Birthday Memories

Birthday Story: Rebirth

Birthday dinner on January 30, 2010; hours before the accident.
Birthday dinner on January 30, 2010; hours before the accident.

I had gone back and forth over this decision. But I figure it is best now to just write it out in public and then let the past stay in the past.

Today, January 30, 2013, I will tell you what happened to me three years ago.


To spare you too many details about my life prior to this date three years ago, I was in a very unhappy place in my life. So, to finally be able to celebrate my birthday in 2010 was a great feeling.

I planned a small party for January 30, since that was a Saturday: only my cousins, their then-boyfriends, my brother Adam, and one of my friends were invited. We had dinner at an Ethiopian place in the Fillmore District of San Francisco. Then we walked across the street to sing karaoke for a few hours. Truly lots of fun; karaoke always cheered me up.

The seven of us left karaoke after midnight, so it was already January 31st, my actual birthday. My friend drove back to the East Bay; the rest of us decided we would walk down Fillmore Street to Market Street so we could catch our respective Muni trains. So, we began to walk.

It was a cool San Francisco evening. I do not remember much from the walk, except when I looked up at the sky and said to my Adam, “It is a full moon tonight.”

What happened afterwards, I have no memory of. Adam and our cousins pieced together the story for me:

[Adam’s narrative]

We were crossing the street at the intersection of Fillmore & Oak. Our cousins and their boyfriends made it over; then, it was time for you and I to cross. We had the right-of-way. As we were walking in the crosswalk, a car came zooming up the hill and made a quick right turn. The car, with foggy windows, hit you [Helene] head-on. I moved quickly so the car could only slightly side-swipe my arm.

Then, the car continued down Oak Street with your body on top of the hood. I ran after the car, shouting “STOP!!!!” A few minutes passed before the driver finally stopped; you dropped from the hood of the car onto the sidewalk. You were bleeding badly from the head. You turned to me and said to me in Taishanese, “Adam, my head hurts.”

At that point, you stopped talking. The driver was unstable and we all weren’t sure if you were dead or alive. Eventually, one of us was able to get through on 9-1-1 and an ambulance was on its way.

Waiting for the ambulance seemed like an eternity. Fillmore & Oak is a big intersection, leading to the freeway; suddenly, a man and a woman appeared out of the slew of cars backed up in traffic. The man was a volunteer EMT; the woman was a doctor. I was nervous to see them approaching you, but they assured me they knew what they were doing. They lifted your head up, probably to stop the bleeding from going to the back of your head. They did this and other things until the ambulance finally arrived. Then, they left as they came.

You were out for 5-6 hours. I stayed at the hospital the whole time, hoping you’d be okay.

I woke up, January 31st, in the morning, in the Intensive Care Unit. I remember opening my eyes, and not understanding what was going on. I turned to my left and saw Adam sitting there.

“What happened, Adam?”

“You were hit by a car last night.”

The statement didn’t seem to have a full effect on me. Instead, I started spouting out names of people to contact since Adam had my phone on him. Then, I passed out again.

Throughout my time at the hospital, I remember different people visiting me: our cousins, our family friends, my co-workers. My parents and sister immediately got a flight to San Francisco for February 1. They arrived that evening, and I remember seeing them, saying hello. My sister and mother cried as they saw how beat up I was.

I was at the hospital six days. My injuries, at least the ones I can remember: internal bleeding in the head and a skull fracture. I needed sutures (stitches) on my head; I couldn’t wash my hair for two weeks. I had black rings around my eyes that healed slowly during the month of February. Surprisingly, no other part of my body was injured.


And, three years later, I’m still okay. My skull fracture healed (or it became very insignificant); the patch on my head where the sutures were, it’s all grown back and you can’t even see the scar there anymore. I came out of this accident physically intact. No broken bones, disabilities, etc.

I can’t say the same for my psychological health; there have been many rough patches since the accident, where I’ve wanted answers as to how this could have happened on a day that’s supposed to be joyous. But, I’ve gotten a lot better….to the point that now, three years later, I am willing to release this memory into the atmosphere; I must move forward.

As my friend just told me earlier today, my birthday now is more of a rebirth than anything else. Before the accident, my birthday was just a regular day with a few special happenings. Now, my birthday is a super-celebration of the life that I have, the life that I could have lost that year.