As a sophomore in high school, I was focused on running through my speech for the upcoming junior class president elections one spring morning. My normal drive to school on April 17, 2001, ended up being anything but normal.
Just about 2 miles from my house, I turned on to a quarter-mile stretch of dirt road. The gravel was thick and sandy and my little Ford Escort was very light. I caught a rock and it started to turn my car into the ditch. I remember my dad saying not to crank the wheel and over correct and instead just go into the ditch. Unfortunately the ditch was very steep and when my car went in, it made the car flip end-over-end and it ended up in the neighboring field, facing the opposite direction on my wheels.I came to after a quick black out and all of the windows in my car were blown out except the windshield and it was shattered. I looked around and there was a lot of blood from a small cut on my head, but the rest of my body seemed to be ok. After unbuckling my seat belt, I got out of the car and started walking for help. I quickly realized that if it wasn’t for my habit of buckling my seat belt, I’m just sure I would have gone through the windshield and the car would have rolled over the top of me.
Soon I flagged down a concerned neighbor, and we waited for the ambulance. After a whirlwind of a day, I was flown via “Life Flight” life to Wichita. I woke up to discover two bars on either side of my face. I was quickly told that I had two cracked vertebrates, C1 and C2. That is the third and fourth vertebrates from the top. I was very fortunate as I could have very easily been paralyzed from the neck down. A few minutes later I adjusted to the idea of what had happened and started asking questions. I found out that they expected I would wear the halo for about 90 days to heal the cracked vertebrate.
So, here I was a high school sophomore that was going back to school with a halo (four bars screwed into my skull). No one would notice the robot-looking girl right? Well, I’ve learned when God gives you lemons, you figure out a way to change it up and make some lemon bars, something no one will expect. My first day back at school, I made the best of my hardware and tied some balloons to campaign for a friend running for that student council election I was worried about. The entertainment continued through the hot summer with adjusting how I wore my FFA official dress, showed my pig at the spring shows and travel with friends to events.At the end of the 90 days, I got the news from my doctor that I wasn’t quite healed. So, I wore it another 13 days and then I was released from the apparatus and given the clean bill of health.
The 103-day sentence was one I was lucky to have endured. Without the quick help of the neighbor who stopped, the flight crew who flew me to Wichita, the doctor that made sure I healed quickly, my family who was patient with me as I adjusted to the halo and my seat belt that held me in place, I’m not sure where I would have been. Without clicking my belt that day, I might not be here. Instead, I’m proud to say I work every day to support and promote Kansas agriculture companies and celebrate life.
Stacy Mayo is the From the Land of Kansas Director for the Kansas Department of Agriculture