By Alyce Collins
THIS WOMAN desperately tried to buckle her seat belt as the vehicle she was in SPUN OUT OF CONTROL but it was too late and she’s been left with lifelong injuries and scar SPANNING her ENTIRE TORSO.
Technical writer, Ashley Waldram (27) from New Mexico, USA, was the passenger in an all-terrain vehicle that was being driven by her uncle, Jr (42) on January 30, 2016, but unfortunately, she hadn’t buckled her seat belt when the vehicle went over a ledge and lost control.
The vehicle was travelling at 50 miles per hour and while Ashley was trying to buckle herself in, a dangerous turn caused the vehicle to roll over. Ashley’s uncle was immediately ejected from the vehicle, yet she was stuck inside the framework until it stopped rolling down.
Shortly after, Ashley was found with her head wedged between the seat and the external frame. The extent of her injuries was unknown by this time but bystanders who watched the crash unfold rushed to Ashley’s side to pull her out from the wreckage and drove her to the road where they awaited the ambulance.
When paramedics arrived, she needed to be flown to a nearby hospital, but before flying, her lung needed to be inflated manually to keep her alive. Once at the hospital, doctors discovered how many injuries Ashley had sustained, and they hoped she would make it through the first 48 hours on ventilation which would be critical for her recovery.
Ashley had skull fractures, brain bleeds, a broken right humerus, collapsed lung, a grade four liver laceration, six broken ribs on her right side and an unknown amount on her left. The impact severely damaged her liver and the internal bleeding almost killed her, but she was placed on a ventilator for three days.
On February 2, Ashley returned to surgery where she had titanium plates put in her ribcage to stabilise them, leaving an enormous scar across her torso which has taken years to heal. The journey to recovery was long and difficult, with Ashley often finding herself crying because she couldn’t wash or feed herself, and even breathing was difficult. Now, with years of physiotherapy behind her, Ashley wears her scars with pride and encourages others to remain hopeful through whatever they’re facing.
“In January 2016, my uncle and I took the ATV out to the sand dunes outside Carlsbad in New Mexico,” said Ashley.
“I remember trying to buckle in while we were racing fast down the stretch. We made a turn, went over a ledge and I don’t remember anything until we stopped rolling.
“My uncle was ejected immediately, and he wasn’t buckled in either, but I tossed around inside. When it stopped moving, I was found unresponsive with my head between the seat and the side rail.
“My uncle was conscious and called for help. Luckily there were two bystanders who witnessed it and immediately came to our aid. They put me in their ATV and helped us get to the main road to wait for the ambulance.
“I remember that hard landing and then I remember sitting in someone’s ATV waiting for the ambulance. I kept pulling my knees to my chest. I don’t remember anything else until the day after I was off the ventilator.
“Before I could fly, they had to manually re-inflate my lung. Once I got to the hospital, I had a chest tube placed, multiple blood transfusions and I was placed on a ventilator for three days.
“I had minor skull fractures including my maxillofacial bone in my cheek, minor brain bleeds, my right humerus was broken and later repaired with a metal plate, I had a grade four liver laceration that they treated with multiple blood transfusions, grade two kidney lacerations, six broken ribs on my right side, and an unknown amount on the left. I also had a minor chest burn and a deviated septum.
“When I woke up, I remember asking if my younger cousins had seen anything and I was really worried about them. The pain wasn’t too bad due to all the pain medication, but a few days later I had surgery to repair my arm and four ribs and the pain was unbearable after surgery.
“Initially, doctors weren’t sure if I would make a full recovery, but after I made it through the first 48 hours the chances got higher.”
Amazingly, while Ashley developed near fatal injuries and was on a ventilator for three days after the crash, her uncle came away from the wreckage with only a few scrapes to his hands and knees.
For six months after the accident, Ashley had to be cautious and take care of her fragile body until she’d healed. Later, in July 2017 she had another surgery to straighten her septum which had made it very difficult for her to breathe for more than a year.
“Recovery was very long, physically and mentally. There were days when I would sit in the bathroom and just cry because I couldn’t bathe myself, feed myself, and it hurt to breathe. It was very overwhelming at times,” Ashley said.
“I came out of hospital on February 8 and then I did a lot of physical therapy to get the use in my arm back over the years following surgery.
“I still face effects from the crash to this day. Physically, my lung capacity has decreased quite a bit and my arm and ribs ache a lot in the cold weather. Mentally, I struggle with PTSD when I think about it.
“In 2017, my septum was repaired because I couldn’t breathe out of one side of my nose. The surgeon went in and straightened everything out so I could breathe easier.
“Now, I embrace my scars from that day – I wear them as a badge of honour with pride.
“No matter how long a road to recovery you have, you can’t lose faith. Take every single win you can get, whether it’s big or small, and you shouldn’t be afraid to count on your loved ones. Most of all, don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help.”
To see more, visit www.instagram.com/ash_chelle