The loud phone ringing woke her from a deep sleep, but the ring was not as piercing as the words she would hear after mumbling, “Hello?”, at 4:30 in the morning. “My name is Stephanie, I’m an emergency room nurse. Is this Laurie and do you have a son named Caleb Trahan?” With a shattered voice, the woman said yes. “I am calling to let you know that he was involved in a horrific car crash. I need you to get here as quickly and as safely as you possibly can.” This was the wake-up call that my mom received on Mother’s Day morning of 2017.
After racing to the hospital, a twenty-minute drive full of heartbreak, my parents walked into the emergency room lobby and were escorted by security back into an empty room with a table and one box of Kleenex. My father held my mom back as the door closed, he told her that everything was okay. However, inside, they both had the same feeling. When they were escorted to Trauma Room 3, they found me mangled, unconscious, medically sedated and intubated. There were blankets lying on the floor covering up my blood. They told me bye as I was being rushed into emergency surgery with uncertainty that I would be coming back.
I woke up five days later to find my mom leaning over me, hand on my head, and tears falling from her eyes. I was in excruciating pain, and I could see that my mom had it no easier. I asked her where I was, she told me “We’re in the hospital.” “What happened?” I asked. “You were in horrible wreck last weekend.” Even though I was afraid for the answer, I asked it anyways, “Did I hurt anybody else?” “No, you just broke yourself.”
I suffered from traumatic cardiac arrest, which nationally has a rate of less than one percent chance of survival. I had no heartbeat for several minutes during the extrication from my vehicle and en route to the hospital. I had nearly fifty total injuries, broken neck, several ribs, shoulders, collar bones, sternum, legs, and bones in my face. My liver was lacerated, both lungs collapsed, my chest was burned and I bled out. During transport to the hospital, the paramedics performed CPR, intubation and cut my chest open in order to release air surrounding my lungs.
I underwent about fifteen surgeries during my six-week hospitalization. My hospital room always had family and friends, my parents spent every day with me. The paramedics often visited and we became friends. I learned more about the story and what happened. I fell asleep driving home, I was running on fumes and minimal sleep. I ended up stopping for a drink at a local bar, that was around midnight. I didn’t drink much, but it definitely made me drowsier. I only had about a fifteen-mile drive home and thought I could make it, but seven miles into the drive I fell asleep. My vehicle left the road and struck a large pole, I was partially ejected from the vehicle because I wasn’t wearing my seat belt.
I was discharged from the hospital and was taken home to my parents’ house where I was to lay in bed for the months to follow. I shed light on this part of my story because I feel it’s very important. I was a guy that went non-stop, I was always working and running. I had been that way since I was discharged from United States Army. I had a rough upbringing and I guess staying busy kept me distracted. Well, there I was, stuck in bed. Stuck with myself. I ruined my life. I ruined my family's. I couldn’t do anything and I just wanted to die. I remember trying to find a way to kill myself that wouldn’t look like suicide or hurt my family. I needed to find an answer to my problem and I needed to do it quickly.
It was time for me to create a success story, but the road would not be easy. Roughly two weeks after being home from the hospital, I stood up on my broken legs and immediately fell down. I lost about thirty-five pounds while hospitalized, I was mentally and physically weak. But that was going to change today. I got back up, I taught myself how to walk again. I stopped taking pain meds. I figured out the answer, and I was set on a new goal. A few months after my discharge from the hospital, I had my first class in EMT school. I was determined to help someone else. I limped in on my broken legs with my head held high and a smile on my face. Fast forward a couple of months, I became an EMT. I started working on an ambulance. Then I became an Advanced EMT. A little over a year into my new career, I was hired by the 911 ambulance service that responded to my wreck. I’ve been able to work with the paramedics that crawled into my truck and saved my life.
Creating a success story is never ending, and for some reason I never seem to think that I’ve done enough. I began sharing my story and speaking to high school students. I’ve spoken to thousands of teenagers, advocating for safe driving, and I’m just getting started. On the night of my car crash, my mom told me that I looked tired and I should stay home. I laughed and said, “Mom, I’m good. I do this all the time.” That one decision ruined my life and everything around it. I’m not as invincible as I thought I was. Nobody is. Reminders are important, and I now have mine. In a perfect world, my story would be enough to prevent you from making the same mistake. I would rather you learn from me, my pain, and my scars versus the alternative.