Wrong-way crash survivor faces long, difficult recovery - KCTV5

Wrong-way crash survivor faces long, difficult road to recovery

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A routine drive as part of a family weekend forever changed Jen Duckett's life when an elderly motorist driving the wrong-way crashed into her compact car.

"I do have these injuries. And these are going to be lifelong injuries," Duckett said. "I'm not going to get up and walk pain-free for the rest of my life. It's always going to be there."

Wrong-way crashes are all too often in the headlines. At least 18 people have died in more than a dozen head-on collisions in Missouri and Kansas since the beginning of the year. Many times alcohol is involved.

That's not the case in Duckett's crash.

Duckett, her family and a child who is a family friend were traveling on U.S. 169 on Saturday, Oct. 8, when she saw a horrifying sight.

"I must have turned then looked back, and all of a sudden there he was," she said. "And I said, 'There's a car coming at us.'"

Her three children, her husband and the friend were hurt. But the impact crushed the side of the car where Duckett was sitting. She broke nearly every major bone in her body, and her condition was considered critical.

"I was pinned. So all I could do was turn my head," she said. "When they pulled me out of the car, I felt everything. It was so excruciating."

She was frantic with fear about the others in the vehicle.

"I was worried. I didn't get to see anyone. When I woke up, I didn't know what condition anyone was in," Duckett said.

The medication affected her memory. Nightmares began.

"That Andy didn't make it or one of the kids had died," Duckett said as she broke down in tears. "I just don't know what I'd be like if someone didn't make it. I wouldn't be this strong."

She battled serious respiratory problems and was in intensive care for weeks. The family played a compact disc of favorite songs as she drifted in and out of consciousness.

And that music helped keep her calm, as intended. She also felt her husband and children's  comforting presence.

"True love. I would have done the same thing," she said. "I would be there to make sure he was comfortable, no matter what I had to do."

Friends and family who rallied to Duckett's side said she brightened lives with her positive, attitude, caring heart and giving spirit.

Duckett brought smiles with her catchy phrases like "Love your face, miss your face," and "Have a quality day," friends said.

After she was discharged from the hospital, Duckett was transferred to a rehabilitation center where she faced months of recovery.

She battled loneliness and sagging spirits as she battled to push through a long, difficult road to recovery.

She underwent half a dozen surgeries and still has two more to go.

One of the best days came when she was released from the rehab center and came home.

"My first shower," she said remembering the simple joys. "The normal things you do everyday that can be taken away from you."

After a deadly wrong-way crash in which the driver was reportedly drunk, Duckett posted on KCTV5's website. She said that crash brought back memories of hers.

"This is so upsetting! I'm a survivor of a "wrong-way," head-on collision and it's been a very rough 6 months of recovery with a long way to go still. I'm fortunate to be alive and be able to recover almost completely," she wrote. "My family was in the car that day and thankfully, I was the only one in critical condition."

Duckett is involved in litigation with the 80-year-old man's insurance company. Her medical bills have reached into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the man's insurance company has yet to pay.

She said the crash did not have to happen, and she said other motorists should use her unfortunate crash as a reminder to do what's right, no matter how hard it is.

"People need to stick to their guns. It's hard if it is your parent, brother, sister to take away the keys," she said. "But accidents have happened a lot. You just have to stick to your guns."

As Duckett continues to recover, she is looking forward. Her boss is holding her job for her to return to once she's back on her feet.

"I'm not angry," she said. "I have no reason to be. I'm here. My kids are here. It would be a different story if there was a place missing at the table."

Click here to go to a website to help the Duckett family with their expenses and about Duckett's recovery.

Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.

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