It Happened To Me: My First Love Was Hit By A Drunk Driver And Is Now Quadriplegic

I don't know if I'm ready to see the man I've loved, looked up to and idolized unable to put his hand on my thigh or pick up a guitar.
Publish date:
April 8, 2013
best friends, car accident, drunk driving, hawaii, rapper, first love, quadriplegic

I had loved my friend Brad for over 10 years when he got in his accident.

We met when we were about 11 at summer camp in New Hampshire. I looked like a pre-pubecent Avril Lavigne who didn’t know how to put on eyeliner, and he was the kid with a spike bracelet and Converse, so we gravitated to each other almost instantly.

Even then, he was infinitely cooler than I was. He was in a "punk band" at 12! I was so insanely naive about life I actually asked him if he was going to be on MTV. I spent most of my middle school and high school years trying to impress him via phone calls, pictures, emails and very rare visits. He lived in suburban Pennsylvania and I lived in ruralish Rhode Island.

To me, no matter what he did, he was perfect. Everything he tried, he seemed to excel at. I remember one day talking to him on the phone, and he had found a mandolin and didn't know how to play it. Three days later I was talking to him on the phone again, and he had already learned how to play the mandolin flawlessly. My musically inept 16-year-old self was in awe.

After living near me for some time, he moved to Hawaii and lived on farms with puppies and no electricity or running water.

I visited him for two weeks shortly after my father moved out and left my mother, brother and I when I was 19. I was hoping Brad would take care of me somehow. It was the first time we had spent that much time together since we were 13. He picked me up from the airport, an hour late, riding in the back of a white pickup truck.

Since it was the first time we'd been physically together for longer than a day or two since we were kids, it was awkward and beautiful and strange and quiet. Brad's not the type of person who’s going to try to make conversation or impress you. While I was there, I realized I wasn't the only person always trying to get his approval. Anyone who meets him wants to give things to him, because when he does give you a sliver of interest it's the most amazing feeling in the world.

He cooked fresh vegetarian food every night while I read that 500-page book about the Manson family "Helter Skelter" (I had a lot of weird dreams about being stabbed in the stomach). Since he had no electricity, all we had to do at night was sit on his porch with his dogs, talk and drink a crap-ton of Kava. I remember one night the moon was so bright that we spotted a white owl flying over the field in front of his house.

He knew all the names of the plants and what each one could be used for. We would take five-hour-long walks just to fill up a glass jug with water to drink, stopping to swim and hitchhiking to black sand beaches or the grocery store.

We never had sex (and now probably never will) but we slept close, tangled up in each other, and would wake up nose to nose. He would let me kiss him when I wanted to.

Brad created a surreal life for himself in the jungle. He was making music. He was healthy. He was doing well.

And then he was hit by a drunk driver.

The driver was killed in the accident. For days Brad's condition was uncertain. All I could do was worry, cry and wait for updates from his sister and mother.

Brad miraculously survived and was flown back to Philly where he lives now. At first he had no feeling anywhere, except in his left arm. It's still unclear what kind of recovery is possible, if he will ever walk again, or cut his own fingernails, hold a microphone for himself or have sex again.

Brad's own account of the experience is on his Tumblr. It says:

I go by Oppo, 21, born in San Antonio, TX. I grew up outside of Philadelphia then moved to Hawaii where I was making music, playing shows and living life to the fullest. On July 24th 2011 on the way back from a show the car I was in was hit dead-on by a drunk driver. Even though I was in the back seat I fractured my skull, broke my neck (c4,c5 and c6), broke some ribs and fractured my hip. I spent some time in the ICU, on a ventilator then moved onto rehab center in Honolulu, HI. I made the 10 hour flight to the east coast and spent more time at a rehab hospital located in Philadelphia, PA.

I am now in a powered wheelchair, paralyzed from the chest down and have no use of my fingers but still manage to produce new music using an iPad with the Beatmaker 2 app and a stylus strapped to my hand. The lawyers get rich and I still haven’t gotten a penny of settlement money. There is no one to sue because the driver who hit us did not make it thru the accident. 
I try to maintain a positive attitude for my path to recovery and I believe that everything happens for a reason no matter how shitty it is and I know that something good will come out of this, I’m just waiting for it to happen. Please listen to my music and help support my cause and think twice before drinking and driving or letting someone else do it.

I have not visited him, and it has been over a year now since the accident. He is only two hours away yet from New York, yet I haven’t been able to get myself to get on a train to go see him. I know I could scrape up the money to buy a train ticket. I could give up a weekend. I could do my homework during the week so I have time. But I haven't.

I don't know if I'm ready to see the man I've loved, looked up to and idolized unable to put his hand on my thigh or pick up a guitar. I don't want to see the scar on his neck and I don't want to know the reality of his life in a wheelchair.

I will go see him eventually. I know I will. Brad will always be one of my life's greatest influences. The guilt of not visiting when I know I should, mixed with his anger or disappointment at my inability to be there for him when he’s needed me most has been such a constant tension in my life that I find myself thinking about it every day.

He's saving up for a van so that he will be able to leave the house, play shows easier, and hopefully be able to come visit New York -- but until then, I know I need to swallow my own crap, get on a train and go visit.

Brad (Oppo) is still making music and playing shows. Check him out on Twitter, Tumblr and soundcloud. I believe he also enjoys smoking weed.

Also, here is an adorably heart-warming video of B being reunited with his little princess doggie Ava after the accident when he had been moved to Philly.