The 2021 Dirk Derrick Car & Truck Accident Injury Scholarship received many impressive essays from students whose lives have been seriously impacted by an auto accident. Entries came from across the country with students sharing how they have been personally and significantly affected by an accident and how they have overcome the struggles associated with the accident.

Because of the number of remarkable essays we received, The Derrick Law Firm has selected three winners for the 2021 scholarship.

Read our 2021 Dirk Derrick Car & Truck Accident Injury Scholarship winner, Tara Shetterly's story

"I went to a doctor’s appointment with my dad on the morning of October 14th, 2020. The doctor kept us waiting nearly an hour after the appointment was supposed to start, and we joked about just ‘blowing this popsicle stand.’ I wish we really had left that morning, but we stayed.

Right after leaving, (although I did not remember at the time) I remember seeing the sedan out of the corner of my eye, less than a second before collision. I also later remembered the sound of crushing metal as the young woman T-boned into my door, flipping my dad’s truck only a couple hundred yards from the hospital. I went out of the back windshield when we flipped and woke up in the back of the truck bed with no memory. In fact, I was convinced it was just a nightmare. As time went on and emergency personnel arrived on scene, however, I realized how seriously injured I was. I couldn’t move nor feel my legs. It hurt so bad, I was terrified of dying alone there, without all my loved ones.

At 16 years old, I had never heard of a spinal cord injury before, but I would spend the next month in the hospital and intensive rehab learning. My injuries were mostly internal: concussion, broken rib, punctured lung, aortic dissection, bruised every organ, and 7 crushed bones in my neck and back. On the outside, I only had a hand laceration requiring 10 stitches and a ‘road burn’ extending down most of my thigh. All of that would heal through time and surgery though, except the spinal cord injury.

Derrick Law FirmI was diagnosed with a complete spinal cord injury at T11/T12 after my broken bones crushed my spinal cord for 2 days before I could be fused from T9-L3. Some of the bones in my back burst and shards of bone had also sliced through my spinal cord. Doctors said my injuries were abnormally bizarre and the worst they had ever seen. I am never supposed to walk the same. However, I spent a year in PT and gained some bladder, bowel, and leg sensation--which lead to a diagnosis change to ASIA B incomplete paralysis. I can now walk with a walker and leg braces and crawl independently. I have also learned how to cath myself, balance, prevent injuries and UTIs, and stay continent. 

Unfortunately, physical recovery is only part of the struggle. I was haunted by the sound of crushing metal for a long time. Sudden disabilities often lead to grief for the loss of independence, health, and financial security (as my medical bills are over 400,000). Sometimes I still wish I never woke up that day. However, with time, I began to love the disability community and my wheelchair. I made new friends that understand my struggles, such as other disabled people and my old PT and OT. I started making videos to help the newly-injured and fight stigmas.  

Working in healthcare has always been my dream and it needs more disability representation. So, just as I make videos to spread awareness, I also hope that, as an aspiring respiratory therapist in college, I can do that in real life someday soon too. Although it’s only been a year, I have already achieved more than I thought I would in a lifetime after my diagnosis. I am incredibly thankful for all the opportunities I have been given to help me achieve my goals, as I am driven to prove ‘lazy’ stereotypes wrong with my 4.0 GPA."

For more information about the Dirk Derrick Car & Truck Accident Injury Scholarship, please see www.derricklawfirm.com/scholarship.