Kathy and Dave Scott were on their way to Florida two years ago when their car and their lives took a sudden turn in North Carolina.
As a result, Kathy now spends most of her time in a wheel chair but she has managed to hold onto what’s most important to her.
“I spent a long time in rehab and I saw a lot to make me grateful for what I can do. I had 70 years of total mobility. I met a lot of people much worse off than I am and a lot of them are young people so I think I’m doing pretty well.
Doing pretty well means she is now driving the van she and Dave had adapted with hand controls and a wheel chair lift. An avid quilter, she is sewing again with a new machine equipped with a hand press instead of a foot pedal. She is also back to volunteering with AG Baillies’s Art at Lunch program which she has done for years.
“We’ve got five granddaughters playing five different sports, depending on the season, and I can still get to their games and swim meets. Being able to see them with their friends and being able to encourage them, that’s what is important,” she said.
She points out she is also happy she can bake and cook, joking that she is glad to have been spared “having to watch Dave in the kitchen.”
They had made regular winter trips to Florida for years but their February 2016 trip was to have been their last as their group of park friends had diminished over the years.
“We’d just had breakfast and got on the road so we were talking about our plans when Dave veered to the left. I asked what he was doing and he didn’t answer me. The car then veered to the right and I could see a big pine tree coming right at us.”
Both were taken to a local hospital where they were determined to have spinal injuries. From there Dave was taken by ambulance to Greenville, SC, and Kathy was airlifted to the same hospital which specialized in spinal injuries.
“Our accident happened in the best possible place considering the kind of injuries we sustained. Good care was close by.”
Stormy weather in Halifax delayed the efforts of the Scotts’ son and daughter to fly to South Carolina and Dave’s cousin who lives in Idaho got there ahead of them.
“I was glad she was there to meet the kids because we were quite a sight, me on one floor and Dave on another, both of us in Lala Land a lot of the time.”
Kathy, a nursing school graduate, knew the implications of not being able to feel her feet within minutes of the crash. She needed immediate surgery to stabilize her back and a few days later both she and Dave went for further surgery intended to repair spinal fractures but Kathy’s injuries were complicated by previously undiagnosed osteoporosis so a rib section had to be removed to replace two vertebrae.
Within two weeks, with both of them in body casts, they were airlifted back to Nova Scotia at the direction of their insurance company with Kathy going to Halifax Infirmary and Dave shortly going to Aberdeen Hospital. Their next moves were to rehabilitation centers – about six weeks in Pictou for Dave but almost seven months in Halifax for Kathy.
“Originally I was to come home in May but I was put on a new medication and we discovered I had some movement in my legs so I was asked if I would like to stay and try to strengthen those front muscles. It was an easy decision – as long as I was improving I was staying.”
Weeks and weeks of tiring physical and occupational therapy followed and Kathy can now walk a bit on a flat surface using a specific walker but she lacks the balance to stand alone.
Initially, it was assumed Dave fell asleep at the wheel but neither of the Scotts accepted that explanation as they were speaking to each other at the time of the accident. Further investigation determined his heart likely stopped and was restarted by the compression of the seatbelt on impact.
“The way I look at it if we hadn’t hit the tree Dave would be gone. He’d never had any heart trouble and there was no warning. Since then he’s had a pacemaker installed to prevent this from ever happening again.”
When Kathy was able to come home in October 2016, it was to a new home where everything is on one level and a wheel chair can be accommodated.
“I didn’t mind not getting back to our old house because I’d been through a lot and I’d had to make up my mind I was looking forward, not backward. That part was probably harder on Dave and the kids than on me. Realistically, at our ages, we had a move coming so with Dave’s back injury and my situation it just came sooner than we planned.”
Kathy credits her mother with fostering a positive outlook in her and her sister.
“We knew from an early age bad things happen. I was five years old when my father died. My mother took over the operation of the farm which was not a common thing for a woman to do in the early 1950s but it fed us and it allowed her to be home when we got home from school. She showed us you just have to move along.”
Both Scotts say their situation was made immeasurably easier by their insurance coverage.
“We got wonderful care in a luxury hospital in Greenville but you had a bar code on your wrist and everything you got was scanned to your bar code, whether it was medication or a box of Kleenex. Our insurance took care of all that.”
Throughout rehab Kathy was introduced to any number of diagnostic tools and aids.
“There’s something out there for every problem but they all come at a high cost so we are very grateful to have had good insurance.”
One of the items Kathy’s son and daughter salvaged from the wrecked car was a canvas bag of fabric pieces which she has just finished sewing into a beautiful quilt.
“I just sewed new badges on a granddaughter’s (Girl Guide) sash and I’ve been called to make fudge and spaghetti sauce for the girls’ activities just as I did in the past. We had good care, good insurance and we’re still together so it is the best possible outcome considering the severity of the accident.”