by Elaine Miller    

'Shattered Lives' is the true story of how a family coped with a person who had been severely head injured in an alcohol related accident and carries through until the present day.  I am a retired R.N. and have written in detail what happened at the hospital and the rehab that I did.  It explores the heartbreaks and the joys that I experienced along the difficult path.  It deals with the frustrations and anger.  My daughter is one of the first people saved using experimental methods at University of Iowa Hospital in Iowa City, Iowa, and there were no psychologists, social workers or rehab staff to help us. I was on my own.

The book bares my feelings that I have not shared with anyone before.  It was a spiritual awakening and tells how I came to terms with our life the way it is now and the way my daughter is today.



It had been a good day with lots of sunshine, rather hot, good for swimming and playing at the beach at Lake McBride in Solon, Iowa. My ex-husband, of five months, had the children during The Smith Co. vacation and they were staying at a campground and seeing his latest girlfriend, Pam, in Iowa City. After a supper around the campfire with a few beers for the two adults, it was decided to go back to Pamís house to shower and stay the night.

Pam and my ex (Brett) decided to race and see who could get to the house first. Pamís nine-year-old son Brian threw a fit. He wanted to ride in the front seat with his mother instead of my son Seth. Seth got out of Pamís car with disgust and got in his fatherís car. In Pamís car was her nine-year-old boy in the front seat and Mary, our oldest daughter in the back seat with a huge log saved for some craft. Our youngest daughter Marie, Pamís four-year-old son, Brad and Seth rode with Brett.

Pam started first and Brett was behind on the two-lane highway from Solan to Iowa City. Brett saw a lull in traffic and passed Pam. The race was on. Marie sat watching out the back window. The sun was sinking to a rosy glow over the horizon and the sky had changed to a dusky violet. Soon all Marie could see were headlights; her eyes trained on Pamís lights. Suddenly, the lights were at the top of a hill in a no passing zone, Pam was trying to pass. A car was fast approaching her in that same lane and the car Pam was attempting to pass speeded up refusing to let her go around. The headlights went out on the top of the hill and the car that refused to let Pam pass flew by Brett at breakneck speed. He had fled the scene of an accident that he had helped to create.

Marie cried out, " Daddy, turn around quick. The lights went out at the top of the hill." Her father argued with her and finally turned around at a farmhouse and went back to the top of the hill. It was quiet except for the moaning of passengers in the cars. Seth, our fifteen-year-old and his father jumped out of the car and ran to the two masses of crushed steel. One mangled at the top of the hill and the other had soared to the bottom of the ravine. Marie stayed back to watch Brad.

Seth saw his sister unconscious with labored breathing in the back seat, her head covered with blood and her right leg bent in half in the middle of the femur at a grotesque angle and tucked under her left arm. Pam was moaning "Oh my God" over and over. Her nine-year-old son was thrown across her and out the window headfirst. Lying on the ground, bloodied, with his skull looking like a crushed melon. It was too late for him.

The other car had three people in it and one man died in my sonís arms. It appeared he had crushing chest injuries. The ambulances came and took everyone to the trauma center at the University of Iowa Hospital. This was the beginning. When the lights went out at the top of the hill, in that split the sun disappeared over the crest of the hill, all of our lives were changed forever. It was the beginning of life after head injury and the end of everything, I knew before in my life. For many years after, I referred to my life as before the wreck and after the wreck. I began a path of courage and survival that I had never dreamt was possible.


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Elaine Miller is a retired registered nurse whose specialty is geriatric and rehab nursing. She has lived most of her life in the Peoria/ E. Peoria, Ill. area. She is a writer, an artist and a seamstress. She is dedicated to her family and friends. She tries to touch others by living her life with hope, enthusiasm and love. You may write to her at 207 Schulzki La. E. Peoria, Ill. 61611.