Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 22, 2012

Ashland woman now recovering after horrific accident

Mark Maynard
The Independent

ASHLAND — Pam Johnson is thankful that she can enjoy another Thanksgiving meal with her family, even if it’s in a rehabilitation center.

She’s also thankful for friends, and prayers from those friends.

And another day of life.

Johnson, a 56-year-old Ashland businesswoman, had her life turned inside-out on Nov. 3 when she was involved in a horrific automobile accident on Ohio 73 that took the life of an Ohio man who was the passenger in the other vehicle.

Michael Newman, the driver of the other car, drove left of center and struck Johnson’s vehicle head on. Her car and the box trailer she was towing went off the right side of the roadway and struck a ditch. Newman’s brother, Casey Newman was thrown from the vehicle and died at the scene.

Michael Newman was tested at the scene and alcohol is suspected as a factor in the accident, according to the police report.

Johnson’s injuries miraculously were confined to her right ankle but the command fracture has her in rehabilitation at Kingsbrook Life Center. Her foot is scarred with several huge pins coming out of it.

For a woman always on the go, Johnson’s life has come to a sudden and shocking stop. This was her busy season, when her store — Pam’s Primitives in the Ashland Town Center mall — was going to be its busiest. This was supposed to be the best time of the year — “The time of the year you wait on,” she said — but in a split second it became the most frustrating and painful time of the year for her.

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“I saw him swerve and he came back over (the center line),” she said. “It was so instantaneous and in slow-motion. I felt like I was in a Dodge-em car. The airbags went off and I asked God to forgive me of my sins. I thought this was it.”

She never lost consciousness but when she reached down on the floor for her cellphone, she felt a biting pain in her ankle that was nearly unbearable. A second later she was holding her dangling ankle in her hand.

A man who was two cars back of her on the highway had already called police and emergency responders. He had called police seconds earlier to report the driver who was swerving that eventually caused the accident that resulted in the death of his brother, who was thrown from the car.

The man came up to Johnson’s vehicle, patted her on the arm and talked to her in a calming tone until emergency responders arrived.

“I never did find out who he was,” she said. “I want to because I want to thank him. That man came to my comfort. He was like an angel.”

The man, according to the police accident report, is Roy Glenn of Lucasville, Ohio.

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Johnson said her chest was hurting at first but it was probably because of the airbag’s impact. Then she told the man, “My ankle is killing me!” That’s when she reached down and felt the jagged edge of a bone that was jutting out.

“I’m usually weak around that kind of thing,” she said.

When the emergency responders arrived, they found that an artery had also been severed and she was losing blood. She even heard them mention partial amputation. “I thought ‘I can’t lose my leg.’’’

Pam had called her husband, Dave, and mother, Mary Potter. They quickly made their way to the accident scene.

“It made Dave cry and you know what a tough guy he is,” Pam said of when her husband saw her ankle for the first time.

Pam Johnson was driving a 2011 Ford Expedition and the other driver was in a 2007 Kia Spectra. Her big vehicle probably saved her from further injuries, she said.

“I would not be sitting here. I’m good everywhere else,” she said. “I was heavily bruised but that’s already better.”

When her mother received the news, she said fear went through her. “I’d lost my son nine months ago (to a heart attack) and it was such a devastating, heartbreaking thing. I didn’t think I could go through it again. I think, through that, God prepared me for this. It’s so scary to think of how close we came to losing her.”

Mary Potter has been doing a lot of running for her daughter, who is confined to bed or a wheelchair for the time being.

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Pam was rushed to Southern Ohio Medical Center and then transported by ground to Cabell Huntington Hospital where they operated on her ankle. “I went straight into surgery,” she said. “I said ‘Please don’t cut my foot off. Give me a chance.’ When I got out of surgery and woke up, the first thing I said was ‘Do I have my foot?’’’

The answer was in the affirmative although the future of the foot may depend on how the healing and rehabilitation goes, she said. Johnson understands it’s going to be a long journey to recovery.

“I asked the doctor to write me a prescription for a new house,” she said. “We have a split foyer. It’s going to be a long road.”

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While she was in SOMC in the trauma center, Pam was a little woozy. They had to tear off her UK national championship shirt. “I said ‘Are you cutting my UK shirt?’ They said ‘Yes, but don’t worry you can buy another one.’’’

Spoken like a true UK fan.

Pam Johnson has always been a sports fan. Her boys, Matt and Chris, were star athletes for the Ashland Tomcats. Both of them played basketball and Matt also played football not only for the Tomcats but also Centre College. Dave and Pam didn’t tell their sons until the day after the accident because it was so late.

“We didn’t want them driving all night,” she said.

But Matt and Chris became her biggest cheerleaders when Pam stood up on her left foot after the accident.

“That was last Saturday, both boys were up there,” she said. “They were cheering me on. I’ve always been so proud of them and cheered for them when they played. When I looked over and saw them cheering for me, it made me feel so good. They’ll never know how good.”

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Pam Johnson, a Sunday School teacher in the ladies class at Westwood Christian Church, doesn’t rule out divine intervention for her safety. And she doesn’t rule out the prayers of God’s people for her rapid recovery, which is going “better than expected.”

“I can feel it (the prayers),” she said. “People tell me I’m on the prayer list of so many different churches. I know God saved me. He saved me once (spiritually) and he saved me again (physically) that night.”

Johnson said the care she has received at SOMC, Cabell Huntington and Kingsbrook makes her realize how lucky she is to live in an area that has outstanding medical facilities. She takes nothing for granted anymore — not friends, not her job, not family, not church, not where she lives, not anything. Each day is a gift that she plans to savor. Co-workers, business associates and those caring friends have showered her with attention, flowers and prayers. It’s been overwhelming at times, she said.

“I’m so thankful to be alive and that I wasn’t hurt any worse,” she said. “I’m thankful for doctors, friends and family. It makes you realize what’s really important. I know it wasn’t my fault but I feel so bad that someone was killed (in the accident). I never wanted to be involved in something like that.”

What’s important today is sitting down with her family at Kingsbrook for Thanksgiving dinner – catered by Bob Evans. They will give thanks that they are all together. This busy time of year has become one of true thanksgiving for the Johnsons.

Heavenly baked ham never tasted so good.

MARK MAYNARD can be reached at mmaynard@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2648.