My name is Tonya and I am 27 years old. I feel that God has blessed me with an amazing story and I am happy to be able to share it with you. I was a front passenger in a near fatal car accident (including 3 others) on June 16, 2005, fourteen days after my perfect graduation. I was so excited to be graduated and looked forward to continuing my education at the University of North Texas in Denton, TX. I had many friends, a loving family, and a great boyfriend... a normal life; or so I thought. And then it happened... the very last thing I thought would have ever happen.
I attended McKinney North High School and graduated in 2005.
About two weeks after my graduation though, I was out late one night celebrating with some friends. We had been drinking at a friend’s house which was not like me because I honestly did not like to drink. We then decided to go for a drive. I felt that I had drank too much so I asked my friends if any of them felt that they could drive. One said he could and I knew he had experience driving under the influence of many things so I gave him my keys, got in the front passenger seat, and our two friends sat in the back. He apparently could not drive though because minutes later, his intoxication fearlessly ran a stop sign across Hwy 5.
At that exact moment, an 18-wheeler was approaching at precisely 40 mph and collided with my jeep. It smashed into my door so hard that my door was touching the center console, and I was somehow lodged in between the two. The impact of the crash flipped my car persistently flipped my car over and over which knocked us passengers unconscious. When we were found, the driver of my car had fled the scene and left us three there.
Paramedics found me outside of the driver's door face down on the pavement not even breathing, a position that was an impossible outcome given where I was seated in the car. They told my family that it took numerous tries to revive me. I was then care-flighted to Parkland Hospital in Dallas along with the two other passengers. A detective on my case believed that the driver of my car had dragged me out of my seat, out of the crushed position I was in, over his seat and out of the car to purposely make it look as if I had been the one driving.
My car crash happened early in the morning on a Thursday. My Dad had just jumped in the shower while my Mom continued resting. Suddenly, the phone rang and my Mom answered. It was an officer telling her that her baby girl had been in a serious car crash, was care-flighted away, and may or may not be alive. Putting the phone down, she ran to the shower to tell my Dad. They then call my only sister and wake her with the news and the three of them rush to the hospital with one thought on their mind – did I survive? Detained now in their endless thoughts and early work traffic, they spring into the shoulder area to reach me quicker. They finally arrive at the hospital but before my Mom could even stop the car, my Dad hurdles out and runs inside. Not sure where I am or what condition I am in, he frantically searches for me but when he finally finds me in the ER, I am completely unrecognizable, covered in blood, dirt, and tubes; comatose, and not breathing on my own. Waiting for a doctor, they are ultimately told that I had received spinal cord injury, broke my neck, and would be paralyzed the rest of my life.
The spinal cord is the major bundle of nerves that carries nerve impulses to and from the brain and to the rest of the body. Spinal cord injury occurs when there has been such a sudden impact to the spine that it fractures or dislocates vertebrae which then bruises or tears into spinal cord tissue. The level of injury and amount of impact to the spinal cord determines what that person can move and feel. I was severely hit at 40 mph which caused my neck to break at the C6 vertebrae. An injury to the neck resulted in me becoming quadriplegic which means I do not have use of my hands or fingers. I also cannot move or feel anything below my chest.
I was in four hospitals for five months and had a total of 10 surgeries as a result of my crash. I had to learn how to breathe with deep breathing treatments, swallow with swallow tests, and move what I could all over again. I went through the most severe depression and a long period of being angry with God, being angry with myself, and living in constant regret.
I was immediately put on a ventilator to help keep me breathing. My first few hours in ICU, a CAT scan found a blood clot traveling in one my arteries toward my brain at the C6 injury site. The first surgery I had was to coil the blood clot, permanently disabling the artery. The second day, I lost an extreme amount of blood which triggered my blood pressure to drop dangerously low. After running some tests, specialists then discovered I was bleeding internally from a lacerated liver and spleen. My subsequent surgery was to stop the bleeding and attempt to repair my two organs. Now, my Dad's Mom was a fierce woman of God and steadily prayed for my healing. When my doctors went in for the operation, both organs had already began repairing themselves and did not need removed! I flat-lined three times shortly later though because my spine was pressed against my spinal cord. This caused heart issues and delayed my spinal fusion for 5 days. I was comatose for 2 weeks and then finally had my third surgery, the spinal fusion of C5-C7 vertebras in my neck. An IPC blood clot filter was installed in the groin prior to this surgery to prevent blood clots from my legs traveling to my heart or brain.
After three weeks of not communicating, I had finally come to the realization of what had happened. A tracheotomy was performed at that time. I could not speak for another 4 weeks until my trach was capped. I acquired pneumonia and had a collapsed lung, which complicated things further. I also had a multi-fractured hip and pelvic with dislocation which needed surgery. I was in leg traction for 8 weeks to promote healing of those fractures... however this was unsuccessful. During this time I became more aware of my injury and struggled to gain strength after lying in bed for 9 weeks. I have had a team of over twenty outstanding doctors, not including speech, respiratory, physical, and occupational therapists.
I feel that we experience what we do so that we can learn from it, grow stronger by overcoming it, and realize that we were designed with a purpose in mind which is to use our experiences to empower others and share Christ’s love. Trials and tribulations are not enemies of faith but are opportunities for God and us to prove our faithfulness. God saved me on June 16, 2005 and since then has blessed me with 10 birthdays, revealed the areas of my life that needed corrected, opened my heart to forgiveness, and allowed me to see just how much my parents, sister, and boyfriend love me.
I began sharing my story in 2009 and I share it to remind others of as their worth, their potential, and their forgotten blessings. You have been blessed with the abilities to walk, move, feel, think, and speak and every second that you can still do these things and every new day that you awaken are divine gifts and blessings. May they empower you and remind you that you were created for a purpose and how extraordinary that purpose is! It is unique; yours and yours alone. No one else on earth now, in the past, or in the future has the purpose that you have. These abilities and also the talents, experiences, and passion we have are our tools to make a difference. Everything that life is about and everything we go through is to constantly prepare us for the future and to help others along the way. We have been equipped to impact and, therefore, must always be alert and ready every day and every second to make that difference and live that purpose that is ours. Every time you are able to take a step, please be thankful for the ability to move your legs. Every time you are able to open a soda can, cook, or dress yourself, please be thankful for the blessing to use of your fingers and hands. Every time you drop something, please be thankful for the ability to bend down and pick it up. These simple tasks are exactly that -- simple -- but they mean something and you can still do them for a reason. Every day and every thing you can do is a blessing and opportunity. Please do not risk these blessings and opportunities on any substance, relationship, or behavior that is keeping you from being the best you can be -- keeping you from being who you were created to be.
God is good! #ToGodBeTheGloryAndHonorForeverAndEver
This site was last updated 01/08/15