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Washington Voices

Crash survivor sees life as ‘a gift’

Thu., June 16, 2011

Jessica Sharpe finds the energy to laugh while talking about the car accident that left her with numerous broken bones and other injuries. (Jesse Tinsley)
Jessica Sharpe finds the energy to laugh while talking about the car accident that left her with numerous broken bones and other injuries. (Jesse Tinsley)

Therapy lies ahead for student after weeks in hospital

Jessica Sharpe, 20, has been recovering from injuries she received in a horrific car accident the night of Easter Sunday.

“I don’t even remember the accident,” she said.

The Eastern Washington University student and 2009 Central Valley High School graduate was returning to Cheney following Easter dinner with her family in Liberty Lake. She said she remembers traveling in her 2000 Hyundai Elantra up Sunset Hill and passing the airport before waking up in the hospital a couple of days later.

“I swear I made it home,” she said.

A man was driving the wrong way in the westbound lane of Interstate 90 with his headlights off. Police told her he was driving about 120 miles per hour. He died at the scene.

Sharpe’s injuries were extensive. Her pelvis was broken in five places, both femurs broken, left and right tibias and fibulas broken, right ankle broken, a foot and toes broken, a humerus broken. She also suffered chemical burns to her left arm and lost skin and tissue from her left thigh.

“It’s no wonder I don’t remember anything,” she said.

Sharpe was transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle that night. Her mother, Shelley Kennedy-Sharpe, said it was during that flight to Seattle when she knew her daughter would survive. She knew her daughter was in serious trouble and wasn’t sure she had the strength to even get on the plane to be there for her.

That was when she drew on her faith.

“I was just praying the whole way over,” Kennedy-Sharpe said. She told God, she said, that she’d appreciated every minute of her time with her daughter – and that she understood if Jessica survived, it meant God had great plans for her. That is when Kennedy-Sharpe began to recall lines of Scripture.

“As soon as I gave her up to him … I knew she was going to live at that moment,” her mother said. “I found out I was a lot tougher woman than I ever thought I was.”

Sharpe’s recovery has been difficult. She has had 13 surgeries and other painful procedures, such as a skin graft on her thigh. She said she was lucky she didn’t damage her spine or have any head trauma. She had a bruised kidney and her liver sustained a laceration, but those have healed and she had no other internal injuries.

She spent 35 days at Harborview, and her family took many pictures while she was there. In every photo, Sharpe is smiling.

“I knew that being alive was such a gift,” she said. “How could I not smile?”

Two weeks ago, she was transferred to Providence St. Joseph Care Center in Spokane. She said that being closer to home has helped her healing. Friends could come and visit her. She was sent home Monday.

She isn’t wearing a cast, but she has many rods and screws holding her bones together, many of which will stay there, except maybe the ones in her foot.

“TSA is going to love me,” she joked.

Jessica said she tries to maintain a positive attitude throughout her recovery, which will be a long one. She won’t be able to stand up for another six weeks, and then she will start physical therapy and learning to walk again. She said she has faith in herself and a higher power to keep her going and healing.

“She’s a unique one,” said her boss, Hollie Sandy, at HuHot Mongolian Grill, where Jessica has worked as a server for about a year and a half. “She truly does have that sense of humor.”

Sandy said she knows the medical bills are mounting for the family – her bill at Harborview totaled $385,000 and the medical flight to Seattle was $40,000. Insurance will help.

The restaurant has had fundraisers in the past for local charities, so Sandy contacted the main office and asked for permission to hold a benefit for Sharpe.

The restaurant donated 15 percent of its sales Tuesday to Sharpe’s medical expenses. Sharpe attended in her wheelchair.

There has also been a fund set up to help at Washington Trust Bank.

Sharpe was looking forward to going home to be with her mother, father Paul Sharpe, brother Trevor Sharpe and her two dogs. She knows her road to recovery will be a hard one, but she is itching to start walking again.

She is healing up rather well, for everything she’s been through. She can scoot to the edge of her bed, and she can move herself into her wheelchair. She’s not able to sit upright for long in that chair because of her pelvis injury, but she keeps her legs moving when she can.

An aspiring nurse herself, she has been grateful for the help she has received along the way, especially from nurses.

She is thankful for prayers she knows were made in her name from all over the world and finds strength through those prayers.

“I’m definitely going to grow from this,” Sharpe said.

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