Posted on | July 6, 2012 |
I will be honest: I went to work on Thursday not knowing what to expect.
Thirty-six days after the May 30 crash outside Hemet High School that injured eight students, I got a chance to spend Thursday at an LA County rehab center with the most critically injured of those students, Helen Richardson.
If you recall, Helen was in a coma after the accident and sustained a significant, permanent brain injury. The community rallied around her — and the other crash victims — in a way that rarely happens, donating thousands, opening their hearts and embracing the situation as though it could have been their own child who was struck.
Knowing that Helen was in a coma and the type of injury she had, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had heard glowing things about her progress, but until you see for your own eyes, it’s hard to tell exactly how someone is doing.
Over the course of five hours, I was impressed.
The lengthy story on Helen will likely run sometime next week, but I will give this teaser: She is further along than I could have expected.
Helen laughed, telling jokes. She spent time texting, with her mother often having t0 tell her to put her phone away. She took part in physical, occupational and speech therapy. At times, some of the things she did were a struggle. And they will continue to be. That is the reality that Helen and her family face.
But given where she was a month ago, and where she is now, it’s almost as though one would have a hard time believing that one person made that much progress in such a short time.
It was certainly an inspiring day, and Helen and her mom gave myself and photographer Stan Lim unlimited access.
At times, it was Helen, her therapist and myself in the room. As she did exercises, Stan and myself were next to her, chronicling her journey, a camera in his hand, a video camera and a notepad in mine.
It’s a story I know the community has shown interest in, and asked for, and it is one I am looking forward to delivering in the coming days.
Today (Friday, July 6), Helen will be released from rehab and come home. She will continue her long road to recovery there.
As she moves forward with her recovery, nobody knows what to expect. But if Thursday was any indication, I have a feeling Helen will surprise us all.