Mom says daughter lucky to be alive
23-year-old seriously injured in accident
By MEGHAN DURBAK
Tribune staff writer
For nearly a week, Cathy Smith has been sleeping on a cot near her daughter’s bedside. She listens to the monitors and watches the doctors and nurses come in and out of the sterile hospital environment.
Staring at her first born, she says another prayer thanking God her 23-year-old, Richelle, is still alive. On March 11, Richelle lost control of her white 1993 Dodge Stratus near 5800 East and 100 North. Her vehicle flipped four times, ejecting her into a field.
She was lifelined to Methodist Hospital. Her spine was broken in three different places, her spleen was ruptured and her lung punctured. She had 11 broken ribs, two broken clavicles, a broken shoulder and torn tendons and ligaments in her knee.
“She shouldn’t even be here 1,000 ways with this wreck. She’s a miracle,” Smith said.
After the relief of knowing their daughter was alive, Cathy and her husband, Bill, still worried about the real possibility of paralysis. The doctor’s outlook was grim.
“He prepared us for no guarantees that she wouldn’t be paralyzed; 90 percent of the time that’s the outcome,” Cathy said. “... When he got done with surgery, he was like a kid in a candy store. He said ‘If I didn’t see this with my own eyes, I would not believe I put her back together this well and without permanent damage.’”
Cathy said she and her husband found peace when they went to clean out their daughter’s car.
“When we approached the car ... my father’s rosary was hanging on the outside of the front windshield,” Cathy said. “[I said] ‘God is not done with her yet.’ It gave me peace. I knew she was in God’s hands.”
Even though their faith has helped them through this, the Smiths are still burdened with many concerns. They fluctuate between gratitude and concern as they brace themselves for the days, weeks and months ahead.
Richelle holds three jobs, and goes to school for nursing. She has no health insurance and has many more surgeries to come.
The enormity of the accident has hit Richelle in waves.
While she’s grateful to be alive, she is anxious about the future and regrets not wearing a seat belt.
Many of her injuries were sustained because she was ejected from her driver’s side window. The most likely reason for being thrown was because she was not wearing a restraint.
“I’ve driven up and down Sycamore Street on and off Sycamore Street all my life. I did not put in consideration to put on my seat belt,” she said. “I was watching my speed.
“What happened to me was I saw an animal come out — a dog — when I was leaving my friend’s house. I didn’t have my brights on, pumped on my brakes.
“I was going around a curve right when I saw that animal. It was wet and gravely. I fish-tailed a little bit. I tried to figure out, ‘Do I slam on my breaks, or just go into corn field?’”
She swerved into the corn field and hit a culvert, throwing her car into the air and ejecting Richelle from the vehicle.
“I was laying in mud, covered in mud. It was hard. I felt so alone,” she said. “I just wanted to get up and I couldn’t.
“I just kept praying to God someone would find me soon because I was so cold.”
Her prayers were answered when a group of teenagers came upon the accident site. One of them was her little sister’s best friend. Once Richelle recognized her voice, she began yelling for help.
Her sister’s friend, Bertha Meyers, called an ambulance and called Richelle’s parents. “I’m so grateful she found me,” Richelle said.
However, Richelle is still concerned about the future. She will have to put her business, A Healing Touch Massage Studio, on hold. “The only thing I’m scared about is whether I’ll massage again, live a normal life again. I just don’t know what to expect,” she said.
“I’m just grateful I can move. I’m grateful I’m not paralyzed. I’m grateful I’m alive.”
Richelle said she’s also thankful for the support and prayers in the community.
“We’re really grateful the Lord let us keep her,” said her father, Bill. “She’s been given a second chance. We’ve just been really blessed on that part.”
Richelle and her family can still use help. Family friends have established a fund at Solidarity Federal Credit Union where donations can be made to help with medical expenses. Donations can be made in her name, “For Richelle Smith.”
Richelle was transported to a hospital rehab in Kokomo. This is her home town, so family doesn't have to drive as far. Please continue to pray for a .
I took these right out of my email. Please remember her in your prayers and thank you. Get well soon Richelle! We love you!