The high-tech, bionic arm that Kya Hill took home last week doesn't yet sport the pink camouflage finish she's been promised.
But the Lake County high school senior's bold, irreverent choice pretty much sums up how she's confronted losing her right arm.
<NO1><NO><NO1><NO><NO1><NO><NO1><NO><NO1><NO>The daughter of a retired firefighter and an emergency medical technician, Hill was <NO1><NO><NO1><NO>in full command as she and her boyfriend raced to the nearest fire station after the Nov. 3 accident that ripped away her arm and, with it, Hill's dream of serving as an Army airborne medic.
<NO1><NO>Fresh from the hospital a week later, she was off to a Middletown High School football game to promenade on the field with the cheer squad and let everyone see that she would be OK.
And a week after that, she went back to school<NO1><NO><NO1><NO>, though the faculty ultimately convinced her to take a few more weeks to adjust and work through her pain.
In the months since, Hill, 17, has become something of a hometown hero for adapting to her new life with the kind of resiliency, fortitude and humor that belies her age — though friends and loved ones expected nothing less.
"Anyone who knows her knows how she is," said Hill's best friend, Karen Castellanos. "If there's something in her way, she doesn't care. She just goes for it."
<NO1><NO><NO1><NO><NO1><NO><NO1><NO>Hill's super toughness and apparent refusal to buckle in the face of her traumatic loss actually had loved ones afraid that she wasn't facing her new reality.
Hill herself said she was just glad to be alive, and said it wasn't "worth the time to be depressed."
<NO1><NO>But friends say her emotions seem more transparent in recent weeks, the highs and lows more conspicuous. And Hill admits to desperate days when she just wants to cry, almost as if crying hard enough might make her arm grow back.
She had a low period earlier this month, anticipating the arrival of her new prosthetic arm and hand — a nearly $200,000<NO1><NO> high-tech marvel that will <NO1><NO>require months of frustrating, exhausting effort to learn to operate smoothly, using muscle contractions to generate electrical signals that open and close, rotate, bend and lock the arm.
After four months of adapting to life with mere inches of arm below her right shoulder, she has to readjust all over again, she said.
"I'm excited," Hill said in typical matter-of-fact tone. "But I'm anxious, too."
Hill calls the accident that took her arm the four seconds that changed her life.
<NO1><NO><NO1><NO>She and her boyfriend of about one month, Sam Weatherwax, were headed over the hill on Highway 29 to a St. Helena Safeway for groceries when his pickup hit something slick six or seven miles out of Middletown and slid to the right.
The passenger-side wheels dropped into a ditch about 18 inches deep <NO1><NO>and, for a few agonizing seconds, the truck scraped against a rough rock wall along the road.<NO1><NO><NO1><NO>
Hill knew when her head hit the ceiling that her seatbelt had snapped. <NO1><NO>Her window shattered<NO1><NO><NO1><NO> and her arm was somehow yanked from the cab, flung back between the door frame and rocky surface, and shredded as the truck moved forward.
Weatherwax, 22, was unhurt.
But tangled in the seatbelt and frame of Hill's window was a mess of <NO1><NO>pulverized tissue from her upper arm. She could see her brachial artery had been slit and was gushing blood onto her lap. Only a strip of skin connected her forearm to what was left below her shoulder.