March 30, 2017
name: Rhonda Reese
Story: Hi, my name is Rhonda and I am 38 years old. I would like to share "my story" with you. I started drinking at age 15 and drinking and driving at the age of 16. I not only thought it was cool to drink, but I actually liked the taste of beer and liquor. Unfortunately, because I liked the taste, I chose to drink quite frequently. Especially on weekends hanging out or driving around with friends. There was always some older legal drinking age friends around that I could talk into buying me some alcohol. Sometimes if I got lucky, I could purchase it myself if the convenience store cashiers didn't card (ID) me. I was nearly 6 feet tall and looked older than my real age, so if the store cashiers weren't doing their job of checking IDs, I was able to break the law, drink and drive, putting others and myself in danger.
While I partied with friends I never gave it a second thought that I could kill or injure others or myself. I was having way too much fun to worry about that.
I was periodically stopped by police for minor things like weaving or having a tag light out and had clearly been drinking. I was never ticketed nor asked to take a breathalyzer test, ever. For approximately eight years (I'm in my 20's at this point) I drove many times after drinking. One particular time police found me in a small orange grove on private property across from a neighborhood bar. I was taken to the police station where they contacted the owner of the property, told him the situation and that I was under the influence of alcohol. He was then asked if he wanted to press charges against me? Apparently the police couldn't arrest me for DUI because I wasn't driving on a state road or highway, I was on private property. Because the owner knew me, he DID NOT press charges. Once again I was not punished in any way. I thought it was great that I had never been ticketed nor arrested. I felt like I could continue to drink and drive and nothing bad was ever going to happen to me. I could break the law by drinking and driving and never be punished legally for it.
Thinking back now I often question and wonder what my life would be like if maybe I would have gotten a ticket, or my license suspended, or even spent time in jail for drinking and driving. Maybe I would have learned a lesson or thought twice before continuing to go down that path before it was too late.
On August 3, 1991, my boyfriend and I drove out of town to celebrate my 25th birthday two weeks late. We both drank entirely too much that night and against better judgment decided to drive home. My boyfriend got in the driver's seat, did not put on his seatbelt, I got in the passenger seat, fastened my seatbelt (I think), and reclined the seat so I could sleep on the way home. The next thing I remember is waking up, looking at a broken windshield, wondering why I couldn't move, and wondering where my boyfriend was. My next moment of reality was being told at the hospital that I was completely paralyzed from the neck down, and that my boyfriend had been ejected from the vehicle and did not survive.
I felt like someone had just stuck a knife in my heart. All I could do was cry and wonder how did all this happen. Just a few hours before I was celebrating my birthday without a care in the world. Now a life was taken and I was completely paralyzed from the neck down. How would I ever survive this horrible new life! My life was changed forever in an instant. I was no longer able to move any part of my body except my head. At that point I was on a ventilator because I couldn't breathe on my own. I was unable to speak or eat for several months. I had tubes coming out of my nose, neck, arms, etc. It was horrible and extremely scary!
I spent two months in intensive care and then four months at a spinal cord injury rehabilitation hospital. Even though I could no longer care for myself, I was taught how my body would be changed now and what others would need to do to keep me alive.
A caregiver has to do everything for me now. Bathing, dressing, feeding, making my bowels and bladder function, etc. I have lost my complete privacy, dignity, and life, as I knew it for twenty-five years. Now I have to fear every little germ or bacteria because the slightest infection can cause me major health problems. For instance a common cold can turn into pneumonia overnight. I have to constantly relieve pressure on many areas of my body so I don't get pressure sores. If left untreated pressure sores can become infected, require surgery to correct them, or even cause death if not properly treated. I now have urinary tract infections constantly among several other medical problems I never had before I became paralyzed. I have a catheter that was surgically implanted into my bladder that attaches to a hose and bag that my urine goes in. Someone has to empty the bag of urine when it's full. If the urine is not emptied when the bag is full, I can experience a condition called Dysreflexia, which can raise blood pressure or even cause a stroke. Without this type of catheter I would have to be catheterized every 6 hours, otherwise I would urinate all over myself. Due to my paralysis I don't have normal feeling so I don't know when I have to urinate or empty my bowels, etc. I could have an accident and not know it for hours. These kind of things can be very embarrassing. These are just a few examples of what I now live with every day. There are many more that I won't get into because they aren't pretty and most are definitely embarrassing!
Even though I wasn't driving the vehicle, my irresponsible actions and bad choice that night led to a death, me becoming paralyzed, and changing the lives of all our family members forever. I COULD have and SHOULD have been more responsible and made a better choice that night. I don't get a second chance to change my actions that night so I live with what happened every day.
I have made a new life despite my disability, but by no means is it the life I dreamed I'd ever have! I recommend making better choices especially when it comes to drinking and/or drinking and driving. I hope others won't have to go through what I have and learn their lesson after it's too late.
I wanted to share my story and what happened to me in hopes that anyone reading this will better understand the effects of drinking and driving.
The outcome can be deadly! It can happen to you or someone you know in an instant...
PLEASE THINK BEFORE YOU DRINK!