Red Light: What Happened on the Way to Prom

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My name is Krystal Philippi. April 25,1998 started out as a very exciting day for me. It was the date of my senior prom. My high school years were filled with fun and friends. As my high school experience was coming to an end, it seemed as if I had the whole world ahead of me. I was looking forward to attending college in the fall. I assumed my future would include a promising career, a future family and a fulfilling life journey.

Madison Ave StoplightMy boyfriend came to the house to pick me up for the prom. We took the usual pictures and then set out for our dream night. On our way to dinner prior to the prom, a vehicle pulling a boat ran a red light and changed my life forever. I have no memory at all of what actually happened that night or what my life was like for the next year or so. But I can tell you what my family and friends told me about that lost year and what they went through to help me get where I am today.

I was in a coma for about three months with a feeding tube inserted in my stomach. As I gained awareness and strength, I had to re-learn how to do the simple things in life we all take for granted. One of the things I didn’t know how to do was pick up a spoon and scoop up food. After many days and many tries, I finally learned to do this simple task. But I had lost the ability to know what to do with the food after I scooped it up.

I had to teach myself how to eat.

I not only had to learn how to eat, I had to re-learn how to tie my shoes, walk, dress myself, put a simple four-piece puzzle together and everything else that most adults do daily without a thought to how these tasks are accomplished. I was much like a baby, needing to be attended to and taken care of constantly.

Getting hit by a red-light runner not only turned my life upside down, but it also affected my family and friends. My family had to completely change their lifestyle and the way they lived every day in order to accommodate my needs. One simple, stupid act by someone trying to beat the light changed all our lives forever.

After I came home from the hospital, my parents found a health care worker to help me with my every day needs. The rehab center worked with me every day for a year teaching me skills I no longer had. They worked with me daily to begin to reacquire the knowledge I had mastered from pre-school through high school. Imagine having to re-learn something as simple as counting from one to 10.

Before the crash, I had been a 4.0 grade point average student. I was also a varsity cheerleader and had everything going my way until that terrible day. I missed my high school graduation (I was still in a coma at the time), but the school let my father walk in my place to receive my diploma. It saddens me that I didn’t get to experience my own high school graduation. I had so been looking forward to it after all those years of hard work and studying.

After my rehab, I was accepted at Arizona State University and managed to graduate with a business degree. It took me longer than students who haven’t experienced a traumatic brain injury but persistence paid off for me. I am constantly struggling with some of the simplest challenges of day-to-day life, but I understand that this is how my life will be, and I’m learning to make the best of it.

My story is just one of more than 100,000 that occur every year because of red-light runners. Most victims of red-light runners are not as lucky as I was. I will suffer from my brain injury for the rest of my life. But hundreds of victims are killed every year, and thousands more are left in such a bad state that they will need assistance for the rest of their lives. And why? Because another human being thought shaving a few seconds off their drive time was more important than what their bad behavior could do to me or other victims. Or maybe because they thought texting, talking on the phone or driving after drinking was more important than me and the other victims.

The consequence for the person who ran the red light and changed my life forever was a $110 ticket. I am not sure he has any idea how he changed my life and that of my family. But after reading this, you do. And I hope it makes you think about your driving next time you get behind the wheel. You need to drive defensively and alertly to avoid the red-light runner who can ruin your life or the lives of those you love. And you need to focus on what you’re doing when you’re driving so you don’t hurt someone else.

One final thought: Nowhere in the telling of my story did I say I was a victim of an automobile “accident.” It’s not an accident when someone runs a red light. People usually run red lights because they’re distracted, selfish, impaired or not paying attention.

Please don’t be one of those people.

Photo Credit: Joey Parsons.

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