Monday, December 26, 2011

Thanks for visiting, now drive safe!

     When I was in kindergarten, my godmother was hit by a drunk driver. Most people don’t remember what happened to them when they were 5 or 6, and frankly, I don’t remember much of it either. But I vividly remember staying at my next door neighbor’s house waiting for my aunt to pick us up so my mom could catch the next flight up to Boston to be with her family.

     My Aunt Judy was hit head-on. At 7:30 in the morning, just minutes after dropping her daughter off for school. The driver crossed over the median as he crested a hill, and there was no way Aunt Judy could have avoided the crash. It took fire and rescue crews hours to get the jaws of life to cut open her car and get her flown to Boston General, where she then laid in a coma for what felt like ages. One of the doctors gave her a week to live. I specifically remember asking my mom if I would have to pick a new godmother.

     Luckily, our family was extremely blessed, and Aunt Judy is still around today. However, she will never be able to live on her own again. She suffered such extensive brain damage that she will permanently be in an assisted living facility. She takes more medications than anyone I know. Always thin and stylish, it’s now a challenge to keep weight off of her, because she doesn’t remember eating, so she thinks she’s always hungry. The loss of memory is one of the worst parts. The first time I visited her, she didn’t recognize me. Even when I see her now, she seems a little surprised that I’m an adult.

     Now, I wouldn’t trade my aunt for the world. She’s so full of life and always looking for something fun to do. She’s notorious for trying to set up her daughter (who is happily in a relationship) with any guy she meets over six feet tall. She has a huge, contagious laugh and a heart of gold.

     But it still makes me mad that she can’t have a normal life because that man decided to drink and drive. If he had been responsible enough to call a cab, we wouldn’t have almost lost my Aunt Judy. His irresponsible decision resulted in an agonizing period where we were waiting to see if she would live, and once Aunt Judy decided she was going to live, we went through rehab, and now the assisted living facility. My grandparents had to watch their independent daughter regress back to total dependency.

     My aunt’s fate is much better than some. In the past year, Maryland saw 154 deaths as a result of DUIs.

     Part of the holiday season is all about getting together with friends and family at holiday parties, which is one of the many reasons this is my favorite time of year. However, the increase of parties usually leads to an increase of drunk driving. To quote the movie New Year’s Eve, “New Year’s is the worst night of all to go out; people who don’t drink, party all year suddenly going all Kanye on you.”

     So, this holiday season, please encourage your friends and family to be responsible. Offer to be their designated driver. Have a big sleepover party. Do whatever you have to do to keep people off the road.

For more tips on throwing safe holiday parties, visit the Mothers Against Drunk Driving website.

By Kayla Murphy

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