A Survivor’s Story: Sarah Carmichael’s Healing Journey
Sarah Carmichael has no memory of the crash that nearly killed her on February 8, 2008 when she was 26 years old. She knows from police reports, a crash reenactment and witnesses that a drunk driver ran a red light and T-boned her car on the driver’s side. She knows that the seatbelt she wore saved her from being ejected into the street and run over by her own car. And she knows she was in a medically induced coma for two weeks before she slowly awoke to the horror of what had happened to her and the long recovery ahead. What she can remember are the many fractures that took years to heal — the C1 and C2 of her spine, the base of her skull, both sides of her collar bone, every rib except for one, her tailbone, the six or seven fractures in her pelvic bone. She remembers that she had bleeding and swelling on her brain, a bruised heart, collapsed lungs and that her liver, pancreas, bladder and one kidney were all punctured and needed to be repaired.
Sarah has undergone multiple surgeries since a drunk driver hit her car and nearly killed her in February2008.
Sarah is a survivor. And she wants to be the voice for people who cannot speak.
“Being involved with MADD really helps bring me back to the positive things and not get sucked into the rabbit hole of negativity,” she says. “I have this voice. I have this story and I have to use it. What drives me is that not everybody’s story is going to end up as good as mine, and they need a voice too.” Sarah got involved with MADD Massachusetts about a year after her crash. She started with Victim Impact Panels, sharing her story in small groups with drunk driving offenders. She chose a larger public stage a few years later, during a fashion show fundraiser for MADD at Gillette Stadium in Boston. With her family in the audience, Sarah told the crowd what had happened to her — the crash and her injuries. That she couldn’t work for three years and had to go back to school to change careers because she was no longer physically able to return to her former job. That her spleen was removed and a portion of her small intestine removed because they were both badly damaged. That she has been hospitalized six times since the crash because scar tissue forms obstructions in her small intestine. And that because of her injuries, a pregnancy would be high-risk, or maybe impossible. “There are some points over the past 11 years where I’m kind of OK with it and others where I cycle through being mad, and to being ‘poor me,’” she says. “At some point, I made a conscious shift from being a victim to being a survivor.”
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