Hoopa Woman Survives Collision with Drunk Driver
By RHONDA BIGOVICH, Two Rivers Tribune
On January 9, 2014, Hoopa Tribal Member Jill Sherman-Warne was in a head on collision with a drunk driver.
The driver was twice the legal limit of alcohol consumption.
The crash caused severe injury to Sherman—and killed the driver of the other car.
“Usually it’s the other way around the one under the influence survives and the sober one dies,” Sherman-Warne’s son Troy Fletcher Jr., said.
The entire left side of Sherman’s body was crushed. Her arms, legs and hips all had compound fractures that protruded from her skin.
Just before the crash, A 21-year-old female was seen by witnesses, half of a mile from the crash site, arguing with her boyfriend. Both were visibly intoxicated. He got out.
The woman drove a Cadillac Escalade equipped with an Event Data Reporter that indicates information about the vehicle.
The device confirmed the driver was not buckled in. Sherman-Warne and local police believe the driver would be alive if she was strapped in.
Sherman-Warne said she saw her coming and tried to slow down and that the collision impact occurred at a speed of about 90 MPH.
“I was slowing down, I had my foot on the brake, and that’s why my right foot and ankle were shattered,” Sherman-Warne said.
“I just got done trying to call her and text her, so I was in disbelief,” Fletcher Jr., said. “The next morning I heard her voice and my anxieties for her went down a bit.”
At the scene of the accident, it took emergency workers almost an hour to cut Sherman out of her 1998 Acura Integra.
“At three failed attempts, they couldn’t get a pulse from me, I could hear in their voices they were getting scared,” Sherman said.
She was bleeding profusely, and was in shock, she wiggled her toes, so I knew my foot was still there, she said. The pain was so severe she thought it was torn off.
“Everyone sounded like television background noise, distant and far away,” She said.
She remembers that her brother Duane Sherman Sr., and her husband Jim Warne were both there; but they were not allowed to be in the trauma room with her.
“To hear her in a coherent state, considering how bad the wreck was, it’s just amazing she survived. Something is watching out for her,” Fletcher Jr., said.
There were large lacerations on her face, which in time she will undergo surgery to correct.
“She didn’t see the pictures until a few weeks later,” said her son Troy Fletcher Jr.
“I knew I had stitches in, I felt them. I just didn’t realize that my face was split open, I am very lucky to have my eye,” she said.
Since January 28, Sherman has been in recovery at the LaJolla Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
Five months down the line, Sherman is still weak and has lost much of her muscle mass. She is anxious to return home and regain full use of both legs.
Two surgeries and five blood transfusions later, Sherman-Warne is waiting to hear word from her doctors whether or not they are going to insert a cadaver bone.
“I’m glad she is still with us,” Fletcher Jr., said.
Sherman has had tremendous support from family and friends, and wishes to thank all for the cards and flowers sent.
“All the nurses and patients like to come to my room because I have all my get well cards all over my walls,” Sherman said.
In the light of her struggle she realizes that she is lucky to be alive. Her prayer to god as the car was speeding towards her was simple, “Please God; don’t let this be too bad!” Sherman prayed.
She considers her prayers answered.
“I am still here,” she said. “And I am healing.”
But she isn’t healing as quickly as she would like. She has physical therapy six days a week for two hours per day. She is able to lift two pounds on her bad arm.
“I hate being so weak, I am hungry for deer meat and fish,” she said.
Most of the people in the recovery center are around the age of 80 or so. She laughs and said she fits right in.
“I have become a power napper, and a mad bingo player—they play for snacks,” Sherman said.
She naps two or three times a day.
The drunk driver had a basic liability insurance plan, and Sherman hasn’t yet heard anything back from the company.
“Life doesn’t give us a beautiful journey, we have to endure hardships, or else we won’t appreciate it,” Sherman said.
She stays optimistic about her physical recovery, and is grateful for her family and friends who have helped her stay focused.
“I haven’t fallen asleep in my wheel chair yet, I am not so bad off,” She said.
Sherman also wants to amplify that driving is a privilege.
“If you love someone and see that they are drinking, take their keys away,” Sherman-Warne said.