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Michele Osterhoudt


On August 28, 2008, I was headed to Yachats on Highway 101 at about noon. It was the Friday of Labor Day weekend that year, so traffic was heavy, though not yet unusually so. It was a beautiful day and I'm sure I was singing along with the radio as I left Seal Rock and brought my car back up to 55. As I headed into a double yellow line curve I saw a silver streak coming toward me, I said "Oh my g.." and before I could finish the thought, my world exploded.

One man's decision to drink and drive has forever changed my life, and cost him his. Although I hesitate to use that word "decision", because once anyone has had a few drinks or taken a drug, it is no longer the person making the decision, but the drug or alcohol. And that was certainly the case for this man, whose blood alcohol content was 0.27.

It took more than 45 minutes to extract me from the vehicle, and I don't know how long to helicopter me to Portland - and I felt every painful minute. My injuries included a shattered pelvis, severed medial ligament in my right knee, degloving of my left shin (removal of skin and muscle), broken ribs, collapsed lung, and serious internal injuries resulting from my belly contents being shoved up into my chest cavity. I spent 10 weeks hospitalized (some of that spent in a Eugene nursing home) dealing with the external fixator holding my hips together and the many other injuries that required ongoing attention. During that time I also contracted MRSA, a deadly staph infection, and found out the hard way that I am allergic to codeine-based narcotics.

After leaving the hospital I spent another two months recovering and doing physical therapy at my mother's home in Redmond before returning home to continue my recovery. You can imagine the impact on my life, from the loss of my job and the ability to do it any longer to ongoing pain and therapy requirements to deal with the damage to my pelvis to the financial impact in the short and long term.

I can tell you, though, that I am not a bitter person today. I consider myself a miracle who was given a gift that I desire to pay forward. I should not have survived, let alone be walking and talking as I am today. I believe it is, therefore, my responsibility to do what I can to carry the message about drunk driving. I speak at the Victims' Impact Panels in Newport and Eugene and participate in other related activities whenever possible.

I hope that anyone who hears me speak on this topic hears my message "you always have a choice" and "attitude changes everything." The most important choice you can make is the one to not take that first drink or a drug if you know you have to drive. After taking an intoxicant, any decision you make is no longer wholly your own. The drug or alcohol is helping you make it. So go out and have fun, enjoy the party, just have a plan already in place about how to get home that doesn't involve you driving under the influence.

 

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