Why We Walk: Phaedra Marriott-Olsen

I never could imagine how much my life would change in just a matter of seconds. On May 11, 1996 everything was going as planned. My friends and I had decided to go to a concert at which we laughed, danced, and had a blast. No alcohol. No drugs. Just a group of friends enjoying life. There was never a moment that night which we felt unsafe, but I suppose that is the feeling for most victims: never suspecting until it is too late.

The Day My Life Changed

On the drive home, I was following behind my friend’s car. He was far enough ahead of me, that I could see his tail lights, but would sometimes lose sight of the car as we were going around a curve or up and over the hills of the very curvy highway. My friend saw the headlights coming toward him. He started to drive into the ditch to avoid the collision, but the drunk driver completely side swiped him and then continued to drive on the wrong side of the highway, around a curve, going down a hill, only to meet me. I didn’t see him coming. I didn’t get the chance to move out of the way and in a moment frozen in time, I became a victim of a drunk driver.

From that crash I sustained many injuries, both internally and externally, but the most catastrophic injury was the damage it caused to my heart. At the age of 22, I was taken into open heart surgery. From the impact of the crash, my aorta heart valve was torn leaving me with a less than 3% survival rate. My doctors did everything they could do to save my life. At one point, they had to cut off the blood supply to my lower extremities, knowing that if I survived, I would become a paraplegic. It was a risk they had to take. However difficult at times, it’s a risk I’m glad they made.

After a 124 days in the hospital, 3 weeks of being in a coma, 6 weeks of living on life support, I’m happy to say that I am a survivor. I quickly learned how to fight for life, fight for the things I love and fight for the passions that I believe in, which brought me to MADD.

Finding Light in the Darkness

Fast forward 22 years later. I’m now an 18- year employee for Mothers Against Drunk Driving as the State Program Director for Tennessee. I love Tennessee. It was always my dream to move to Tennessee and I’m so very excited that I did. I often tell people, it’s the greatest state in the Nation! I’m so very humbled to work alongside some of the greatest staff and the most amazing volunteers in the country. Tennessee is known to be the Volunteer State, and I’m often in awe at how amazing our volunteers are at coming together for the Mission of MADD.

Walk Like MADD

We are still accepting online donations for the West Tennessee Walk Like MADD event that was held on October 20th at the Memphis Zoo. Your support will allow MADD to continue to make a strong presence in Memphis. Together, we can make a better tomorrow as we stride for a future of “No More Victims!”

If you have already registered or donated to any Walk Like MADD event this year, I want to personally thank you! Your financial support helps MADD raise the necessary funds to assist families like mine as we sort through our new reality and try to find light in the darkness. Thank you for helping us save lives.

Sincerely,

Phaedra