New lease on life

Rox­anne Johnson finds her way af­ter los­ing leg to mo­tor ve­hi­cle crash

Jamaica Gleaner - - AUTO MOTIVES -

THE HUM­DRUM of Thurs­day morn­ing erupted into pan­de­mo­nium as two cars raced along Span­ish Town Road in Kingston. One got out of con­trol, mow­ing down five stu­dents of the Tivoli Gar­dens High School. Hor­ror and chaos en­sued as screams pierced the morn­ing air.

At min­utes past 7 a.m., what should have been a reg­u­lar morn­ing walk to the bus stop on Novem­ber 15, 2007, turned into a night­mare for 15-year-old Rox­anne Johnson, who was pinned against a barbed wire, left leg smashed by the ve­hi­cle, dazed by the impact. “When I saw two of the other girls get up, I didn’t know that my leg was crushed, so I was about to get up, too, but I re­alised that it felt heavy. I looked down. I could see the bone. The car ripped through my tibia, and the an­kle was de­tached, with only a piece of skin hold­ing it to­gether,” she re­counted. “I saw per­sons run­ning and scream­ing, and there was to­tal chaos.”

Her school­mates sus­tained mi­nor in­juries, but she had to un­dergo emer­gency surgery at the Kingston Pub­lic Hos­pi­tal. Af­ter four months in the hos­pi­tal and sub­se­quent surg­eries, noth­ing could save her leg. It was am­pu­tated in 2012, trig­ger­ing her deep­est fears and send­ing her into de­pres­sion.

“I was wor­ried be­cause I lost my leg. I didn’t get any coun­selling to deal with the af­ter­math, so I kept won­der­ing, ‘Am I go­ing to ever get a pros­thetic leg? Am I go­ing to use crutches the rest of my life? How am I go­ing to cope and fit in so­ci­ety? Will I ever find a hus­band?’

Her life changed af­ter she saw dou­ble am­putee Sarah Dun­bar on TV. De­ter­mined that she must meet this woman who had over­come so much, yet still re­tained her jovial na­ture, Johnson set out to find Dun­bar. Their first con­ver­sa­tion paved the way for her growth, giv­ing her rea­son to be­lieve that her life could be great de­spite the set­back. Advanced Pro­fi­ciency Exam level, cer­tifi­cates from the Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy and the Man­age­ment In­sti­tute for National De­vel­op­ment, and is ex­plor­ing a de­gree in nurs­ing.

Paula Fletcher, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the National Road Safety Coun­cil, points out that road crash vic­tims of­ten ex­pe­ri­ence a spec­trum of emo­tions and life-chang­ing cir­cum­stances. “At the crux of that is com­ing to terms with the fact that things will be dif­fer­ent, and of­ten, they have to en­dure the con­se­quences of these crashes for years. As we com­mem­o­rate World Day of Re­mem­brance (WDR) for road traf­fic vic­tims this year, I am ask­ing all Ja­maicans to share an en­cour­ag­ing word with those who have been af­fected by road crashes,” Fletcher said.

Johnson has be­come more em­pa­thetic since her or­deal and ex­tends a word of ad­vice for mov­ing on from the haunt­ing mem­o­ries and con­se­quences of a crash. “Cry if you want to cry so you can get rid of the neg­a­tive emo­tions. Don’t keep it inside. There are peo­ple around to keep your com­pany – al­low them. Think ahead and think about what you want from life. Think pos­i­tive.”

Rox­anne Johnson

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