The toll of reckless driving, a personal story
With 23 surgeries behind her, Brittany Leedham talks with teens about the costs of speeding and other driving dangers.
November 29, 2008, started out like any other Saturday. My family and my boyfriend’s family had gone out to eat that night. Afterward, my family went home and I hung out at his family’s house and I was told to be home at 11:30 p.m.
We got less than half a mile away from his house on our way home when he decided to pass the car in front of us on a double-yellow line, which was nothing out of the ordinary for him. But he lost control. We spun around, went off the road, hit a ditch, flipped, ascended 9 feet and wrapped around the only nearby tree — at more than 70 mph.
By the time I got to Vanderbilt, I had been given a less than 15 percent chance of living, and orders had been placed to remove both of my legs. I ended up with broken tibia and fibula bones (lower leg bones) in both legs, and both femurs (thigh bones), which are said to be the strongest bones in your body. My pelvic bone was broken in two places, along with three fingers on my right hand. Also broken: the C2 vertebrae in my neck, an injury that is called the hangman’s fracture and one that alone should have killed me instantly.
Zak wound up with a broken right leg and ankle; he had a ruptured spleen and massive head trauma. The doctors at Vanderbilt are beyond amazing, but God had other plans. No matter how much I needed Zak here, God needed him more. Zak passed away around 3:30 the morning after the accident. He was 19.
At age 17, I ended up spending two weeks in the Vanderbilt Trauma Unit; four weeks in the Vanderbilt Round Wing, four weeks in the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt and four weeks at Vanderbilt Stallworth Rehabilitation Hospital. I have had 23 surgeries, and I have rods, plates, screws and anchors in both legs. Both legs are completely skin grafted.
I now dedicate my free time to telling my story and showing my legs to teens, showing them what can happen when they choose to either get in the car with someone they know drives recklessly or if they choose to drive that way.
I hope I can get through to even just one of them — to make even one of them think twice before speeding, texting, drinking, not wearing a seatbelt. Then all of the pain I have been through is worth it. I have been told from day one that it’s a miracle that I survived, but I count it as a miracle that I am able to tell my story and help others.
This story was written by Brittany Leedham, who is now 24 and works at Brookdale Belle Meade as the resident program coordinator. She enjoys spending time with her beagle, Irish, and being outside.