June 9, 2013, at the young age of 16, my life was changed forever by a drunk driver. My mom Susan and I were just 10 minutes from home when a 23 year old ran a red light and hit our car. He was coming from a bar where he had 5 mixed drinks after already drinking a case of beer and taking 10 Xanax earlier in the day. He was driving between 70 and 80 miles per hour and hit our car so hard that the motor ended up sitting on my lap. The car was so mangled that it took the firemen 45 minutes to cut me out. To this day, I can still smell the nasty towel they put over my face to shield me from the flying glass. I don’t remember the actual impact of the crash, but I remember very well being stuck in the car with the dashboard pushed into my lap. I remember the complete terror of not seeing or feeling my legs. I remember screaming at the top of my lungs for the firemen not to let me die. It was absolutely the most terrifying experience of my life.
Both my mom and I were rushed to the Medical College of Virginia where I was taken straight to the trauma room and my mom to a regular ER room. She ended up with a broken left foot, torn tendons in her right knee, and a broken sternum. They found that I had 2 broken femurs, 2 broken hands, a broken collar bone, a concussion, and burns on my chest from the seatbelt and on my face from the airbags. They realized that my broken left femur cut through the main artery of my leg and that I no longer had blood flow. Without even saying goodbye to my daddy, they rushed me into emergency surgery to try and save my leg. During a 7 hour surgery, rods and screws were placed to repair my broken femurs and a stent was inserted to save my leg from amputation. What a blessing that I wouldn’t lose my leg!! Because I was unable to breathe on my own the first 3 days after my surgery, a breathing tube was keeping me alive. After 10 long days of pain, fear, and fighting for my life, I was finally allowed to go home.
Home in an ambulance that is! This is because I wasn’t allowed to bend my legs or even put them on the ground for at least 3 months. I went home to my new room, which was a hospital bed placed in our 1st floor living room. My life was turned upside down to the point where I was unable to even bathe myself and could only use the restroom next to my bed with the help of 2 people physically picking me up. Before my hospital discharge, they found that I also broke both hands in the crash. I had casts on both hands so I had to re-learn how to do normal daily tasks like brushing my hair and teeth, writing, eating and texting. An occupational therapist came to help me with this and a physical therapist came weekly to help me gain movement in my legs. I had MANY specialist appointments...trauma, orthopedic, vascular, and a hand specialist. I had to travel by ambulance to each of these. What was supposed to be months of physical therapy ended up being years. My breaks healed, but the pain in my low legs continued. After 3 years of excruciating pain and tons of doctors, tests and medications, I was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome(CRPS).
Even with taking a blood thinner and aspirin every day, the stent became clogged about 9 months after our crash and I had an emergency procedure called a balloon angioplasty done to allow blood to flow through it again. This was an extremely painful procedure and one I hope to never need again! I follow-up with the surgeon every 6 months and have an ultrasound done to make certain that it is not closing up again. This is something I will have to do for the rest of my life.
A year after our crash I randomly started passing out. I ended up in the hospital and was diagnosed with POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome). POTS affects your autonomic nervous system and causes your different organs and body functions to struggle in communicating with one another. I pass out because my blood pools in my lower legs and instead of moving up my body and into my head like it should when I sit up and stand, it just sits in my legs causing me to get lightheaded and pass out. Other symptoms of POTS include dizziness, headaches, fatigue, heat intolerance, body pain, shortness of breath, low blood pressure, high heart rate and MANY other debilitating symptoms. A normal resting heartrate is below 100. Tachycardia is anything over 100. My heartrate is anywhere between 110 and 170. This is ANOTHER medical problem caused by the crash and it has NO cure!!!! 3 prescription medications, 11 pills a day and IV saline daily, all just for this 1 medical condition. Because I need IV saline daily I had a port surgically placed in my chest. I receive 2 liters of IV saline every day, which takes a total of 8 hours.
Even worse than the physical issues and pain are the emotional problems our crash has caused. I have trouble riding in the car for fear of getting in another crash. I have trouble sleeping because I suffer with nightmares and flashbacks of the crash: being cut from the car, being in the trauma room and of waking up with a breathing tube. The doctors say I suffer with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and that it will get better over time, which so far it hasn’t. To say that life has been hard since our crash, would be an understatement! I was 16 years old and should have been enjoying time with friends, singing in the high school chorus, dancing in recitals and sleeping in on the weekends. But instead, I spent my time in physical and occupational therapy learning how to walk again, struggling with schoolwork at home while being homeschooled by my mom, because of my traumatic brain injury, and going to tons of doctors’ appointments. I spent 3 years in intense leg pain because no one could find the cause or a treatment to help. I cried during the day and I cried myself to sleep at night. I lost all my friends except for 1. They told me that my life was too complicated for them and went back to their lives as normal high school and college students.
Because of my many physical injuries, I was unable to return to high school. My mom had to quit her job to stay home and care for my physical and emotional needs as well as to homeschool me. I pushed through the pain and graduated high school on time, but college was totally different. Even with 2 pages of accommodations from the disability office, my attempt to take one college class at a local community college proved to be a struggle. My traumatic brain injury was just too debilitating for me to comprehend and recall any of the material. It was then that I realized my dream to graduate college and become an elementary school teacher would not come true.
There are so many negative things that have come from the senseless act of another person getting behind the wheel after drinking alcohol. But 2 of the good things that did come from it…..
Unlike so many others, I survived and have a second chance at life.
In January of 2017, I was offered the opportunity to share my story as a way to educate others about what I had been through thus far as a victim of a drunk driving crash. Since that day, I have continued sharing my story with groups all around Virginia.
For the last 3 and a half years I have been sharing my story at high schools, colleges, prisons, probation and parole offices, military bases, police academies, youth leadership retreats, statewide annual conferences and even national conferences.
To-date I have shared my story in-person 178 times with over 11,000 people.
I am passionate about doing my part in preventing others from being impacted the same way I have, but also hope to inspire others, who have been affected by similar circumstances. I want others to learn that they too can survive and show they are not alone.
I am open to any opportunity to speak to a group; because this is my passion. Getting to share my story and watch rooms of people being emotionally impacted and changed by what I have to say is a huge part of my healing process. If I stop just one person from drinking and driving through my story, it is worth all the time, energy, heartache, and physical pain that is required of me to never say no to an opportunity to advocate!
I still have many doctor’s appointments: pain management, POTS, neurologist, vascular, therapist, psychiatrist, gastroenterologist, endocrinologist, facial pain specialist, dentist, oral surgeon, family doctor and weekly nurse visits to change the dressing on my port. I currently take 57 pills a day and have to block out 8 hours a day for my saline infusions. There isn’t a single week that passes that I don’t have at least one or more appointments. Caring for my physical and emotional health will certainly be a major part of my life forever, but I am not going to let that stop or slow me from sharing my story as a way to
My plan since elementary school was to graduate high school, go to a 4 year university and become an elementary school teacher. Although my mind was set on this path, I now know that God has other plans for me. After wondering for 5 years WHY I was hit by a drunk driver and WHY I continued to deal with pain and many other medical struggles, I realized “MY WHY”. I suffered so that my story would be real and sincerely impactful to those who hear it and in turn, lives would be saved. I will continue to share my story as part of Mallory’s Movement Against Drunk Driving which officially became a corporation in 2018 and in June of 2019, gained 501c3 non-profit status.