Trauma Survivors Network - provided by ATS

Survive. Connect. Rebuild.

A Program of the ATS

Debbie's story

May 19, 2017 I was in Dallas training for what was my dream job, a sales position with Topgolf.  I had an early flight when I left Virginia a few days earlier and before I left, I kissed my sleeping 18-year-old daughter goodbye.  The night before I left, I had told her to be extra careful as I never wanted anything bad happening but especially, when I was so far from home. 

I had been in a training class on Friday the 19th  so my phone was silenced.  Luckily, we finished early and I saw I had a message from my daughter’s friend, she never called me.  I listened to the message and it said my daughter, Lexi and her best friend had been hit by a large truck.  That was the beginning of our family’s nightmare.  

The day of the crash was exactly 4 weeks before Lexi was scheduled to graduate high school and she and her best friend had gone to the beach.  They were coming home from the beach at 3:19 pm on a beautiful sunny day and were hit head on by a 15,000 lb fully loaded delivery truck by a man who had alcohol, marijuana, Xanax, and cocaine in his system.  Lexi’s best friend Abby was driving and she was killed instantly.  Lexi was hanging onto life by a thread, she was life flighted to a level 1 trauma center. 

I got the first flight home I could and walked into the hospital 8 hours after the crash.  I did not know it until months later, but they did not expect her to make it through the night.  Lexi had a broken pelvis, a very badly broken arm, and a traumatic brain injury with shearing.  We were told her brain injury was as bad as it could be.   She was in a coma for 2 weeks; we did not know how impaired she would be until she woke up.   Finally, she woke up but had a trach so she did not speak for another few days. 

Once she was stable enough to travel, we were able to get her into Shepherd Center in Atlanta.  We took a medical flight to Atlanta, one of the worst flights of my life.  We spent 3 months at Shepherd’s Center between inpatient and outpatient.  We had someone with Lexi the entire time despite my husband and I working.  Our companies were very understanding, so we took turns flying back and forth to Atlanta.  We had a total of 28 flights to Atlanta.  The process she made at Shepherd’s was amazing.  Another benefit of a specialized rehabilitation hospital was we were able to connect with other families going through a similar experience.

When we arrived at Shepherd’s we were asked what the goal was for Lexi.  We all agreed it was to get Lexi to college just like we had planned.  We were told when we left inpatient that it would be at least a year or two before she could attend a college class part time.  But Lexi being the high achiever she is, blew that out of the water.  In December of 2017, 7 months after the crash her speech therapist told us she could not do anything more for her and suggested a class at the local community college.  We enrolled her in a biology 101.  Since she had taken AP Biology, which was essentially the same class, we figure it was a good choice.  She did very well.  We then found out the Virginia Tech had a summer program for incoming students.  They were small classes but condensed and intense.  We enrolled her in Tech’s summer program with the thought that if she succeeded, she would enroll full time in the fall of 2018.  She loved the summer program and did well so she met her goal of being a full-time college student 15 months after the crash. 

She is still a full-time student and is a double major in Biology and Neuroscience.  She wanted to be a doctor before the crash and still wants to be a doctor.  It is not easy as she still has many issues, but she is truly a miracle!

Everyone deals with trauma differently.  For me, I needed to have something positive come out of this event.   I have started a support group for young people with traumatic brain injuries; written a book about our story and do speaking engagements.  I am also on the board of our state’s brain injury association.   That is also why I want to be involved with the TSN program.