Sunday, February 13, 2011

2 years ago....

I'm taking a break from our regularly scheduled programming to tell you a story. I hope that, by sharing Rachel's story and my sister's story, it will change lives.

On February 14th, 2009, my sister Brittany, my (essentially) step-sister Rachel, my niece Lexi and my nephew Landon were on their way to Gaitlinburg for a fun weekend. At about 3:00 am, they were hit head on by a drunk driver.

Lexi, Rachel, and Landon; Fall 08

I got the call at 4:45am... my mom, frantic on the phone, told me I needed to drive to Knoxville. Immediately. I asked if she was okay, and the response was "You just need to get here. Now."

The three and a half hour drive was a blur. I left the house with my laptop and phone charger, with the thought process of "I need to keep as many people in the loop as possible." I didn't bring clothes or toiletries... Not even a tooth brush. I stayed on the phone the entire almost 4 hours... calling everyone I knew. Brittany and Rachel are in bad shape... Rachel has multiple injuries, we don't know how extensive. They are both on life support... Brittany has broken bones... They can't keep Rachel's heart rate or blood pressure steady. My mom was hesitant to give me information while I was on the road, and it was making me crazy. I didn't know how were hurt.... all I knew was that it was bad, but they were alive.

When I got to the hospital, Brittany was in surgery. They had finally gotten Rachel stabilized enough to take her to surgery, and she was close to being done. I learned that she was conscious while in the car, but her legs were pinned. When they took the parts of the car off of her legs, they learned that her femoral artery was severed, and they had trouble keeping her stable after that. The paramedics told my mom that Brittany was unconscious at the scene and was having multiple seizures... they put her in a medically induced coma to stop them. Rachel had multiple bone breakages, including her neck, collarbones, ribs, pelvis, arm, and multiple points in both legs. Brittany broke her left arm in 6 places (4 at the top, and both bones at the bottom in clean breaks), and pretty much shattered her right knee. She also had a hematoma on her brain, which was the biggest cause for concern at the time. She was in surgery at the time for her knee, and I wouldn't get to see her for a few hours. Lexi and Landon were ok for the most part... They both had moderate internal injuries but no broken bones. Landon suffered a head trauma and moderate vision loss in one eye, and Lexi suffered a laceration to her liver. They were 2 and 4 at the time.

I got to see Rachel first... She had external fixators on both legs (if I remember correctly, there were 4 breaks in one leg and 5 in the other, with a very serious injury to her right ankle)... The big discussion was if she would be able to walk again.

We were in the critical care waiting room when they came to tell us we could see Brittany. The walk to her room was the longest of my life... I wanted to run to her, just to be able to see that she was okay. What I saw when I walked through that curtain is something I will never forget.

That was my baby sister, 19 years old, laying broken in a hospital bed and hooked up to those machines. Machines that were breathing for her, replenishing the blood in her system. I couldn't believe it... I didn't want to believe it.

I stayed at the hospital that day for as long as they would let me. I think I went to the hotel at 12... (it really was all a blur, and so surreal). When we left, everyone was stable and doing as well as they could be. The next morning, I woke up and went to Walmart... I had no clothes, remember? This was the day after Valentines day, so all the goodies were on clearance! I spent a good deal of time picking out Valentines day goodies for Rachel, Brittany, Lexi, and Landon... as well as nail polish for my sister's toes and body spray to make her smell good. (The idea of that came from the nurse she had the first day... she made it a point to primp Britt as much as she could and spray her with body spray. The first time she did it, she said, "It's one of my favorites... I hope she likes it too." She was one of my favorite nurses. :)  )

I got back to the hospital at 11:15, and took the elevator to the CCU with the goodies to be delivered. When I stepped off, the hallway was crowded with people. It took a minute before I realized I knew those faces... and their were filled with tears. They had performed a test on Rachel that morning, and learned that there was no activity in her brain. They believed that there was so much fluid released from her injuries that it put pressure on her brain, and the result was that she was brain-dead. They kept her alive for 8 more hours, and at the decision of her family, took her off of life support at 7PM. She was 24.

Brittany stayed on life support until Tuesday... they woke her up and removed her breathing tubes. She stayed in the hospital in Knoxville for 2 more weeks, until they transported her to Skyline Medical Center in Nashville. She was there for another 2 weeks... she was in physical therapy to learn to use a wheel chair with her one arm and one leg, as well as learn how to navigate from the wheelchair to a regular chair, and so on. She was released from the hospital on March 11th, 3 days before my 23rd birthday.

Brittany, Easter 09.

Today, Brittany is fully recovered, although still in pain every day. She is in cosmotology school, and due to graduate in May.

I do apologize for the sad entry... but I feel I need to share this story at every opportunity. Tomorrow, it will be 2 years since the accident... Two years since our lives changed forever. Tuesday will be two years since our beautiful Rachel was taken from us... Two years since those beautiful babies lost their mommy. All because some idiot decided to drink and drive.

Anthony Lambert was sentenced to 10 years in prison for what he did... and he will be up for parole in 3. He killed someone... and he'll serve such an insignificant time in jail. He will go back to his children, watch them grow up. Rachel will never see her children. She will never go back to her family. She had her life stolen from her, all because this idiot couldn't call a cab.

(This is a video that my sister made to show at her old high school... they have a week long program called "Prom Promise" to raise awareness with Seniors about drunk driving)

I beg you, friends, please NEVER drink and drive. I hope this offers some insight into what can happen... what does happen, far too often. It doesn't need to happen... If only people could be more responsible and realize that it could happen to anyone. It shouldn't take tragedies like this to make people wake up.

I love you all, and have a happy and safe Valentines Day. <3


  1. I am so deeply sorry for your great loss. Thank you for your courage in sharing their story. My husband's mother and half-brother were killed by a drunk driver in 1998. Their murderer (because honestly, that's how I view it) was sentenced to three years in prison and two years probation. This is not what he served, this was the total sentence. (I'm sure he served much less. This was a few years before he and I met.) The horror of such senseless and needless tragedies is certainly compounded by the leniency in sentencing (though it's improving slightly, albeit entirely too slowly, with each passing year). Of course, no sentence can erase the damage caused or return our precious loved ones to us. Hopefully our stories will make people think twice before behaving so recklessly. My thoughts are with you today.

  2. I am deeply sorry for your loss. Many thanks for sharing this touching story. Valentine's Day must be a day of mixed feelings in your family.

  3. Yet again you make me cry with a story Amber! I saw some of these pictures on your Facebook and wondered what it was about. I can't even imagine or believe Kari said it perfectly ^^^.

  4. Wow... When a life is taken from us in such a way, and justice isn't done, know that that person cannot and will not ever forget what they've done, and will live with it for the rest of their lives. It disgusts me that people even consider driving under the influence. Passing on your story is a good idea. I did the same when my younger half/step brother was in a car accident. He was in a friend's car. They weren't breaking the speed limit, but his friend wasn't taking into factor the wet weather conditions. Lets just say, the car didn't look like a car anymore. My younger brother ended up with a crushed spinal cord and major concussion, and his mate just a few bruises. I put the photo of the wreck on FB and wrote a note mentioning about taking it safe whilst driving.

  5. I just found out about this this week and I am at a loss of words, the pictures of the bed. Knowing Brittany still alive lives with pain every day and graduated from Paul Mitchell hair styling school. I have never experienced a loss like this in our family and hope to God we never do but deep deep sympathies go out for Brittany and her loss and yours.

    Both videos are beautiful and deeply touching to my heart and soul. Amen.


    George :(

  6. I'm so sorry for your loss. I know just how hard it is, I lost my 17 year old sister to an accident (the driver was totally sober though and only received 90 days in jail...) Nothing anyone ever says can make it better, but remember the good times and tell those babies all about their mommy - that's what we have to do with my nephew (her accident was one week after his 1st birthday and less than one month from her 18th birthday).

  7. That is terrible! :( I'm so sorry for you, and for that sweet little boy!

  8. Thank you for having the courage to post your story! So sorry for your loss.


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