- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 27, 2003

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (AP) — Daphne Gipson is making a strong recovery, six months after a 70-pound chunk of granite thrown from a Spotsylvania County overpass shattered her face and nearly killed her.

The Rochester, N.Y., woman is now walking without a wheelchair and even went Christmas shopping with her mother. She looks forward to the day she is able to return to work at a center for children with special needs.

To her family, it’s a miracle that she’s alive.

On June 8, someone on an overpass dropped a sharp-edged piece of granite, which smashed through the roof of Brian and Daphne Gipson’s car as they headed home on Interstate 95 from their honeymoon in Florida. The boulder broke nearly every bone in her face, leaving her clinging to life. Her husband was uninjured.

In the days after the incident, doctors at Inova Fairfax Hospital warned relatives that Mrs. Gipson probably wouldn’t survive her massive head injuries. She was in a coma for two weeks and on a respirator for more than a month.

Police hunting for the vandals waited for the case to become a homicide investigation, but Mrs. Gipson refused to die.

“She’s come a long way,” her husband told the Free Lance-Star of Fredericksburg from the couple’s Rochester home. “It’s truly a miracle.”

In August, Mrs. Gipson was released from the Fairfax hospital and flown to a rehabilitation center in Rochester. She had to learn to walk and talk again, how to dress and feed herself, how to master the simplest tasks.

Mrs. Gipson, 30, was released last month, finally going home five months after her wedding. She attended outpatient rehabilitation sessions until just last week, improving her speech and cognitive skills, range of motion and memory.

True to her character, she befriended other patients, encouraging them to stay strong.

“Just like always, everywhere she goes, people love her,” Mr. Gipson said.

His wife still suffers profound memory loss. Her short-term memory is especially poor, making it difficult for her to concentrate.

“She’s still trying to learn everyday tasks, like cooking and cleaning,” her husband said, but it’s all slowly coming back.

She also is starting to remember her wedding day on May 31. Three days later, the couple left for Florida, visiting Disney World and stopping to see relatives who couldn’t make it to the ceremony.

She remembers nothing about the honeymoon or the accident.

“That’s probably for the best,” Mr. Gipson said.

Daily life for the Gipsons revolves around regaining normalcy. The couple attends church every week, sometimes at her old church and sometimes at his, where the two got married.

“It’s really important to her,” Mr. Gipson said. “She’s very happy because she knows that she could have died. She is real thankful to God.”

Since their return to upstate New York, he’s taken his wife for four or five visits to the school where she used to work.

“The kids really, really miss her,” he said. “Every time we visit, they can’t stop hugging her.”

He tries to help his wife improve her memory and cognitive skills by quizzing her about what happened on television shows they watch and playing card games.

She will be back in Virginia this spring for a third reconstructive surgery at Inova Fairfax Hospital.

“I don’t know if she’ll ever fully recover, but she’s made an amazing recovery so far,” Mr. Gipson said.

State police are still searching for the vandals, after hundreds of leads have failed to turn up suspects. Investigators told the Gipsons they performed polygraph examinations on some teenagers from Massaponax High School in November, but they all passed.

“We’re still hopeful an arrest will be made,” Mr. Gipson said. “It’s wrong that whoever did this to her is still free.”

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