My friend Kaye recently lost someone very close to her due to someone texting and driving. I asked to write this guest post about the experience; however, before I start I want to admit that both my husband and I have been guilty of occasionally texting while driving. Her story has changed us. PLEASE share this on facebook, Pinterest, and wherever you can. Chances are you will save at least one life in doing so.
We see videos and hear stories in the news about bad things that happen because someone was texting in their car. When that “bad thing” happens closer to home it becomes magnified 100 percent and lives change.
I got a call around dinnertime on March 4th from my friend Kathy. She was crying. She tearfully told me our friends Leslee and Dave Henson were out for a walk that morning in St. George and were hit by a car. He was killed. She had been life-flighted to our local hospital.
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I immediately pictured my sweet friends – he, handsome, smiling and friendly, looking a lot like David Hasselhoff; she, one of my best friends I’ve made memories with for 30 years now. My heart ached. I hung up and paced and cried. I called other mutual friends – there was a group of about six families who were friends in the mid-80s when we all lived in the same neighborhood. Our kids were little together – they played T-ball and took dance classes and had pre-school together. I love to make phone calls and call friends to visit. I did not love making those calls. We cried together and exclaimed how could it be? How could Dave be gone? What about Leslee – would she even survive? Her injuries were horrific.
I went to the hospital knowing I couldn’t go into the Neuro Shock Trama unit to see her but I needed to see her family and give and get hugs. We did just that – I hugged Leslee’s mom and daughters. Her daughter said she’d had 5,000 stitches to put her back together. I, and others, questioned that number. Really – 5,000? How could there be that many needed? Maybe it was only 500. I learned more of the accident – it was a texting driver who hit her. I was angry – how could someone so careless take away someone’s life and devastate an entire family and huge network of friends? How? Why?
The next day I returned to the hospital and Leslee’s son invited me to go see my friend. I held back sobs. My heart ached for her as she lay there broken yet she comforted me. She joked she was glad Dave didn’t have to suffer – he pushed her out of the way so she could. I know she must have been in shock but she knew he was gone and she was being brave and helping us to heal from our emotional wounds as she tried to heal from her physical ones. I was glad she still had her wonderful sense of humor.
Bones in Leslee’sneck and back were broken.She had bleeding in her brain. Her shoulder was injured. Her head was shaved and it was a mass of staples and stitches. The 5,000?It was true. She had stitches that ran from the inside of her left eyelid up over her forehead to the back of her head. There were splits off of that long nasty cut requiring more stitches and staples. But what was even more amazing – the nerves in her eyes had been severed. The eye surgeon put in 3,000 of those 5,000 stitches to reattach nerves. He had worried her eyes would be permanently open or droopy. They weren’t. He had been guided and the surgery was successful in giving her back her eyesight and her ability to use her eyes normally. She had road rash and bruises on every part of her body.Leslee was a cheerleader in high school and won the Miss Springville pageant in 1973. She was a beauty. She asked me if she looked like a monster. I told her no, she was still beautiful. And she is.
For the next five days Leslee was in that unit, then transferred to a bed on the fourth floor. Her body was healing but she was in pain, managed by IV and oral meds. Hundreds of visitors came, hundreds of flowers and cards were brought by – so many they spilled into the hallway outside her room. She and Dave were and are loved. They are the kind of people you want for neighbors – giving, helpful, kind, non-judgmental, fun, crazy, happy, cute, vibrant and grounded.
I went to the hospital often. Once I just sat in her room as she lay still in her bed. I mourned Dave’s death. I mourned the loss of my friend’s life as it was before the accident. I wondered how the future would be for her. And I was angry at that texting driver.
From there she moved to Acute Rehab where she had to learn how to walk, get in and out of cars and how to wipe off a table – simple things that would allow her to go home. Because of her head trauma her own driver’s license had been revoked – another cruel twist caused by the texting driver.
She left the hospital for a few hours one morning to attend her husband’s funeral. Her best friend and lover.Her high school sweetheart and grandpa to 10 darling kids. I watched at the cemetery as one little grandson said, “that’s where they are going to put my grampa,” pointing to the hole below the casket. The lump in my throat nearly choked me. It was so unfair. It was so unreal, watching this family gather for this event, an event that didn’t need to happen.
Leslee did go home, two and a half weeks after the accident. We were all worried about her going to her home in Santa Clara, the home she and Dave set out from for that walk on March 4th. She told me later she was worried too but, and here’s something to remember when we feel too tired or busy to pray, she was comforted by all the prayers from so many. She and her daughters have said over and over, they felt people’s prayers. There is a level of pain we are all asked to bear at times in our lives but knowing that prayer helps ease that pain is something we all need to be aware of and never dismiss. Prayers help.
More accident details: It was a 50-year-old woman who was late for work, texting with her head down and eyes off the road. She also had no insurance. Leslee faces that financial burden too. It wasn’t that woman’s car that hit them – she hit another car with a driver named Fred and it was his car that careened into Dave and Leslee. He said he remembers seeing Dave and Leslee walking and was horrified his car was headed in their direction. He watched as Dave tried to push Leslee out of the way but they were both hit, Dave barely alive for only minutes. Fred’s life has been changed too. He blames himself for being in that spot at that moment. The Hensons have reached out and embraced him and his wife, assuring him it wasn’t his fault. Yet he will have that image of his car hitting Dave and Leslee in his mind for the rest of his life. Tragic.
The woman at fault has been charged. Under Utah law she will pay up to a $10,000 fine and serve up to 15 years in prison. Fred said he didn’t think she started out that day to cause an accident yet her life is devastated by her thinking she had to text while driving. I look at her jail photo and think – she could be any one of us – a mother, sister, daughter, friend, neighbor. I’m sad for her.
My life has changed. I used to text while driving. I used to make and answer calls while driving. I don’t anymore. At all. It stays in my pocket. If I feel the need to look at it, I pull over into a parking lot. Red lights are not the place to check your phone. And I get angry when I see people on their phones. I want to push a sign in their face that says, “hang up and drive” or “my friend died because of a texting driver.” I don’t care if I get flipped off or yelled at. I’ve posted things on Facebook repeatedly about distracted driving – the Henson’s website stopthetextsstopthewrecks.blogspot.com, video clips, newspaper stories and more. I bought a T-shirt with the website on it. I’ve signed petitions to make Utah a state where you can’t use your phone in your car unless it’s hands-free (even then I think it’s still a distraction), I’ve called schools to get Leslee in to speak to students. She has spoken at three schools in the St. George area, she’s been on local TV stations and in newspaper articles. My son-in-law Todd and daughter Amy are filmmakers. I interviewed Leslee and Fred while they recorded. Todd put a touching video clip together that will be used by the Utah Highway Patrol, police departments, driver’s training schools and more. A shorter clip will show in megaplex theaters this summer.
We must get this message out – no text or call is worth a life.
We must pledge not to do it ourselves. We must sit down with our families and ask them not to do it. Tell them it’s ok to ignore their phones in their cars. If you are calling for them to stop and get a gallon of milk at the store on their way home is it better to get them home or the milk? Tell your kids who ride with others – if a driver won’t stop texting while driving tell them to let you out and to call you. Then, parents, BE THERE for your kids – go get them without complaint. Laud their choices to be safe. Don’t think this won’t happen to you. Hensons thought that.
This is an epidemic! Nine people die every day because of texting! Three out of four accidents happen because of texting.
Someone was skeptical recently about our efforts making a difference, that people will still text and drive so I posted this on FB:
I've posted a lot recently about not using your phones when driving, stemming from my friends' horrible accident. I'd like to know how many FB friends have changed their driving habits in the past month because of the accident my friend suffered. Please either like or explain. I'd like to get some unofficial statistics for a story I'm writing.
In less than 40 hours 67 people “liked” or responded. Here are some responses:
Mel Luthy Henderson I wasn't bad before, but since the accident and all your posting, I've seriously been super conscious of NOT using the phone. If it can't wait til I get to my destination, I'd better deal with it before I get in the car.
Kristi Johnson Parker for sure I have. Before, I would text on occasion only when it was a “most pressing” moment. But now a little Kaye voice in my head says, “park your phone”. So I do. And now I'll go to answer an incoming call and then stop myself. Or I'll even go to make a call or listen to a voicemail while I'm stopped at a red light and even then I think just because I”m stopped at a red light doesn't mean I can check out for a minute.
Pam Lloyd Friske Yes I never text while driving but I have been known to glance at a stoplight. Now I just put phone in purse and ignore it.
Lisa Clement Shaw Will occasionally look at my phone when I am at a red light, but have stopped looking when driving because of this accident and your reminders. Have started pulling over if needed or just waiting. We used to be able to go for hours without a phone!
Melinda Meltzer I have friends from high school who lost their daughter several years ago because she was texting. I can't EVER forget that!
Melinda Bosch Workman I never texted while driving before, but was getting lazy about checking my phone/texting while at red lights, I recommitted to not texting at all as the driver. I'm so sorry for your loss, Kaye. Thank you for continuing to post.
Julie B. Hollingworth I have usually pulled over to answer a text or pick up the phone, but I used to (when at a long traffic light or something) dial someone really quick and then talk while I drove. Not anymore, the thought of doing that kind of damage to someone makes me feel sick in my stomach. I park my phone, or ignore it altogether, unless I pull over now.
Karen Mann I have texted while driving. Lots of times. But now you've scared me spitless. What's interesting, is that in sharing your friend's story and the story of the texting driver getting arrested, it's the arrest story that gets everyone's attention.
Daniel Parker The other day I was almost home and got a text. I was reaching into my pocket, thought of your stories, and stopped. I could wait the 2 minutes till I got home to see what somebody wanted. Things like this have happened often since you started posting.
Brenda BerrettSvendsen I loved reading each one of these responses that have changed people from texting and driving, due to your sharing of articles…videos, ect. Thank you Kaye. You are truly making a difference in many lives, and also the lives that we have shared the videos with. I too have changed, and have really become the “text nag” to my husband (who seems to think that each text is life changing)
Kristina Coleman Manscill I've had a couple serious chats with my husband since then about checking game updates being as bad as texting and have told him your story as well as tried to be better myself
Sheila Summerhays Today driving from SLC to Cedar City, I got a phone call. I pulled over to get it.
Jade McDowell I never did send texts while I was driving, but I did decide against answering the phone when it was ringing the other day.
Evie Forsyth I never use my cell phone when driving! Thanks for the heads up…my daughter in the Bay Area was rear-ended by someone on a cell.
I think it’s safe to say that getting the word out DOES make a difference! We have to be vocal – this is LIFE we are talking about. We can’t even count how many lives have been changed because of this accident. One life ended. Dave’s wife, children, children’s spouses, grandchildren (10 with two on the way), Dave’s parents, parents-in-law, friends and neighbors from places they’ve lived in the past 35+ years, even kids in their most recent primary class are sad they don’t have “Brother Dave.” What about Fred and his wife – snowbirds who live in Minnesota, only here for the winter and the EMTs and doctors who worked on Dave and Leslee? There is a ripple effect of sadness from one simple text sent on what was supposed to be a beautiful spring morning.
I believe Dave is orchestrating efforts from beyond the veil. He knows there is sadness at his loss but he also knows that he has a strong, vocal, yet gentle wife and adult children who will wage war on this happening to anyone else ever again.
Leslee said a trauma doctor gave her some good advice. He told her not to ask “why me?” but to ask “what now?What should I be doing now with my life?” She wants to be a mother and grandmother but she also knows she can make a difference for others. I know she has for me. And I hope to make a difference for others for pushing this message. Life is too precious and too beautiful to have it cut short by a mindless, unnecessary act.
Park your phones before you drive. No text or call is worth a life.
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