In 2012, on a Sunday afternoon, while driving along beautiful Lake Tahoe, I was hit head-on by a very drunk driver. The DUI driver, who was intoxicated more than twice the legal limit. Ironically, his last name was Paine. He certainly caused a lot pain.

On impact, my airbag exploded into my face and blew my glasses lens out of the frame and into my eye socket. My car was pushed backwards and then rotated violently into the lane of oncoming traffic.

It was terrifying.

I suffered several injuries, including hand injuries, knee and hip injuries from impact with my dashboard, trigeminal nerve damage, soft tissue damage, and a severe concussion. The concussion, also called a traumatic brain injury, was not evident on site. The symptoms didn’t start to emerge until many hours later. The head injury caused a two-year headache and hearing issues, for which I still need hearing aids. With brain swelling and the compression of my pituitary gland, I developed a concussion-related autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s. I was quite ill with a low body temperature and unnerving inflammation issues. Fortunately, the autoimmune has resolved over time, with a tremendous amount of work and support by my healthcare providers.

I thought I was finally finished taking care of all the injuries, as best I could, when I began to notice major issues with my teeth. This was several years later and I didn’t make the connection. My dentist did an x-ray and immediately asked me what was the trauma I experienced. I was aghast. Many teeth had cracked, on the side of my face that endured the most impact. The dentist said this timeline was to be expected, as the dental injuries would not have been detected sooner. It takes time for cracked teeth to deteriorate. My teeth, due to the impact, had slowly started to break and fall apart.

I couldn’t believe I was still dealing with emerging injuries, years later. On top of all the previous expenses, as the offender had been under-insured, I had to spend thousands of dollars, out of pocket, to save my teeth.

I realize I am so fortunate to live.

It is a miracle I survived and I’m so grateful to be able to continue to be a mom to my two beautiful children. My husband and kids suffered with my injuries impacting our family. There were many months I was not able to be involved with family life and I would spend hours in the quiet darkness of my room.

But, fortunately, I did survive. I have so much to be grateful for. I am well aware that so many others suffer much greater losses from this preventable crime. We must do all we can to work to end drunk driving.

 

Why do I Walk Like MADD?

I walk because MADD helped me with navigating the legal system to help fight to teach Paine a lesson. I walk because so many others truly need the support and services MADD provides. I walk because I am so grateful to be able to walk, after such a violent collision, and after many, many months of not being able to be physically active. I walk because I am grateful for MADD and because I want to help end DUI driving.