Injured teen warns others of driving dangers
A teen from Oneida injured in a car accident in May returned home last week after nearly two months in the hospital. Our Andrew Sorensen spoke with her about her recovery and her new message to teen drivers.
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ONEIDA, N.Y. -- Justine Jakubowski remembers the whole incident vividly, "I was in the car, I tried pushing up out of the car and then I realized I couldn't move my legs."
The 15-year-old high school junior has only been in this wheelchair for a short time now.
In fact, she hasn't been home in nearly two months.
"We were hanging out at a friend's house and another friend called and said, 'Do you want to go to the beach?' and then we were like, 'Yeah, let's go,'" she recalled.
They were headed home from Verona Falls on Route 31 with nine teenagers in the car.
"We're going to pass a car in a no passing zone, and lost control of the car," she said. "Two front tires blew out, hit a utility pole and flipped, and I was stuck in the car, three people were ejected out and then everyone else walked away."
Jakubowski hopes to share her story with her peers to keep them from making the same mistake.
"Are you willing to sacrifice other peoples' lives to fit everyone in that car?" she asked.
She hopes to stop them from going through what she has since. After the crash, Jakubowski had a broken neck and a collapsed lung. She was paralyzed from the shoulders down, and doctors told her she might never walk again.
"I was just so out of it that I just couldn't eat," she said.
Once an avid field hockey player, her family says her athletic spirit drove her to challenge herself.
"I'm going to move forward, definitely, I'm not going to let anything hold me back," she proclaimed.
Jakubowski's new situation is a challenge for her family, too. They are trying to make their turn-of-the-century house wheelchair accessible. But Jakubowski's mother put a new job as a nurse on hold to take care of her daughter.
"I want to make the house like adapted so it's functional to where she can just get around. And everything will just be normal," her mother, Leah said.
Even though it may be another year or two before she can walk again, Jakubowski remains positive.
"At least I'm alive and able to tell people how you can prevent it," she said.
Jakubowski hopes to be well enough for school in the fall, where she can get back to learning, but also a little bit of teaching, too.