June’s derecho brought down a lot of trees, but Carolina Alcalde didn’t know what hit her until she woke up in the hospital and was told.
"A tree? I mean, I was on a moving motorcycle,” she said. “I'm not a careless rider, and I could not believe when she told me, so I was very confused. That's really all I remember from that day."
She was just blocks from her northwest D.C. home June 29 when the wind whipped up and the tree fell on top of her.
Alcalde remains positive, although she’s paralyzed with a permanent spinal injury. She got a chance Monday to thank the medical team that saved her life.
"I have reason to be thankful for my life, and I have to thank for [the doctor] for performing a surgery that saved my life and Dr. [Babak] Sarani for helping me through that initial part of it," she said.
The George Washington University Hospital, which gets hundreds of trauma patients each year, held an appreciation day Monday -- a reunion for the doctors, therapists and nurses who helped patients survive life-threatening injuries.
"Every patient that we talked about today had a tremendous desire to get back to their life,” said Dr. Sarani, the director of Trauma and Acute Care. “Not just to survive but to go back home and get back to their life. Every one of them had an attitude of survivor."
Alcalde knows she is one of the lucky ones, surviving despite a broken body, her spirit never broken.
"I could sit there and lay in bed all day and want people to do everything for me, but how am I going to become independent again?” she said. “I want to be independent again. That's my whole goal; [it's] to be independent."
And she hopes to inspire others.
"This is a small price to pay for what I think that I can give back,” she said. “I think I can help people get through tough times."