by Julie Breitenstein
It was early on December 4, 2009, around 2AM, when that phone call happened to us. I remember answering the phone and hearing a man’s voice ask for Mr. Larry Breitenstein. I handed the phone to my husband and heard the man on the phone ask Larry if he was the father of Austin Breitenstein. At that moment, I knew there was something that had happened to my son.
I remember laying back the covers, getting out of bed, and heading to the closet to get dressed while listening to the phone call. Larry hung up the phone and my question to him was, "Where is he? He is either in jail or he is in the hospital! Where is he?" Larry very calmly told me we needed to go to St. Francis Hospital.
I didn't panic until we got to the hospital where we were met by a Chaplain. I remember thinking, “Austin is dead! He is not alive!” Finally, the Chaplain took us upstairs to SICU and put us in a private room. We waited for another 20 minutes. A doctor came in and told us that Austin had been in a severe car accident and she did not know if he would survive. She told us he was still having CT scans done. Her next words were bone-chilling. She said Austin had received a brain injury, a fracture to his C2 and C3 vertebrae, a bruised lung and lots of road rash. Only time would tell if he would survive.
We called our daughter and she got to the hospital around 6:30 AM. A post was made on Facebook by 7:30, and by noon, there were so many kids at the hospital you could hardly get up and down the halls. The nurse we had was fantastic, she let every kid in to see Austin. They went in four at a time in 3 to 4-minute intervals. It was very important to me that every kid see him! I felt that if I could help just one kid from making the same mistake, I had done my job.
What I didn't know was the cause of the accident. Our very good friend (who was our insurance agent) asked if he could go to Austin's truck and get anything salvageable. We weren't sure what would be left since he had rolled it several times. I remember asking Wes to find his cell phone. I was on a mission to know what had contributed to his accident, and the cell phone told me what I needed to know. Austin had been texting!
I know this because of the time the last text came in and the time 911 was called. Austin was reading a text when he veered off the highway, and his reflex was to over-correct. Unfortunately, Austin had not buckled his seatbelt, so when the over-correction happened, he rolled his truck, which also catapulted him through the front windshield. Austin landed on his head!
Because of the impact to the back of his head, his brain ricocheted to the front left lobe of his brain causing severe damage. Austin ended up with a bi-lateral craniectomy (bone flaps on each side of his brain being removed) so his brain could swell. Austin should not have survived! Austin eventually was put on a ventilator to help him breathe, and later received a tracheotomy in SICU. Over a period of 26 days, Austin's heart failed him 3-4 times.
We are now almost 22 months out from when his accident happened, and I can tell you as a mom I would not wish this nightmare on anyone. Austin has had to re-learn everything. I mean everything - swallowing, eating, drinking from a straw, toileting, and walking! Austin continues to learn something new each day. He has days that are good, and he has days that can be extremely overwhelming. He does his best to make each day a new day and works very hard on trying to get his life back together. Austin was 19 when his accident happened; he is now 21.
There is nothing so important to be said in a text to give your life for. The next time you text behind the wheel of a 2,000 lb. vehicle, know you just may kill someone or even yourself! You may end up with a traumatic brain injury like Austin, or a spinal cord injury that will put you in a wheel chair for the rest of your life!