can hardly remember her face
Before I met her I was ..sad

Ooooooooh
Ooooooooh

And can I hold you one last time
To fight this feeling that is growing in my mind.


LUKE PRITCHARD, The Kooks

I saw this, and thought of you ...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bb3Yio3j-Vw&feature=related

"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do."
Gospel of Luke 23:34

"Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
Gospel of Luke 23:43

Kurt Keller said...

Cat,

I remember when I saw you at LA Fitness on 83rd and Union Hills probably about 4 years back. I was asking you what happened and I could not believe it. I did not know how serious this accident was in Mexico until I read your story. Your story is frightening when you talked about the crash. It must have got very tiring having to explain the accident to everyone. It must have been tremendously hard seeing as to how you were always a popular girl in school. I am so glad you are looking at the positive side of this situation. You are truly my new hero!!! You faced paralysis head on and kicked it in the butt!

Thank you so much for sharing. You are a blessing to me and an inspiration!

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