Read our 2023 Dirk Derrick Car & Truck Accident Injury Scholarship Winner, Avery Handlin's story below: 

"One of the worst days of my life can be characterized by a single question: “Am I going to die?”

I asked this question while in the back of an ambulance after getting hit by a truck. As my paramedic examined my check-marked shaped leg, concave chest,Avery Handlin 2023 Dirk Derrick Car Truck Accident Scholarship Winner and deformed pelvis, he, of course, lied and answered that I would not die. Later, however, I learned that he was not confident in that answer. After waking up from surgery, I realized the extent of my injuries: 13 fractures, the loss of a third of my blood, a concussion, a brain bleed, and nerve damage that would never fully heal. My doctors, knowing that I was a competitive dancer and martial artist, told me that I would likely never compete again.

Surprisingly, this didn’t even alarm me because I simply did not accept this “fact.” I remember telling my physical therapist, “All due respect, but I enjoy proving people wrong.” So, I did. I worked for hours a day stretching and desensitizing my limbs despite the agonizing sensations it procured. I fought through pain every day with grit and determination, clinging to the hope that I would become my old self again. I felt like an imposter trying to live in someone else’s life, trying to reclaim some old identity, but nevertheless, I continued onward. I was out of school for 2 months, and I had to work so hard to catch up while in extreme pain and on many medicines. Surgery after surgery, I continued to fight, reminding myself that I was blessed to have lived and that there are some people who are not as fortunate. 

Within a year, I was back to dancing and training, defying the odds stacked against me. My accident was 5 years ago, and I had my last surgery several months ago. After having been through it all, I won't lie and say I’m grateful to have experienced it and that it made me a better person. However, I believe that we can choose what to make of certain situations, and this situation definitely forced me to be stronger and more durable than I ever thought I was capable of. The best part is that I can use it to help others. I was told that, in the hospital, I said, “If I can get just one person to start wearing their helmet, I’ll be happy.” Since then, I have given several presentations to students and parents in my community about the importance of wearing a helmet while bike-riding as that is the only reason why I lived. Additionally, I can use my experience as a patient to help other patients someday. 

I am currently on track to be a pre-medical student, and I know that I will share a connection with patients unlike many others. I will be able to have more compassion on my patients because I understand the physical and mental suffering of being trapped in your body. In retrospect, I realize that I am extremely blessed to have survived my accident, and I have promised myself that I will honor that gift of life. I am working hard now as a student to ensure that I can someday walk into a hospital as the doctor, not the patient. I wear the scars from my accident and bear the memories that have haunted me for years, but I can take the wisdom gained from those experiences and use it to be a physician driven by a passion for service, mentorship, and impact."

For more information about the Dirk Derrick Car & Truck Accident Injury Scholarship, please see