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Julia Stuart

“As a child, growing up I thought life would come easy to me. You grow up in your little bubble where you are safe and things come easy to you. Unfortunately my life was the other way around. On May 29, 2016 I was hit by a drunk driver. My good friend at the time invited me over, she had family and friends over as well. I could not wait to go swimming because it was the perfect day out. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Also there’s nothing better then grilled chicken and S’mores! That day my friend asked me to sleepover and I had called my mom and asked but she said no. I remember being so mad because I really just didn’t want to leave. My dad picked me up later that night around 9. I would have never thought that night would change my life forever.

My friend’s dad and two other men were drinking the whole day and night. It is crazy how some people don’t have self control. My friend’s dad and the two other men got in the blue Mustang parked by the garage. They were playing around with the engine. I made my way down the driveway ready to go home with my dad. As I opened the car door I saw my dad’s face through the window in a panic. Sooner or later I quickly saw bright red lights through the reflection of the window. My friend’s dad went in reverse 30 mph down the drive way pinning me in between the two cars crushing me from hip down. I suddenly fell screaming in pain not knowing what happened.

I had surgeries on my knee and 2 years of physical therapy. 8 months on crutches not having a clue on how to walk. Learning how to walk again was definitely a big challenge. Since that day I didn’t want to sit back and have people feeling sorry for me. I thought a lot to myself I wasn’t going to let some man keep me weak because I’m not weak. I wanted to make a change, and I did. That change was to make sure what happened to me didn’t happen to anyone else. To end drinking and driving.

The worst day of my life became the best day ever because I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I am so thankful for everything and I really could have lost my life that day if my dad’s car wasn’t there but I didn’t and that really made me think a lot. Life could change in an instant. I am grateful that by age 13, I never had the reason to think about my own mortality. My life consisted of being around my healthy family and friends and those I encountered at school. The worries I had were limited to tests and peer pressure. After being hit by a drunk driver and seeing the intensity in the facial expressions of the doctors in the emergency room, for the first time in my life I asked myself if this was going to be my last day on earth. Experiencing these emotions opened my eyes to as how difficult it must be for all those in society who are diagnosed with a potentially terminal condition. Since the crash, I find myself wondering what they must be thinking about with regard to their own mortality. I realized how life is too short. It is imperative to appreciate every day that we are alive. It wasn’t until me having almost lost my life did I get a true sense of how true those words are. I remember thinking, while being homebound with doctor’s order to not put weight on my legs, how fortunate I and so many others were to have unrestricted lives. While my peers were participating in gym class counting the minutes to when class was over, here I was at wondering if I would be able to run again. I promised myself that one day when I recovered, that I would embrace every minute that I was alive. I promised myself to be open minded as to trying new activities and enjoying everything that life has to offer.

As a young teenager I had heard sad stories from the news media, my friends, my parents and family. Hearing stories about others who have suffered would impact me at the time, but not nearly as much as it has since the crash. Since going through what I went through, whenever I learn of someone being hurt or killed, I consider things that I never would have before. I wonder how much pain, fear and disability the victim experienced. I wonder if victims’ family and loved ones had experienced immeasurable pain that a victim could never understand. One thing that I always correct people on is when someone is hit or killed by a drunk or drugged driver it is not an accident! It is a crash! The reason why it is not an accident is because they made the choice to get drunk or take drugs and get in the car and drive off. I really have been trying to make people understand that because it makes me so mad. I was only 13 years old when my friend’s father crashed his car into my body. Being the victim of such a serious automobile crash at a such a young age allowed me to realize just how delicate the human body is. Prior to being hit, I genuinely believed I was invincible and that nothing could slow me down and nothing did slow me down.

I have been volunteering with Mothers Against Drunk Driving & sharing my story. MADD helped my family as I know they have helped many of yours. I am glad to be part of this organization. Thank you for joining me in support of MADD’s lifesaving mission.”

-Julia Stuart