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Sunday, February 23, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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For North Idaho Christian senior, graduation a victory lap after horrific car accident

North Idaho Christian School senior Christina Southern is photographed at the school in Hayden on Wednesday, March 14, 2017. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
North Idaho Christian School senior Christina Southern is photographed at the school in Hayden on Wednesday, March 14, 2017. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
By Tyler Wilson For The Spokesman Review

It’s a miracle Christina Southern is even walking, let alone graduating high school this spring at North Idaho Christian School.

In February 2016, Southern was traveling with her family for her cousin’s wedding in California when a semitrailer attempted a U-turn on a Utah highway and collided with them. The accident broke her back, requiring surgery, two rods and five pins to fuse two of her vertebrae back together.

Southern was asleep at the time of the accident, and she remembers waking to severe pain and her mother screaming.

“I had massive internal bleeding,” Southern said. “I thought, ‘I don’t want to die,’ but death would be kind of better than this pain. Either leave me here and help with the pain or let me go.”

She spent two weeks in a Utah hospital and missed more than 30 days of school. When she did return, she had to gradually work up to full-time classes.

“I couldn’t sit down on hard chairs,” she said. “I’d go to school for about two hours. Go to history and government classes in the morning, or I’d go to the science and math classes, which were on one floor.”

Now, more than a year after the accident, life is almost back to normal. Two days after graduation, she’ll have surgery to remove the pins and rods.

“I remember the accident, but it’s gotten easier,” Southern said. “My parents took me to a therapist. I had some PTSD. It wasn’t fun.”

Southern lived in Western Washington until she was 14. She was home-schooled until the family moved to North Idaho, but the initial living arrangements here led to Christina joining North Idaho Christian School.

“We lived in a 29-foot trailer, and I was not going to stay in there,” Southern said.

She enjoys reading and writing her own stories, including fan fiction for “Robotech,” an ’80s anime series her parents introduced to her. She enjoys all school subjects, with the occasional exception of English and grammar studies.

“I don’t like going over all the rules of commas and comma splices,” she said.

Southern is one of 11 graduating seniors from North Idaho Christian School, and she plans to attend North Idaho College in the fall. From there, she wants to transition to an area program to become a veterinary technician.

“I had two dogs as a little girl,” Southern said. “I would go to the vet with my mom when I was 4 or 5 years old, and I said, ‘That looks fun.’ ”

Her recovery after the accident further solidified her love of animals and career plans. She learned about special needs service animals for people with PTSD – something that resonated with her because of the time she spent at home, away from class, with the family mutt, Aja.

“My dog was a huge helping factor after I got home,” Southern said. “I was able to curl up with this unconditional love.”

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