Wests Shattered Lives

Car Wreck

Frances Pacman

Car Wreck Scene

Lindsey Vaculin, Staff Writer

Life can change in the blink of an eye.

Students at Magnolia West High School had the opportunity to see just how much on May 19 and 20 as the Montgomery County Shattered Lives program bought the reality of drinking and driving to life in front of their eyes.

“It’s been an emotional couple of days here,” Mike Valdez, director of Shattered Lives said at the Friday assembly. “We are here to educate you about making the right choices. The impact you have on your community and your friends is much larger than you can imagine.”

Students witnessed a mock accident scene on Thursday morning and then a student was pulled out of class by the grim reaper every 15 minutes for the remainder of the day to signify that someone dies in a car accident every 15 minutes. That group of students then attended a workshop Thursday night before gathering with the rest of the Magnolia West juniors and seniors on Friday morning for an assembly where students and parents shared their experiences.

Dianne Helms, who was injured in a drunken driving accident in 2006 resulting in a severe brain injury, then spoke to the students about how drunk driving has impacted her life.

Helms spoke through the use of a computer to the students because she still hasn’t regained the ability to speak.

“I believe God saved me to fulfill a mission to share my story with you,” Helms said. “Hopefully you and your families will not have to go through what my family and I have been going through since December 2006.”

Helms said she turned to alcohol for years prior to her accident. On the night before her accident a girlfriend came over and they talked about her problems and drank, then went to a club and had more drinks. When the club closed a friend of hers recognized that they had been drinking too much to drive safely, so he took them home. Her friend left with him, and fearing for her friend’s safety she took off after them in her truck. This caused her accidents.

“This happened because of my poor judgment and peer pressure and using my free will to make some very bad decisions,” she said. ‘I ended up wrecking my Toyota Tundra truck only about two and a half miles from my home. I drove off the road and thankfully no other cars were involved.”

Helms drove into a ditch and hit a culvert with the front of her truck. The truck bounced out of the ditch and landed in the street. Her head was out the window and hit the pavement very hard on the left side. She climbed out of the truck. She was flown to the hospital, where she was in a coma and had to have a breathing tube.

She had a traumatic brain injury on both sides of her head. They shaved her head and removed her skull to drain the fluid from her brain. She also suffered a stroke as a result of her injuries. She was in the hospital in and out of a coma for the next 14 months.

“I have battle scars all over my body and my head looks like a baseball,” she said. “I have had 27 surgeries and have been in various hospitals and rehabs for about 15 of the last 91 months. I now live in my parent’s home and do outpatient therapy two days a week to help with talking, walking and left arm movement. I am also learning to eat and swallow again. I hope and pray that one day I will be able to talk again. I will never be the same as I was before this terrible accident.”

Helms said that she only remembers a little of her childhood due to the injury to her brain.

Student Diego Rubio spoke about his experiences in the program on Friday at the assembly.

“I never got the chance to tell my mom how much I love her,” he said. “I feel as though I take you for granted. I always think you will be there at home waiting for me when I get home from school. But I don’t even know that you will be there or that I am even going to make it home. Because of my poor judgment I impacted your life and not necessarily in a positive way.”

Rubio said that he didn’t realize that a simple choice could end up with such a bad outcome, but that is what life is all about – choices. Making the right choice is not necessarily the easiest thing to do, but he knows now that it can hurt those he loves.

“Based on the notes that students left on the boards in the hallway the program struck a chord here,” Valdez said. “We do this because we love ya’ll and we are tired of watching young people die. Take a moment to think about the people sitting around you. Life is about choices, we want you to make the right one.”

“Your life can be shattered in seconds,” Helms said. “Please think of me in any situations involving questionable decisions.”