It's the little things
Editor’s note: The following story is a companion article to a story headlined “Class assignment brings survivor and rescuer together again” that was published in the Friday, May 3, edition of The Journal. Melissa Lothridge, a junior at Washington High School and daughter of Jennifer and John Goodman, was in a head-on collision on the evening of Nov. 18, 2012. She suffered many injuries and she faces at least one more surgery.
As Washington High School junior Melissa Lothridge paged through the scrapbook she is creating to document the head-on collision she was in on Nov. 18, 2012, she stopped at one photo.
“I had 32 staples and 32 stitches down the whole leg,” she said. The leg bones are held together by a rod and screws.
The collision left her with two broken bones on the lower half of one of her legs. One of the broken bones tore through her skin. She also had a broken heel, a broken wrist, a broken ankle, a shattered kneecap, and a broken collarbone.
Melissa said her wrist has a plate and six screws, her ankle has two screws and there are four screws on her injured kneecap. She said the screws in her kneecap will need to come out because the bone is eroding. That surgery will likely happen this summer.
Melissa said she was in the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for nine days and she had three surgeries while there.
At first Melissa was doing well in the hospital, but she began going downhill, her mother, Jennifer Goodman, said.
“That was the scariest,” Jennifer said. “Everybody had been there throughout the day. She was doing really well, but she just kind of steadily went downhill.”
Melissa was taken to the pediatric intensive care unit.
“That was touch-and-go,” Melissa said.
A nurse told Jennifer that the ribs of children and teens aren’t fully formed. “They kind of squished everything and her lungs didn’t fully recover,” she said. “She just couldn’t breathe, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t breathe.”
Melissa had two blood transfusions, and a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask and machine helped her breathe.
When she was released from the hospital, Melissa had to use a wheelchair for almost two months and then she used a walker. She wore a soft brace over her broken wrist. She had a cast on her leg. When the cast was removed, it was replaced with a brace.
Melissa is an independent-minded person.
“I hate when people try to help me,” she said. “I think that was the hardest part of the whole thing.”
Jennifer said that Melissa didn’t want to talk about the accident at all at first.
“She was very angry,” she said, “but she’s come a long way. She’s open about talking about it now.”
Melissa said that when people ask about her injuries, it gives her the chance to tell them about her accident and about how dangerous driving can be.
“It’s not just texting and driving or drinking and driving,” she said. “There’s so many reckless things out there. You just have to be careful.”
There are several reasons why Melissa has been able to open up to people and the reasons are all the people who have supported her since her accident. She said words cannot describe her gratitude for all people have done for her.
“Everybody in this community has been amazing since her accident,” Jennifer said. “We moved here six or seven years ago. We’ve always been the kind of family to keep to ourselves. When this happened, everybody just rallied around us. I had lost my job six months before and I had just started working again. I lost my job because I had to be home with her. I can’t tell you the amount of donations and cards [we received].”
Jennifer said principal Erik Buchholz came to the hospital to see Melissa.
“He sat right down on the bed and he just talked to her, like she was a person, not a kid,” she said.
So many people talked about Melissa as if she wasn’t in the room, Melissa said.
Support came from other teachers and from the Washington County Communications Center. Jennifer said that communications supervisor Cara Sorrells went to the family’s home and said, “We’d like to do this for you.”
“We were just floored,” Jennifer said.
And very grateful.
Melissa hopes she can job-shadow Sorrells during her senior year.
“For a long time, I’ve wanted to counsel,” she said. “I don’t know what form or what type. I kind of want to job-shadow a 9-1-1 dispatcher because not only are you saving lives, but you’re counseling them through one of the hardest things you could be doing.”
Melissa thinks about all of the things that could have happened when in the collision. She realizes she could have died or been paralyzed or not found or a hundred other things.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said I’m not doing the dishes and I’m not taking the dogs for a walk,” she said. “I’ve just started doing the dishes again and I can’t wait for the day I can take my dog for a walk again. It’s just the little things that you think — it’s so boring, it’s so dumb, why do I have to do this. You’re going to want that back, when it’s taken from you even for a little amount of time.”
Melissa has a part-time job that she loves and she can’t wait to get back to work.
“I just want to get better,” she said. “I'm very optimistic through this whole process, and glad I have the support I do!”