A different kind of thankful

Students survive car accident support each other through the process of healing


Photo by Sara Rogers

Madison Winchell sits with family in her room in the rehab facility at St. Michaels Hospital

Waking up and not knowing where you are, or how you got there can be a scary thought. A thought that you only wish could be a dream. One moment you’re asleep, and the next you’re awake without any idea of how you ended up there. On Nov. 21, four girls experienced an event that will never be forgotten. Each of them awoke in pain as they tried to remember what happened the night their lives almost came to a complete halt.

“I remember waking up and screaming for help and honestly, I thought I was dead. It felt like a dream, everything slowed down,” junior Carley Wallace said. “I just remember seeing the trees and screaming. And at the impact, I went out. [The truck] crushed us in there and we couldn’t move.”

Aftermath of wreck – photo from TXKToday.com

That night, things took a turn for the worst as Wallace, junior Madison Winchell, and senior Lauren and junior Paige Gibbert hydroplaned and crashed into a telephone pole in the Redlick area. A car accident that could only be described as “terrifying,” the girls managed to stay strong as they waited for help while trapped inside the vehicle.

“I don’t remember it actually happening, but I remember when they got there. The windshield was all shattered, and they had to cut the whole windshield out. Carley crawled out, but the rest of us were in there for 45 minutes because the truck was messed up,” Paige Gibbert said. “Before they got there, we were screaming and crying. Carley and Madison kept saying that they couldn’t breathe, so I was trying to calm them down.”

Just a few short moments before, the girls were making their way to Wallace’s house as the wheels slid underneath them on Myrtle Springs Road.

“I was going into shock thinking this actually happened [to me.] All I could think of was just getting out,” Winchell said. “I was the last one out because of how everything was pushed in different ways. It was just scary because I remember everything.”

Paige Gibbert helps sister Lauren Gibbert by pushing her in a wheelchair
Photo by Sara Rogers
Paige Gibbert helps sister Lauren Gibbert by pushing her in a wheelchair

With Winchell driving, Paige in the front middle seat, Wallace in the passenger seat and Lauren in the back, the truck slid toward a ditch and was over corrected. The correction then made the vehicle spin out of control and into a telephone pole.

“We were just jamming to music, and I don’t remember anything else,” Lauren Gibbert said. “We were all upside down and I was going in and out of consciousness. I remember waking up and there was a seat belt wrapped around my neck. People were hovering over me, and then, I don’t remember anything else.”

While awaiting for the ambulance to arrive at the scene, Paige explains the fear she experienced as her sister, Lauren, did not respond to her screaming.

“Lauren was unconscious. I was really just screaming for her and she wouldn’t answer me. I thought she was dead, and I was really scared,” Paige Gibbert said. “I just felt so bad and felt like it was my fault she got hurt. She wouldn’t have been in the car if it wasn’t for me.”

Blood, bruises and broken bones do not begin to describe the pain felt as the girls were rushed to Christus St. Michael Hospital. The separation of the girls in the hospital only made things worse once they were told what injuries were present from the wreck. Winchell broke both hips and pelvis’, her right femur, her pubic bone and a rib. Wallace came out of the crash with a broken vertebrae in two places and a broken ankle. Paige experienced a collapsed lung, and Lauren broke her neck as well as her wrist.

“They wouldn’t let us see each other which is what we hated the most,” Wallace said. “I didn’t think everybody was going to make it.”

It has been three weeks since the accident and each of the girls feels more than thankful for the support received from their friends, family and classmates.

“We’ve had a lot of visitors,” Lauren Gibbert said. “They are all so nice.”

Both the Gibbert’s and Wallace have been released from the hospital and are currently trying to re-adjust to their injuries. Winchell is residing in Christus St. Michael Rehab Center and was expected to be released last week.

“The rehab center has helped me a lot. The people are very nice and my physical therapist and occupational therapist really have helped me progress,” Winchell said. “They push me until I cry, but I have come a long way since I got here last week.”

After experiencing one of the worst moments of their lives, the girls feel thankful for the position they are in now.

“I think the timing was right because it was around Thanksgiving, and it gave us something to be thankful for,” Paige Gibbert said. “Everyone keeps telling us that when they saw the car, they didn’t think anyone was alive because it looked that bad. I’m guessing God had a plan, and he did that for a reason; to make us closer and closer to him. Our friendship is already strong but now it’s even stronger.”

Carley Wallace, Lauren Gibbert and Paige Gibbert attempt a silly picture, radiating their everlasting strength
Carley Wallace, Lauren Gibbert and Paige Gibbert attempt a silly picture, radiating their everlasting strength