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Crash survivor seeks freedom from pain, nightmares, drivers yakking on cell phones
Happy Fourth of July! Enjoy your holiday. Enjoy your freedom. And, please, pledge to not do anything to strip that freedom from either yourself or others. That means no drinking while driving. It also means no distracted driving, including dilly-dallying with your cell phone while behind the wheel. Street Smarts reader Terri Ryan, a hairdresser, knows all too well what it's like to have some of her independence taken by another driver. Two years ago, she was struck by a woman on her cell phone in Live Oak and she is still feeling the impact of that day -- physically, financially and mentally. All Ryan wants now is to be free from pain and numbing nerve damage; to be free from the memories and nightmares; and to free drivers from their attachment to their cell phones. Here's her story in her words. Please, heed them: "I want to share my story as the person who was hit by the person talking on the phone. My 'phone talker' had her young child in her car when, while I was stopped waiting to make a left turn, she hit me going approximately 40 mph, the emergency medical technicians told me at the scene. "We were both within blocks of our homes. I still have a lump on my eyebrow where I got five stitches. The tip of my nostril received four. I still have a divot on the end of my nose! "I don't know what my face hit. The investigators said that the seat belt was working properly. There was blood everywhere. She accused me of not wearing a seatbelt but the officer that came to the hospital said not to worry. They proved that to be false. When they pulled out the belt from the wall, there was my blood to prove I was wearing it! "I knew I shouldn't move. I was hurt and hurting. I was taken by ambulance to Watsonville Community Hospital at rush hour. Strapped to a back board. It took almost 45 minutes from Live Oak. Dominican was too busy. "Damn those memories. They have turned into my nightmares. "My car was totaled. So was my neck. I got a new car. My totaled car was my favorite. It was paid for. I now have a payment for three more years, higher insurance and higher registration. My family cried when they saw my totaled car at the holding yard -- for all the reasons you can imagine -- part of my nightmare, also. "As for my neck, I still have way too much pain. It has been almost two years. I have had X-rays; MRIs; massage; acupuncture; lots of ice; injections in my neck, back and shoulders to relieve the spasms; an epidural; physical therapy two times a week for almost two years; daily exercises at home and much loss of sleep due to pain. "I now wear a brace at night. It seems to help a little but everyday is a little different. It is always better if I do nothing. However, I have numbness in my hands almost every night and day, especially when I work. They say I am not a surgical candidate. But now, maybe I am because I am not better or as far along as I should be. I am a hairdresser and the position my head is in daily causes my hands to go numb. My upper arms itch due to nerve damage. My clients must be tired of seeing me trying to shake out the numbness. "Daily life is difficult. I am in pain every day for most of the day. My neck, shoulders, hands and referral headaches. My life is different now. "What makes me the most frustrated is that I see people everyday talking on the damn phone while driving. I still see her talking on the phone while she drives, too. I wonder how many lives have changed -- like mine -- because that call couldn't wait. Was it really that important? If you knew you would change someone's life, even as simply as mine, would you still make that call and take the risk? What about a change that could be worse than mine? God forbid YOU kill someone. Maybe you have been lucky so far. "Think about it. "Please. PLEASE. "I think about her every day. Does she remember me? Does she think about me everyday? That is all I really want to know."