A woman paralysed from the neck down after drunk driving home has told how the last hand she felt was the stranger who found the crash and called for help.
Melissa Ann, then 18, had a few beers with pals before getting behind the wheel of her pickup with her mate in the passenger side.
She slammed on the breaks to avoid an accident, wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and was thrown 75ft through the open window while her truck flipped countless times.
Horrified locals who heard the crash from a mile away discovered her face down with her neck so twisted that her chin was resting on her SHOULDER.
Melissa broke her neck in FIVE places, damaging her spinal cord, leaving her quadriplegic – with paralysis in all four limbs.
Now 30, she spoke to the Real Fix podcast about the last thing she felt and the four your journey of coming to terms with her life changing injuries.
She told the podcast – which features people telling extraordinary stories in their own words – she now speaks to other drunk drivers and young people about the dangers.
Melissa, from Tallahassee, Florida, said: “Once my truck started flipping after getting caught n the shoulder of the road, neither one of us had put on our seatbelts for whatever crazy reason and we flipped about eight to ten times.
“And during the course of that flipping I got thrown out of my truck.
“I landed 75ft away from my friend and it looks like I came out of the vehicle first based on where we landed, and then she landed further, right next to where the vehicle had stopped flipping.
“So the guys that had ended up finding us, they said that if it had ended up flipping one more time, it would have ended up completely crushing her.
“One of the guys who was next to me, he did say to me that I squeezed his hand a couple of times, and that’s how he knew that I was ok.
“And who would have ever, ever known that even after the crash and the injury that that man’s hand would be the last hand that I would ever squeeze again.”
Melissa had been out with a friend the night before so wasn’t planning on drinking, but ended up joining in a game of beer pong at a house party in August 2008.
She called her parents ahead of her 1am curfew to tell them she was staying at a friend’s, but changed her mind and started to drive home at 3am.
She said she pulled up next to a car on a merging lane which “cut me off at the last second” and she got too close, smashing the brakes on at a bend and crashing.
Two men heard the crash and rushed to help, finding Melissa’s friend, who escaped with a broken pelvis and tail bone.
Melissa was rushed to hospital in a coma as a ‘Jane Doe’ and her parents were called three hours later.
Scans revealed she has smashed her C3 – C7 vertebrae, damaging her spinal cord, and medics inserted pins in her neck in a bid to fix the damage.
She was in a coma on a ventilator for ten days before she was transferred to a rehab centre in Atlanta, Georgia.
She spent two months in hospital where she regained movement – but not feeling – in a single muscle in her arm.
Melissa still has no feeling below the neck but has regained some movement in her arms, thanks to tireless rehab work.
She told episode seven of Real Fix she was initially in denial about her injuries, and it took her four years to accept what had happened.
She feels it is her calling to educate others on the dangers of drink driving, and even admitted she wouldn’t necessarily change what happened.
Speaking to the podcast, she said: “Would I want my feeling and movement back like used to have? Of course – that would be crazy to say that I want to be paralysed.
“But at the end of the day, if that would mean that I was everything that I have learned before, and the heart for humanity that I have gained, even with all the physical losses, I wouldn’t want to change it because I wouldn’t want to know what sort of person that I maybe would have ended up becoming if I did stay stuck in that pattern of just simply living for myself.”
Melissa, who has gone on to gain a bachelors degree in human communications, uses an electronic wheelchair to get around.
She wrote a book – Hope, Love, and Me: My Journey of Choices and Second Chances – and gives regular public speaking engagements.
She spoke to the team at the Real Fix podcast – which features real life people telling their own extraordinary stories in their own words.
- Listen to the Real Fix podcast here https://www.real-fix.com/real-fix-podcast/ or subscribe using the appropriate podcast platform here https://plnk.to/realfix