Someone Else's Decision, Changed My Life...Completely
By: Phaedra Marriott-Olsen | MADD Tennessee State Program Director
On Mother’s Day weekend in 1996 my life was forever changed in just a moment when a drunk driver crossed the centerline hitting my car nearly head-on. From that crash I sustained many injuries. Numerous broken bones and internal damage, but the most catastrophic thing that happened to me was the damage done to my aorta heart valve. At the age of 22, I was taken in for open heart surgery and with so many complications in that surgery the doctors did the only thing they could do to preserve my life. They shut off the blood supply to my lower extremities, causing me to be paralyzed.
For 23 years now I have seen the world from a seated position, and memories of walking in sand and wiggling my toes becoming faded from my mind. Knowing that my children will never have memories of a mother that walked with them, ran behind them when they learned to ride a bike or create future memories of being able to dance at their wedding. Everyday I’m reminded of the person that I used to be compared to the person I am now. Those reminders happen as easily as when I look at my reflection in the mirror, seeing the scars of the person I am now versus the body I was before are the moments when I just don’t feel like “enough.”
It’s the kind of emptiness, that even when surrounded by laughter, you still feel like something is missing and in the back of your mind you still question “what if?” But when I think about those who I’m surrounded by, other victim families searching for hope, and those who are alongside me fighting for a better tomorrow, and those who protect and serve for a better today… I realize that together we ARE ENOUGH and we can save lives and fight for a future of no more victims.
I see this future when I look at my son Joshua. Who from the young age of 4 had to change his life of being a carefree boy to become a care taker of a mother in a chair. This young boy stopped living his daily life to help me in and out of bed, often tucking me in bed at night then putting himself to bed after making sure that I had a glass of water and my lights turned out for peaceful sleep.
With son, Josh, at MADD event
Joshua grew up fighting beside me, attending school presentations when I talked to children about the dangers of underage drinking or Josh would sit in the back of the room coloring while I trained law enforcement officers on working with victims and he spent many late nights passing out materials at sobriety checkpoints trying to save one more life. Joshua never complained knowing that so often I played the mother to many others, just trying to save a life… and now, he does the same. Joshua now is a deputy sheriff. He carries handcuffs with my name and crash date engraved on them, so that when he makes an impaired driving arrest, he’s able to share not “my story” but the story of “why” he does what he does.
It seems to have become the circle of life in our world, working together to make a better future for those around us. And together, just a mother and son… we can be enough.
To learn more about Phaedra's story, click here!