On Mother's Day, Paige Hakimian and her four daughters were headed home to Florida when they nearly died in a horrific crash on Interstate 95 in Sussex County.
The other day she called to say, "Thank you."
"It's your worst nightmare that can ever come true," Hakimian said from her home in Jacksonville, where she is recovering from her injuries. "But it turned out to have so many blessings. There's not enough good things I can say about the people we ran into in Richmond."
If you want to feel good about the place where we live, talk to Hakimian for a few minutes, as I did.
Here's a woman whose family suffered broken bones and bled all over everything -- and who personally almost lost a foot and was spitting out teeth -- after their sport utility vehicle flipped several times and landed them first in a grassy median and then in VCU Medical Center in Richmond. Yet all she can talk about is how well she was treated in Richmond and beyond -- from the first passers-by who rushed to their aid with prayers and water, to the vertically challenged cab driver who cheerfully helped the hobbling 5-foot-10 Hakimian to the airport and her flight home after more than three weeks in VCU Medical Center.
"Every day some person would come and do some random act of kindness," Hakimian said. "I still think about all of the incredible people who came into our lives."
Hakimian and her daughters -- her two sons and husband were back in Jacksonville -- were traveling from Northern Virginia. She had fetched her two oldest daughters, Blair, 21, and Haley, 19, both students at George Washington University, to bring them home for the summer. Brighton, 12, and Hollin, 9, were along for the ride.
They left early that Sunday and were about 40 miles south of Richmond when Hakimian swerved to avoid pieces of a shredded tire in her lane, she said. She lost control of her SUV, and her family suddenly became dependent on the kindness of strangers -- such as the three guys from Jimmy Matthews Towing and Repair of Stony Creek who spent an hour picking up the family's belongings strewn for a quarter-mile along the highway and then kept everything safe until Hakimian's husband, Ben, could come up from Florida to retrieve it.
"It was bad," Jimmy Matthews said when I called him. "Most times something rolls like that, somebody gets killed. The seat belts saved them."
There was the helicopter pilot who flew Hakimian, along with daughter Haley, to VCU and then wouldn't leave her side because she had no one else to sit with her.
There were kindly state troopers, an Episcopal priest who brought Communion, and an army of nurses, doctors and hospital social workers who did their jobs but also delivered a mother's hugs to Hakimian's injured chil dren who were being treated in other parts of the hospital.
"It's a lot of coordination of care from every aspect when you're dealing with families, especially when it's parents separated from children," said Nancy Martin, director of VCU's trauma program. She said 6 to 8 percent of the hospital's trauma patients are from out of state, partly a result of being close to three interstate highways.
As for the Hakimians, Martin said: "We see so much tragedy here, it's great when we see people do well."
After spending a few nights at the hospital, Ben Hakimian showed up to take a room at the Hilton Garden Inn a few blocks from the hospital with a group of young women on crutches in tow. Seeing that, the staff leapt into action with food and other special arrangements.
John Cario, the hotel's general manager, said the philosophy is simple: "Treat our guests how we would want to be treated, especially in a time of need, in a strange city."
Paige Hakimian was the last to leave the hospital, and she has more surgery coming up this month. But she's thrilled that she and her daughters are alive and will be well, and she's happy to be able to say, "Thank you."
"I don't know all of their names," Hakimian said, "but maybe they'll see this and know how eternally grateful I am."
The only thing missing is Lambie, a raggedy, well-loved little stuffed lamb that Blair had slept with since she was a young child. Lambie got lost in the crash. If you find it, the Hakimians are offering a reward.
Mother's Day didn't turn out so well for the Hakimians. What's on tap for Father's Day?
Paige Hakimian laughed and said, "We're going to lay low."
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Round Of Applause
Kudos to the three employees of Jimmy Matthews Towing and Repair of Stony Creek, VA, who were part of this crash story that turned out better than expected! Here's the Richmond Times-Dispatch story:
Posted by Cyndi Kight, Associate Editor of Towing & Recovery Footnotes at 7:01 AM