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Kim McNeil: One Year later


Woman dies after crash near Clarenville

This is the text of a letter sent to CBC

Friday, Jan. 13, 2012 will be one year since you aired this story (above). I would like to introduce myself as the 42-year-old woman that survived that accident. My name is Kim McNeil.

That day was the most horrific day in my life. It was also the end of a life of a woman from Bunyon's Cove. Wife and mother Rosie Tucker died that day.

My life changed that day forever. When I was extracted from my car (white car in photo) I was immediately brought to the hospital in Clarenville. A few hours later I was transported to the trauma unit at the Health Sciences Center in St. John's. While en route I flatlined several times.

When I arrived in St. John's, my family was all gathered there with some friends and co-workers. Because of the story CBC aired that day, most people in my life were made aware of the horrific event I had gone though.

Upon my arrival in St. John's my family were told of the injuries I suffered as a result of this accident. I was indeed in serious condition with life threatening injuries. I had broken a vertebra in my neck (C2), three ribs were broken, one lung was punctured, a vertebra in my lower back (L2) was broken and my foot was broken in three places.

I had survived the accident but my battle wasn't over at that point. I was heavily sedated on morphine for almost two weeks to allow my body to start to heal. It wasn't determined immediately if surgery was needed but over the next few days, it was determined that surgery wouldn't help. I never did have surgery. It was decided that my bones would heal on their own as long as I was totally immobilized.

Almost two weeks after that day, the morphine was suspended and my work began. I was told about the fact that someone else did die that day and she was a wife and mother. That hit me extremely hard. I had never had to deal with anything like this before.

The occupational therapists working on my case came to help fit me for the brace that was made for me in the US while I was sedated.

This would have been the first time that I moved from my back in two weeks. I felt like I had been hit by a truck, not a car. Through their efforts, I was sat up on the edge of my bed for the first time. With the help of a walker, I was told, "Okay Kim, it is time to walk." Off course I had no idea if I could. No one really did know if I could because this was the first time I did anything except wiggle my toes.

They helped me off the bed and I stood on my feet for the first time. Dawning my neck brace, body brace and a plaster cast on my foot, I was standing for the first time. Now the challenge was to walk. I put one foot in front of the other, cast and all, and made my first step. I walked to the end of the hospital room and back. That was the moment I was waiting for, my family and my medical team.

At that time I made the transition from an accident victim [to] an accident survivor.

I was kept in the hospital for a total of 22 days. I was released to my parents home in St. John's. I couldn't go to the bathroom on my own. I couldn't get out of bed on my own. I couldn't do anything on my own.

While at my parents house, my mother had a mild stroke due to the stress caused by me.

At that point, it was apparent I needed to return to my own home in Clarenville where I lived alone. I needed an ambulance to get me there. When I arrived at home, I was greeted by the homecare worker that would work 10 hours a day to help me.

From that moment on, I took my life back. My recovery was amazing. I took charge of my life and gained my independence again. I was home with my own stuff around and in my own bed.

I still had a lot of work to do though.

At Week 6, the man in my life prior to my accident, and someone that stayed with me during this whole event, told me we were over. Another speed bump in my recovery. I was devastated.

I pulled up my big girl pants -- well, my homecare worker did -- and I decided that I needed to get my physical well being back to where it had been.

At Week 9, I returned to the Health Sciences Center for another CT scan and my neurologist was pleased to tell me that my neck was better. My back still needed some TLC but I now could take off the neck brace, which had been with me 24/7 for nine weeks. I asked if I could drive and he told me if I had the range of motion in my neck, I could drive safely.

I had lunch with my mother and niece and proceeded to a car dealer, bought a new SUV and drove it home two days later. I was indeed on the road to recovery.

At Week 11, I returned to work half days. Much to the amazement of my co-workers and family, I was sitting behind my desk. It was April 4.

On June 1, 2011, I returned back to work full time.

My recovery continues to this day and although my physical injuries are just about healed, my mental and emotional recovery is far from over.

I did make the decision early in my recovery though that I needed to get my life back. I needed to get better. After all, someone had died and if I didn't fight to get my life back, she might have died in vain. I had enough guilt to live with, I couldn't add that to it as well.

I told my body every minute of everyday that I would get better. I would recover from this horrific event. I never allowed anyone to be around me that was negative at all about my recovery. If I could have a smile on my face and trudge on, they could too. After all, I was the one with the injuries.

One year has passed now since you first reported on this story. It has been a year of much pain, grief, mourning and speed bumps for me, but I am finally at the stage in my life where I can celebrate the fact that I am alive. The pain I feel on a daily basis is a constant reminder of how lucky I am to be alive. It is a reminder that I can at least feel the pain.

My work continues, but I have never given up believing that I would get better. I have never given up telling my body that it would heal.

Although, I never met Rosie or her family nor do I remember the day of the accident, I have pledged to her and myself that her death wouldn't be for nothing.

I will visit her grave this weekend and tell Rosie how sorry I am that she died. In doing that though, I will also thank her for giving me the inspiration to continue with my struggle.

I am telling you all of this because I want you to know that the stories if death and accidents that you often report on aren't the end of the story. Sometimes, as in my case, there is something positive that comes from it. I realized for the first time in my life I had the inner strength to fight the biggest challenge of my life. My life has changed and although some would think for the worse, it has changed for the better.

I know now that tomorrow is just a plan, it isn't a promise to any of us.

Thank you for the news story a year ago. It allowed people important in my life to know it was me that day and that allowed people I haven't heard from in over 20 years to reach out and encourage me in my recovery.