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On the mend
Teen on road to recovery after being hit by vehicle
Christina Mitchell, 19, is well on her way to recovery after she was struck by a car Dec. 16 in Martinsville. She cannot work or return to college while she is undergoing rehabilitation. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
Sunday, January 19, 2014
By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer
Looking at her today, no one would guess that Christina Mitchell was struck by a car just a little more than a month ago.
On the evening of Dec. 16, Mitchell, 19, was crossing Commonwealth Boulevard when she allegedly was struck by a 2002 Honda Accord traveling westbound, according to a previous release from the Martinsville Police Department.
“I was on a lunch break” from a part-time job at Dollar Tree, Mitchell said, “and I normally just cross the street to go to McDonald’s or something. I don’t actually remember getting hit by a car; I just remember everything up until getting hit.”
Martinsville Police Interim Chief Eddie Cassady said no charges have been filed in the accident, and the investigation is continuing.
Mitchell was airlifted to Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C. She doesn’t remember her first three days in the intensive care unit (ICU) there.
Her mother, however, remembers those days well.
“In the very early stages when she was at the ER, it was very difficult to see her in that state,” Wanda Deering of Axton said of her daughter. “There was blood all over her head. Then they had to put a breathing tube in and a feeding tube in. Then she had to have a tube to drain her lungs out. ... She went through a lot.”
“I had tubes everywhere,” said Mitchell, who also is the daughter of Joe Mitchell II of Martinsville. “I guess something happened to my lungs. I had a brain injury. My skull is a little fractured, but it’s getting better, and it’s stopped bleeding. And my shoulder’s broken.”
Mitchell was in the ICU for about five days, she said, before she was moved to a regular room at the hospital. On the fourth day, she said, she began speaking, but she had difficulties not only with her memory, but also with speech and typing.
Mitchell’s brain injury “caused a lot of confusion in her speech and in her thought pattern in the very early days,” Deering said.
According to Mitchell, once she was moved to a regular room, physical, occupational and speech therapists began visiting her constantly to help her regain her abilities.
“I did different simple exercises to help get my balance back and my speech back,” Mitchell said. “I left the rehab center, but now I’ll start going a couple of days a week to one in Martinsville until my shoulder gets completely better. They anticipate it will take about four to six months.”
For Mitchell, one of the most difficult parts of the process may be taking it easy long enough to heal.
“I don’t really know the meaning of relaxing,” she laughed. “They said I can’t run for about six months until my brain is completely healed, and that part bothers me, because I’m so used to running. I ran cross country for four years in high school.”
Mitchell is a 2013 graduate of Martinsville High School and completed her first semester at Radford University in the fall. During her winter break, she worked two part-time jobs: the one at Dollar Tree and another at Foot Locker in Liberty Fair Mall.
She also was in the National Guard until she received a medical discharge shortly after the accident.
“I’m so used to always running and working out all the time and going to the gym,” Mitchell said, “but I can’t do it as heavily as I used to for awhile. I’m always so busy, so it’s slightly frustrating for me to have all my plans slowed down. Everything I do, I have to do slowly. I’m used to doing mostly everything on my own. It’s really different.”
If she’s able, Mitchell said, she would like to go back to the National Guard, but that decision is out of her hands.
“I’m just waiting until I get better,” she said, “then I’ll take my papers up there and just talk to my sergeant and then see.”
Because of her injuries, doctors have recommended that Mitchell avoid work and school for several months.
“I really hate that I can’t go work and I can’t go back to Radford until the fall,” she said. “I’m trying to at least take some classes at the community college. That way I don’t have to be behind. I couldn’t bear to go back as a freshman in the fall when I should be a sophomore.”
When Mitchell started at Radford last fall, she was considering a business major. She has since changed her major to recreational therapy — a change she decided on even before her accident.
Recreational therapists, she said, help people who have been in accidents or have suffered grave illnesses regain their independence through different therapeutic activities.
“In the rehab process, I’ve had some recreational therapists,” Mitchell said. “I feel like when you’re (a recreational therapist) and you’re dealing with people and you’ve actually been through their situation, that you’re able to help them out more and understand them more, because you’ve been through the same thing they’re going through.”
It may be tough for Mitchell to sit still during her next several months of recuperation, but her mother is grateful that Mitchell has rebounded so quickly.
“By God’s grace, we have made it through it,” Deering said, “and I thank and praise God that her healing has been so remarkable.”