"I tried to kill myself by driving my car into the back of a petroleum truck. I was pretty disappointed when I woke up staring at a hospital ceiling. I failed.”
Those are Kina's words.
Five years ago, she didn't want to live. She thought all of her pain would go away if she could just end it all. After a long night of drinking on April 26, 2011, she decided to commit suicide the following day.
“I purposefully hit the double tanker (truck) in hopes of dying,” she added.
The next thing Kina remembers is waking up in a hospital — two months later. She tried to stand up, and immediately fell to the ground, the aftereffects of the crash. She may have survived, but not without physical disabilities. The scars, though, weren't limited to outward ones. She also had internal injuries, including traumatic brain damage.
At 22 years old, she couldn’t walk, her speech was impaired, and her memory was weak.
So began a long journey. A journey that would eventually lead to an intersection with I Am Second.
"I’ve wanted life for the last five days. That’s the longest I’ve wanted to live in a very long time."
With a lot of treatment, physical therapy, and support from her friends and family, Kina started searching for hope after the accident. While she had been fighting suicidal thoughts since high school, her disabilities actually encouraged her to find a reason to live.
"I've always struggled with depression, but I now find strength in being disabled. It motivates me to do something great with my life," Kina told I Am Second.
After watching a Lecrae music video online a few years ago, she clicked on his I Am Second film, not knowing that she would find exactly what she had been looking for. She watched one film after another, completely submersed in their stories of brokenness, pain, and hope.
One film led to another. And another. And another.
“Everyone always told me that I should put myself first, but that never seemed right to me. It just made me sadder. When I watched the films, it hit me! ‘Yes, I am second! God is first! That’s what matters!’” Kina said in an interview from her place in Southern California.
While Kina found something to hold onto that day, the battle continued. “I would still have very low days. Days where I didn’t want to live. Not because of my disabilities, but because these thoughts have always followed me around.”
Then, one day, Kina received an I Am Second email announcing the run that would be taking place on April 30 in Orange County, just one hour away from where she lived in Long Beach, California.
Kina likes to prove people wrong. If someone tells her she can’t do something, she will find a way to get it done. Despite her traumatic brain injury and being very weak on her right side, she wanted to prove to herself and to others that she could participate in 5Ks. She decided she had to make it to the run.
Extreme motivation kicked in. She called I Am Second to ensure there would be a safe place she could store her bag of nutritional needs. She isn’t able to drive, so she arranged for a rideshare service to pick her up from her home at 4 a.m. Afraid she would miss her early morning ride, she got dressed the night before and slept by the front door, determined to make it to the event. She even cracked the door open so she would hear the car.
Nothing was going to stop her.
Thankfully, Kina arrived just in time. Cindy Palmer, the run director for I Am Second, spotted Kina as she walked up to the course. Cindy connected Kina with DJ Bosler, GameLife director with e3 Partners, and encouraged them to run together. Though, when she started running, she immediately became frustrated.
See, on some days, Kina can run without help. Unfortunately, this was not one of those days. Her body was struggling, and she kept falling. However, DJ stayed with her, holding her up and supporting her every step of the way.
“DJ is amazing! If it wasn’t for him… I don’t know what I would have done,” Kina said with tears.
As DJ and Kina approached the end of the run, participants and staff cheered her across the finish line. She was awarded the Most Valuable Runner and was given a few I Am Second posters. But her journey was not over for the day.
DJ decided to stick with Kina after the run, feeling like she may need a little more encouragement. While Kina loved what I Am Second stood for, she was still struggling with feelings of insignificance and had yet to make a commitment to truly live second.
"She teared up and said sometimes her life is so hard she still wants to die," DJ said when writing about the encounter afterwards.
As DJ continued asking Kina questions about her relationship with God, a push notification came in on her phone. She had recently downloaded an app that would send her encouraging reminders early in the morning to keep her motivated to live.
However, this notification came in a little later than usual, and it read, “Do something with God today. You’re not supposed to live life alone.”
Kina knew in an instant that she needed to fully commit to living second right then and there. She did.
Five days later, as she spoke on the phone with I Am Second, she sat staring at the poster she was given at the run that is now hanging in her bedroom.
“Five days,” she said, breaking into tears, “I want life. I’ve wanted life for the last five days. That’s the longest I’ve wanted to live in a very long time. And it’s because every day I wake up and read those words ‘I Am Second’ and I now know what that really means. I have a true reason to live."
"This is a miracle."
Kina has been a true inspiration for the I Am Second staff this week, and we hope that her story serves to inspire many others. Thank you, Kina, for allowing us to share your story, for choosing to live second, and for choosing life.
If you’re struggling with thoughts of self-harm, there is hope. You can call 1-800-273-TALK to chat with someone about it. For a list of other resources, visit the website of To Write Love on Her Arms here.