As Nicki Adeladel lost consciousness, she was resolved to the likelihood that the horrific town of Hudson crash she'd endured would end her life.
That's why it was vital for her to see her mother's face when she came to.
"It helped me to know I was alive," the St. Paul woman said. "I was expecting to see the deceased family members."
Adeladel wasn't the only one who feared the worst. The July 10, 2017, crash on Trout Brook Road left Adeladel stranded for at least five hours with injuries so severe that her legs needed multiple surgeries and her arm had to be amputated.
"I was surprised you're alive," St. Croix EMS paramedic Jen Kerner told her last week when the 35-year-old visited emergency workers and St. Croix County sheriff's deputies to thank them for their help.
Mobile and motivated, a grateful Adeladel delivered bear hugs to Kerner, deputies Steve Drost and Steve Ryan, and St. Croix EMS Chief Brandon Lyksett — all of whom played a role in freeing her from the wreck and bringing her to a medical helicopter that flew her to Regions Hospital.
If Adeladel had an extra spring to her step at the July 3 meet-and-greet, it was because she was receiving a bionic arm the next day. The hand will allow her to perform a multitude of actions previously limited by the prosthetic hook she had been using to that point after her left arm was removed below the elbow.
Adeladel said she was told she will be the first person in Minnesota to receive a BeBionic arm through the state's publicly funded MinnesotaCare insurance program.
The new hand will mean having to learn a new skill set to operate it, but Adeladel isn't worried. She knows the worst is behind her.
Rather than dwell on what's left behind from the accident, Adeladel said the near-death experience has left her with a new outlook.
"I feel like I gained the second half of my life," she said.
Pain, prayer as companions
Adeladel had one last stop to make on July 10, 2017. A delivery driver for the StarTribune and Pioneer Press newspapers, she was driving Trout Brook Road when the Hyundai car she'd bought for $400 lost control.
She remembers stomping the brakes as the car lost its grip on the gravel road, worsened by rainy conditions, and careened off the road down an embankment. The car slammed into trees, leaving half of Adeladel's body slung out of the car.
The wreck would have drawn immediate attention to anyone who saw it, but that was the problem — it occurred in the middle of the night on a sparsely traveled road, with the car resting beneath the line of sight on the roadway.
Adeladel said she screamed for help, hearing three vehicles pass by. But since it was raining, she guessed those drivers had their windows rolled up and wouldn't hear her cries. She remembers thinking "I hope a smoker goes by" with the window down.
No smokers came, but a cop did.
St. Croix County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Marc Sommers, driving down Trout Brook Road on a chance trip — he was running back to Hudson to refuel — came upon skid marks that led off the roadway.
"I lucked out," Adeladel said, recalling how she yelled "I'm not dead" after hearing the squad come to a stop on the road.
Sommers' arrival ended more than five hours spent in solitude with pain and prayer as her only companions. The comfort level she said she'd reached with death left her with a choice that was "surprisingly difficult," she said
Adeladel said she feared she would lose consciousness if she couldn't find a way to prop up her head that was hanging out the window. She managed to do so the only way she could: By ripping her mangled arm from the door and using it as a brace.
"It was to the point where I would rather sacrifice what was left of my arm," she said.
Adeladel recounted the gruesome process with a preternatural calmness that deputies who were with her on the scene said rang familiar.
Deputy Ryan said she was surprisingly "mellow" throughout the ordeal and stayed in verbal contact with the emergency responders throughout.
"It wasn't us; it was all her," Ryan said of her strength.
Adeladel said she attributed the calmness to her faith, but said there was also a practical side to it.
"I did not have the energy to freak out," she said.
'She just plunges through'
Adeladel was extricated and flown to the hospital, where she went unconscious for 12 days. That led to the ongoing recovery process, which Adeladel said has involved "countless" surgeries to her battered body, which sustained intestinal damage, broken vertebrae and ribs, and kidney failure — in addition to the arm, leg and foot injuries.
Her mother, Ellen Horn, noted how Adeladel suffered from "debilitating" nausea from pain medication.
All she's taken to manage her pain has been Tylenol.
"I don't want to feel sick like that," Adeladel said.
She was in the hospital for two months and was in physical therapy through November.
"I wasn't OK with not walking again," Adeladel said.
So she did that. It was a painful process, but she manages. Sometimes with a cane, sometimes with a brace.
Horn said there's little surprise about her daughter's internal motivation. Adeladel had developed a reputation for her work ethic and physical strength long before the accident.
"She just plunges through," Horn said of her daughter, who worked four part-time jobs until the crash.
Besides 14-year-old daughter Nadia, Adeladel also has new companion to help see her through the process: a Husky-mix dog named Monte Carlo.
"It's nice to have his company," she said.
The ability to drive is also something she's reclaimed. Adeladel said she saved that last newspaper and drove out to deliver it, but "chickened out" at the last minute.
As for other goals, Adeladel said she's not giving up on her dream of owning a tiny house to live in with her daughter. The accident was merely a roadblock to that, she said.
"I just intend to do it slower," she said with a smile.
July 26 update: Family members have established a GoFundMe page for Adeladel, the money from which they said will go toward the purchase of her own home.