By Alyce Collins
THIS BRAVE woman was in so much pain SHE WANTED TO DIE after she was hit by a DRUNK driver who left her pinned under a LAMPPOST choking on glass with a CRUSHED SPINE – and although doctors said she would NEVER walk again she has already managed to regain function of her right leg and says you should never give up hope.
Mae Beth Ruehling (21) from Tennessee, USA, was on her way to a local nursing home, a short drive away from her house, in December 2017 when she was hit by a drunk driver swerving into her lane.
The drunk driver hit Mae Beth head on which caused her car to spin before hitting a lamppost which fell onto the driver’s side of the car. The fallen lamppost broke Mae Beth’s spine and she tried to scream for help but had glass in her mouth and all around her.
A police officer approached Mae Beth’s car and told her he would be back shortly, and the emergency services were with her soon after. Firefighters got Mae Beth out with a crowbar before sliding her onto a backboard. She was in and out of consciousness as a result of the pain and she overheard paramedics say that there was no feeling in her legs.
The crash, followed by the impact of the lamppost, broke Mae Beth’s spine at T4 level, leaving her with a permanent spinal cord injury. When she arrived at hospital, Mae Beth immediately had a laminectomy surgery to relieve pressure from her spine. Surgeons then inserted four metal rods and eight screws into her spine.
While doctors thought Mae Beth was unconscious, she had in fact woken up but hadn’t yet opened her eyes, and she overheard a doctor tell her family that she may never be able to walk again. As Mae Beth hadn’t yet been told the extent of her injuries, she refused to believe that a person could break one bone and lose the ability to walk.
In the weeks that followed, Mae Beth started physical therapy and has since gained some feeling in her legs and is capable of walking one thousand feet with crutches.
“On December 4, 2017 I was on my way to a nursing home to do Christmas crafts,” said Mae Beth.
“The crash was just seven minutes away from my home and I remember everything.
“I remember seeing the drunk driver cross into my lane. After seeing him, I tensed up because I knew that once he hit me it was going to hurt.
“From being hit head on, I passed out and woke up to my car spinning. I was trying to look for my phone while my car was spinning so someone could tell me how I could stop my car from spinning.
“Then, knowing I had no hope, and no one could help me, my car hit a lamppost. The lamppost caved in on the driver’s side which is what broke my spine.
“After being hit by the lamppost, I remember waking up screaming for help. There was glass all over me and in my mouth. There was also blood everywhere from the gash in my arm.
“I finally saw a police officer come to my window and he told me he’d be right back – he had to catch the guy who hit me. I remember crying, telling him not to leave me because I was so scared. I heard the drunk driver tell me he was sorry and he didn’t mean to hurt me. Not knowing what was going on, I accepted the apology.
“When the firefighters showed up, they said they were going to get me out with a crowbar. They got the door open and then had to get me out. I was getting even more scared at that point because I knew it was going to be very painful to get out.
“They carefully laid me down on the board, and I remember crying out because it hurt so much. I passed out again and woke up to what I thought was the bright moon. I heard one of the paramedics tell another that I couldn’t feel my legs. I was reminded and then passed out again.
“After lying on the ground for what seemed forever, I was just hoping to die because I was in that much pain. I was put in the ambulance and taken to the hospital.
“Immediately after arriving at hospital, I had a laminectomy surgery to relieve pressure from my spine. I now have four rods and eight screws in my spine.
“The doctors didn’t realise I was awake and listening, so I overheard a doctor tell my family that I was unlikely to be able to walk again. I just thought that he couldn’t be serious. I thought there’s no way he knows what he’s talking about because you can’t break a bone and just not walk.
“I stayed in the ICU for two weeks and then I was transferred to a rehabilitation ward for two months. While I was an inpatient, I did physical therapy right away which I carried on when I was discharged.”
Mae Beth has been doing physical therapy since the weeks after her crash, and she continues sessions twice a week still. She admits that despite her hard work in recovery, a year ago she wouldn’t have expected to have gained as much mobility as she has done.
Since becoming a wheelchair user, Mae Beth has shared her journey on Instagram as a way to connect with others and to provide positivity about being in a wheelchair.
“Physical therapy was very difficult at first and I remember crying in pain. I felt heartbroken because I had to learn new ways to live my life,” said Mae Beth.
“I still do physical therapy two or three times a week and my recovery has improved so much since. I can now walk up to one thousand feet with crutches. If you’d asked me a year ago whether I thought I’d be where I am now, my answer would have been no.
“I recently gained function in my right leg, so I am now able to activate it and take steps. But I remember when the crash first happened, I had such a hard time just rolling over in bed, now I can walk short distances.
“Sharing my story on Instagram has helped me express my struggles and I have inspired others by showing them that it’s okay to have low points in life. You can overcome the low points and replace them with the highs.
“Just because you are in a wheelchair, it doesn’t mean your life is over. There’s always chance to have hope and faith – that goes for anything that happens in your life.”
To see more, visit www.instagram.com/maeebeeee