You may already know Caitlin Beadles as Justin Bieber’s ex-girlfriend and best friend. Now it’s time to meet the real Caitlin — a courageous 16-year-old Georgia girl who survived a tragic boating accident. After receiving 6,000 stitches in one leg, undergoing countless surgeries and over a year of grueling physical therapy, Caitlin’s telling her inspiring story for the first time to JSYK. Check back every afternoon this week to read about Caitlin’s painful experience and find out what she’s learned about life and strength in her own words.
I just started my first year in high school and decided to spend a weekend at my friend’s lake house with seven other friends in August 2009. We were having a blast. I kept saying to myself, ‘This year will be amazing.’ We spent the first day out on the lake blaring music, tubing, knee boarding, wake boarding, and just having fun — just putting your life on hold, forgetting about everything, except what was going on that very moment.
Two of my friends and I were riding the Jet Ski, while the rest of the crew was about to go out on the lake in a canoe that would be pulled by a boat. We were having a blast, jumping waves, doing donuts, and flipping everyone off the Jet Ski. We all flipped the Jet Ski over and were in the water complaining about how badly the water cramming up our ears hurt, and how we had whiplash. Thinking that was bad, we couldn’t imagine what was yet to come.
It’s funny how we will stub a toe, or have a headache and complain about that. But someone is always worse off than you, no matter how bad something seems. As we were climbing back on the Jet Ski, it filled with water so we all jumped off. My other two friends were on the left side of it while I was on the right. As I turned my head, I saw the boat dragging the canoe coming right at me. The driver was looking behind him, so he never saw me. Before I could even try to swim away from it, I threw my head back. The propellers chopped up my left leg, and tore through my muscle, nerves, skin, and the major artery leading to my heart.
The metal pole attached to the propeller went through my right leg and broke my femur. I looked back as soon as I was hit, and my friends on the canoe ran me over, too. The guy driving the boat didn’t even know he hit me so he kept driving.
I looked down in the water and all I saw was the color red, just like in Jaws when the shark ripped someone’s legs off. I could see my muscles and skin floating on the water, and I told myself not to look at my leg but did anyway. I saw my leg basically off and chopped up. I saw my bone and every little detail. I looked up at my friends’ faces in the canoe. They heard the thud of hitting something, and turned around to see the red water. They started crying hysterically, screaming, and panicking. The whole time I just kept telling myself, ‘It’s all right. It’s just a dream. I’ll wake up any minute. And even if not, I can use one of those prosthetic legs, right?’
It was the most excruciating pain I had ever felt. Imagine someone sawing your leg off in slow motion. My best friend’s dad, who was driving the boat, came back and jumped in the water as soon as they realized they hit me. He picked me up and put me on the Jet Ski, which was a miracle in itself because he can’t lift one arm over his head due to a past injury.
He took me to the dock and laid me down. I couldn’t straighten my legs or even control them. I saw him panicking and whispering to his wife that it didn’t look good. I could tell they were trying not to scare me. I just stared at the clouds and wished the pain would go away. I could feel myself getting weaker and weaker, not being able to keep my eyes open. I felt light-headed, and everyone was so blurry and in slow motion. As much as I wanted to close my eyes, I couldn’t. They made me talk so I’d stay conscious because I was losing so much blood by the second. Not much longer and I wouldn’t have any blood left — I would be dead.
My best friend stood over me, holding me and brushing my hair out of my face. She was praying, telling me not to give up, and saying I had to stay with her. I looked over at my other friends’ faces — who were praying and crying in a circle — knowing there was a good chance that would be the last time I saw them. I thought I was about to die, but I had to keep going for them because I didn’t want them to see me die.
It felt like we were waiting for the ambulance for hours. My friend’s parents wrapped my legs with towels and put a ton of pressure on them to stop the bleeding. I heard the sirens getting closer and closer. I was scared — scared they would inflict even more pain on me. I guess I shouldn’t have watched all those E.R. and House episodes.
As the paramedics came running toward me, I grabbed their hands and begged, ‘Put me out! Knock me out! Please put me to sleep!’ They rushed me into the ambulance so we could drive to where a helicopter was waiting. The road was a bumpy dirt road filled with rocks, and it was pure torture bouncing around in the back.
They got me into the helicopter but it took a really long time to leave, because they couldn’t straighten my legs. They ended up running out of gas and had to take me to the nearest hospital instead, but the last thing I remember was entering the helicopter. That is because I flatlined, which means your heart stops and you die. They couldn’t bring me back, and actually gave up and announced the time and date of my death.
Read the rest of Caitlin’s story at JSYK.