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Coping with Career-Changing Injuries
By MADD | July 24, 2014 | Filed in: Victim Services , Drunk Driving

Originally featured in the 2014 summer edition of MADDvocate®.

Every 90 seconds, someone is injured in a drunk driving crash. And as we know, first there’s the crash, then the lifelong impact. No one should try to minimize the challenge of adjusting to a new future or letting go of an old life. The reality is that many injured victims must build new lives, and often that includes a new career.

Courageous injured victims Brittany Kirby and Chris Mann share how they successfully rebuilt their lives and their careers—one painful step at a time.

Bad Things Happen to Good People

On February 13, 2009, 19-year-old Brittany, her friend Rachel, and Rachel’s two young children were driving out of town for a Valentine’s Day weekend getaway. Without warning, a drunk driver with a BAC of .15 crossed the center lane of the Tennessee road they were traveling on, and hit their car head-on.

“I don’t remember the crash,” Brittany says. “My injuries included two shattered bones in my left arm, a shattered knee joint and a traumatic brain injury. I was on life support because of my brain injury and I had to undergo eight surgeries.”

Brittany was told that Rachel was in a medically induced coma to help her body heal. Rachel died two days later. Her two children survived.

Chris Mann was living his dream of being a law enforcement officer. He spent four successful years with the Lawrence, Kansas, Police Department. While on patrol and training a rookie officer in the early morning hours of January 11, 2002, his life was forever changed.

“We pulled an SUV with no taillights over,” Chris recalls. “It was a routine traffic stop, until I caught the flash of headlights coming toward me. I didn’t have time to move before I was hit.” Chris says he was walking in front of his patrol car when a drunk driver struck the car from behind, pushing the car into him, sending him airborne. “I landed unconscious on the side of the road, 30 feet from where I had been standing.” Miraculously nothing was broken, but the soft tissue damage to his leg was extensive.

After months of physical therapy he tried to go back to work, but his leg could not hold up. When he was removed from active duty, Chris had to contemplate what to do with the rest of his life.

Adjusting to life after an injury and learning to live with new limitations can be extremely frustrating. Injured victims must heal emotionally as well as physically.

Read the rest of this article in the MADDvocate.

Find More Resources

MADD offers brochures for crash victims, in English and Spanish, covering grief and healing, talking to children and teens about death, coping with serious injury, the criminal and civil court system, and more. Click here.


Are We There Yet?
By Jan Withers | June 30, 2014 | Filed in: National President , Victim Services , Drunk Driving

Ah, summertime... vacations. I remember my parents would take the family on a vacation every summer. Each of those excursions included a long road trip. I remember as a child thinking the time in the car was endless. My sister and I would cry, “Are we there yet?” several times a day on those journeys.

I remember similar excursions with my children, including the same universal question from the backseat. On one trip to the North Carolina coast, our youngest would utter that question and our reply was “4, maybe 5 hours.” Following that trip it became our family joke – everything would take “4, maybe 5 hours.”  Our daughter, Alisa, would love to tease her little brother with that reply, much to his chagrin.  

Maybe two summers after Alisa was killed, Joe and I felt we needed to ‘get away’ for a while.  I just knew Hawaii would provide some calm, a temporary salve on my broken heart. Hawaii was as close to heaven in my book as one could be – perfect weather, spectacular scenery, and laid back people.

You can guess what I am going to say now. I did not escape my pain; it simply went with me. I honestly had anticipated a respite from my sorrow. I was shocked to learn that I couldn’t enjoy my time away like I had hoped. The anguish was just so raw and, of course, why would I think I could keep it back home while I took a vacation from it.  I cried out, “When will I get there?!”  

In time, as life moved forward, I learned that I did, too. I am not ‘over’ my daughter’s death, but I have moved forward into a new life, with this loss part of my reality. Am I happy again? Yes. Do I miss her? Yes, every moment of my existence.

As summertime brings opportunities of relaxation, of family gatherings, and time for vacations, those of you in the early years of your grief may wonder, “Are we there yet?” I want you to know there can be light at the end of the tunnel. Your ‘there’ will be different than what you knew, but you will know when you arrive. Your new ‘there’ will bring light and smiles once again – it will just be a different ‘there’.

I like to say I am not over Alisa’s death, but I am moving forward every day in my new life, and I take her with me in my heart.  


Summer 2014 MADDvocate
By MADD | June 18, 2014 | Filed in: Drugged Driving , Victim Services , Underage Drinking , Drunk Driving

The Summer issue of MADDvocate is now available. Read the latest issue of our online magazine that is helping survivors survive.


Father’s Day, June 2014
By Jan Withers | June 4, 2014 | Filed in: National President , Victim Services , Drunk Driving

At MADD, we like to say we are not just mothers. We are fathers, sisters, brothers and friends.

As we move into June, we celebrate Father’s Day. My thoughts go back to the time immediately after Alisa was killed.  Following her death, friends frequently asked Joe, my husband, how I was coping. Seldom, however, did anyone ask me how Joe, Alisa’s dad, was doing. Our society seems to have such a belief in the strength of maternal love, frequently ignoring the intensity of paternal love.    

I happen to be writing this on Memorial Day, which is especially significant to my family because my first husband, my children’s natural father, was killed on active duty when they were very young. He was a wonderful daddy – always loving and active in their lives. I loved co-parenting with him. I thought there could be no greater partnership. When he died our world fell apart. Not only did he make the ultimate sacrifice protecting our country, my children also made that sacrifice.  


Jennifer & Alisa with their daddy, Doug Withers

A few years later, Joe Sikes walked into our hearts, nobly and humbly taking on that role of daddy. What a gift he is. He just openly and quietly loves my children as he does his own, without hesitation nor fanfare. I love co-parenting with him, too! They are not ‘my’ children, they are 100% ‘our’ children. He is just like that. Anyone who knows this family knows how heartbroken Joe was when Alisa was killed by a drunk driver. Today Joe and I walk hand-in-hand in our commitment to end this violent crime and support others who walk with us on this journey.


Alisa with her daddy, Joe Sikes

I think of all the bereaved fathers at MADD who grieve the needless death of their precious children. Their hearts are shattered, yet their resolve is strong—the resolve to diligently work until there are no more deaths or injuries caused by drunk driving. They are a powerful force in MADD. They are “Mothers” too – Mothers Against Drunk Driving.  This Father’s Day, I wish to honor all the fathers who are “Mothers” in this mighty organization and tell you how deeply I appreciate each of you.


Jan Withers
MADD National President


Helping Those Who Help Others
By MADD | May 16, 2014 | Filed in: Victim Services , Drunk Driving

In honor of National Police Week, we wanted to share with you an article that was originally featured in the 2013 summer edition of MADDvocate about how trauma extends beyond just those directly impacted by a drunk driving crash.

It is a crash that still haunts firefighter Kevin Casey. A call came in over the radio dispatching them to the scene of a one-car crash. As the fire truck pulled onto the scene, he saw a mass of tangled metal that appeared to be a car at one point in time. A woman wanders away from the car. She’s so drunk that she can barely hold a conversation, let alone realize that her 18-month-old baby is screaming from the wreckage.

Somehow, the baby survived. But the images of that night remain.

“The ones that involve kids always stick with you,” Kevin shares. “You go home and hug your kids a little tighter and enjoy them a little more.”

After 12 years of witnessing other people’s tragedies, it all finally became too much for him.

His first marriage fell apart. Riddled with anxiety, he needed a break. So Kevin opted for a more conventional occupation—commercial real estate.

“I had just seen too much and lived through too much,” Kevin explains. “[I] needed to walk away from it for a while.”

Putting a name to It

It turns out Kevin isn’t alone. There is even a name for what he was experiencing—vicarious trauma.

Originally coined in the 1990s by Laurie Pearlman, Ph.D., and Lisa McCann, Ph.D., to refer to the experiences of psychotherapists working with trauma survivors, the term has since been expanded to include a wide range of individuals in “helping professions,” including first responders such as police, firefighters, paramedics and other emergency medical technicians. Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, MSW, founder and director of the Trauma Stewardship Institute, expands the definition, describing it as “the cumulative toll on individuals, organizations, institutions, movements, communities and society as a whole as a result of being exposed to suffering or trauma.”

Lipsky first became interested in vicarious trauma after she fell victim to its impact herself. After 10 years of doing various types of trauma work, she became increasingly affected by everything she’d witnessed. Others tried to bring their concerns to her attention. But Lipsky didn’t realize that she might need a break until she found herself at the top of a mountain on a family trip—while the rest of her family enjoyed the beauty of the view, she found herself wondering how many people had committed suicide from that very spot.

Read the rest of this article in the MADDvocate.


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