Columnist looks at life differently following deathly experience

April 3, 2008 — by Nikhil Sheel

nikhil makeup.jpg

I hope no one ever has to go through the living hell I went through the last week. Sure, it was all a simulation. No, I did not actually die. But the mere thought of it actually happening still sends shivers down my spine.

As I collect myself after this life-changing experience, I guess the best way to organize this would just start from the beginning.

Three weeks ago, I was notified that I would be participating in “Every 15 Minutes”. I was also told that I would actually be in the mock car crash, wounded and die upon arrival at the hospital. After the initial shock, I thought to myself, “It will all be a huge simulation. Not to worry. I’m a real man.” Little did I know what I was in for.

Fast forward two weeks. My accomplice, Katie Low, who would also eventually die from injuries, was getting made up in the woodshop room. Blood was painted everywhere, bruises all over her body. After seeing herself in the mirror, she was not able to make it through. Suddenly, I realized how real this was. After an hour of getting made up, I climbed into a crashed Saturn. A tarp was over me, so all I could hear were the murmurs of my peers on the bleachers.

“911, we have an emergency. I believe two cars crashed near Saratoga High School.”
Everything was silent. Not one student was saying anything. My heart began to race as the tarp was pulled off and I saw Andy Capek running around, finding Pete Florence ejected from my car and dead on the ground. Firefighters came rushing in and cops surveyed the scene. They began the long process of trying to extricate me from the car. I was flung onto a headboard and stripped down to my boxers (luckily, I had my nice baby blue pair on). I was carted into an ambulance and given oxygen.

As they moved me from the ambulance to the hospital, all the nurses were doing everything they could. They put more blood into me, shocked me, checked my pulse. When nothing worked, I heard some of the scariest words in my life.

“Any other suggestions? No? Well, we now pronounce the victim dead at 12:01 pm.”
I was in shock. Sure, I wasn’t actually dead, but I might as well have been. After icing my hands, my dad walked in to see me. He’s a pretty strong guy who does not get too emotional, but as he ran his hands through my hair and touched my palms, my stomach turned upside down. Though my eyes were closed, I could feel him starting to tear up. No one should have to go through that. Not a dad, not a mom, not anyone.

After lunch, Pete, Andy and I met up with the others at a retreat. We heard from a man who was paralyzed from the neck down after an accident on a three-wheeler. He talked about how his life changed and the struggle he is now left to face every day. Later, we watched a video, had a candlelight talk and wrote letters to our parents. Mine was selected to be read at the funeral and I knew this was going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

We dressed in our formal attire for the funeral the next morning. I rewrote my speech so I could read my handwriting and was ready to go.

I felt queasy as tears begin to come to my eyes and I was not sure if I could make it through. As I looked up to the crowd, I saw tissues being passed around. I made eye contact with my dad and, for the first time, saw him choking up. As we filed out to signify the end of the funeral, it was all over. Yet the lasting effect could still be felt throughout the school.

I took two things out of this experience. First, would be the obvious: do not drink and drive. Do not let your friends drive drunk. It’s your choice.

The second would be to live life to the fullest. The coroner portrayed one of the best attitudes I have ever seen. She said that every day you have to live your life as though it’s your last day so if heaven forbid something does happen, you can chalk it up and say you did everything you could. You never know when something can happen to you that will change your life and everyone’s around you.

After all, it does happen every 15 minutes.

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