Karen Labarbera

Day on the beach – Done

A quick trip to Waldbaum’s Shop – Wrapped up

Nails – Awesome looking!

Devastate and destroy the life of a complete stranger because of the choices one makes – Irreversible

That’s how Cathy Dubas describes the day of the offender, who spent the day drinking on the beach when she crashed into Karen Labarbera. The mother of two was left with a loss of a leg up to her thigh, the sight in one eye, brain capacity and the life she had been living.

“She is a real survivor,” said Cathy, who suffers from PTSD due to the crash and results. “She just does what she has to do. Our entire family has been impacted. Her children lost the mother they knew. We will never get over this.”

The Crash

On a beautiful summer evening, Karen enjoyed a ride on her motorcycle.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a vehicle t-boned her. The driver’s blood alcohol concentration was .20.

The injuries were severe, so severe the first responders weren’t sure that even air lifting her out would save her life. Her femoral artery was bleeding. Her lungs collapsed. And she went into cardiac arrest.

“I knew when I got the call that the news was bad. I tried to delay. I took the longest route to the hospital,” said Cathy.

Karen flat-lined once. Twice.

“The moment I arrived, I was immediately asked to authorize putting a bolt in the brain of my only sister,” she said. “No one should have to make that decision.”

“This was bad,” she said. “Actually, this was horrible. Then, I had to make the saddest calls of my life to my family.”

The Damage

Karen’s story, unlike more than 10,000 people a year, doesn’t end at the crash. She is one of the nearly 300,000 people who survive, who move forward despite the overwhelming pain, emotional distress and challenges.

Karen had 23 surgeries in 25 days while she was in a coma.

The list of injuries goes on and on:

Broken nose

Pins in her left wrist

Staph infections

Broken teeth

Shattered Shoulder

Brain damage

A cyst in her leg

“Watching my sister, day after day in the trauma unit, was the most heart-wrenching thing I’ve ever done,” she said. “I wasn’t going to let her die alone. Day after day, surgery after surgery, we never knew if it would be her last.”

The Aftermath

The offender received a year in jail – and it took a fight to get that. Probation was recommended. She served less than 12 months, getting released shortly before Christmas.

Karen’s family said she has never apologized, never shown remorse.

“Every day is a struggle for Karen,” Cathy said. “What we take for granted, is such an ordeal each and every day for her from getting up to go the bathroom to getting dressed.”

Today, Cathy shares her sister’s story with high school system and raises money for Walk Like MADD.

“I was in need of such care, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving® was wonderfully, miraculously there for me,” she said. “I don’t know if I could have made it without their help.”

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