- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 1, 2014

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - Barely four months after being critically injured on a highway in Overland Park, Hutchinson’s Lacey Deardoff is ready to reclaim her life.

After 50 days in hospitals and weeks of rehabilitation, Lacey, 24, will be leaving her parents’ home here and moving into a one-bedroom apartment in the Kansas City area Wednesday. She plans to return to her job as a clinical research technician at Quintiles in about another month.

“Laying in a hospital bed four months ago, I never thought I would be where I am today,” Lacey said. “Learning to walk and eating solid food again were such high points. Now I’m going to be back living on my own.”

Lacey, the daughter of Hutchinson City Manager John Deardoff and his wife, Jerri, had stopped to offer aid to the driver of another car that had struck a median on a freeway in Overland Park on May 24. Then the driver of a van swerved to avoid debris in the roadway and hit both women, The Hutchinson News reported (https://bit.ly/1rHn59i ).

Lacey suffered numerous injuries. Her right leg was broken in three places. Nine ribs were broken and a lung collapsed. Her clavicle and scapula were broken on her right side. There was slight fracture of a bone beside her right eye and her nose was broken. Doctors placed her in a medically induced coma, during which they also discovered that she had suffered a stroke.

Lacey woke up two weeks later. In all, she spent a month at Overland Park Regional Medical Center and then about three more weeks in Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital. On July 12, her parents brought her home to Hutchinson to continue her rehabilitation.

Now, after a number of surgical procedures, frequent and regular occupational, physical and vision therapy sessions - and after watching practically all nine seasons of “Criminal Minds” on Netflix - Lacey is ready to stop being “the girl who got hit by a car.”

“Right now, I’m anxious to go back,” she said. “I feel like every time I go back and see friends and go to volleyball games like I used to with work people, it’s normal. I come back here and I’m reminded of the accident. I’m ready to go up there and not feel like the girl who got hit by a car.

“But I do think that emotionally I may not be ready once I get up there because I have had my parents and the town here and friends. Up there, I’ll be in a one-bedroom apartment and I might feel a little lonely.”

However, she said, she will have other family in the Kansas City area to lean upon, including her older sister, Lindsey, a cousin and her cousin’s husband.

Her parents, she said, are understandably reluctant to let her go and firmly rejected her initial goal to move back to the Kansas City area on Sept. 1. They compromised on Oct. 1.

“Mom told me it’s like I went from being a baby to a 24-year-old in four months,” Lacey said.

“It’s like being empty-nesters all over again,” her father said, “except that this time it’s going to be twice as bad as when we sent her to college.”

“They’re worried about me being on the highway,” Lacey said, “and I told them I think that if I stay in the car, I’ll be OK.”

However, she said that one of the first things she wants to do when she gets back to Kansas City is drive on the highway where the accident occurred. She wants to “see how far I’ve come but also to say, ‘You can’t slow me down, and here I am.’ “

Lacey has been driving again for a few weeks. At first, she just drove herself to occupational and physical therapy appointments in Hutchinson. Then she started driving to a vision therapist in Wichita once a week.

“My parents are pretty white-knuckle in the car with me,” she said. “The only thing that freaks me out is seeing people on the side of the road or crossing the street. I definitely see a lot more danger than I used to.”

Lacey said she talks a lot with the other woman who was hit by the van four months ago. She suffered a broken neck and jaw and some brain bleeding. Lacey recalled that one time when they ended a telephone conversation, her parents asked what they had talked about. “Oh, stuff people who get hit by cars talk about,” Lacey said.

Like finally getting a G-tube (feeding tube) removed. “We were excited about that,” she said.

She hasn’t talked to the driver of the van, but she said she hopes to do so once a civil lawsuit over the accident is concluded. She’s not sure she’d feel the same way if he had been driving while intoxicated but, she said, it was just “an accident.”

“He was young. That’s a huge thing to have on your conscience,” she said. “I want him to know I’m not going to go back to what I was before, but I’m OK.”


Information from: The Hutchinson (Kan.) News, https://www.hutchnews.com

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