CHAMPION – Amber Hogue felt her neck snap, and the mother of six immediately started praying.
The 31-year-old woman said her head slumped forward into her lap, and she couldn’t feel anything from the neck down. Her first thought was that she was paralyzed. Next, she thought about her children.
“I started praying nonstop,” she said. “It really freaked me out. I don’t know how else to describe it. I kept thinking that I might never walk again. I’m suppose to take care of the kids. They’re not suppose to take care of me.”
Hogue suffered a broken neck and spinal cord injury after her pickup truck was struck by a car driven by Dylan Miles, 17, of Cortland, early Aug. 5 in Bazetta Township at the intersection of Route 305 and Bazetta Road.
According to reports, police were not able to determine who was at fault; however, Ohio State Highway Patrol later charged Miles with operating a vehicle while impaired and possession of drug paraphernalia. The case is still pending.
“I have no idea what is happening with them, whether he or his passenger were injured,” Hogue said. “I haven’t heard anything from either of them, or their parents.”
Hogue said she left Trumbull Memorial Hospital in Warren, where she works as a registered nurse, and stopped at Walmart to buy some supplies for her upcoming wedding. She was set to be married this Saturday.
As she was driving home, just after midnight, she approached the intersection, but slammed on her brakes when she realized Miles wasn’t going to stop for the light, she said. Hogue said her car was pushed at least 200 feet off of the road and was facing the direction from where she had traveled. It remains her word against Miles’ as to which one had the green light.
“The fact that he was drinking and driving isn’t proof the accident was his fault,” Hogue said. “But he was drinking and I wasn’t. Now I’m hurt and left with injuries that will be with me for the rest of my life.”
Hogue was taken to an area hospital, where she underwent surgery before being transferred to a local rehabilitative facility. She was released last Wednesday. She now has a plate with four screws, and a cadaver bone was inserted into her neck. Several neck bones were also fused together. She said she doesn’t know when or if she will be able work again. She said her family, accustomed to two incomes, now faces a lot of uncertainty with limited funds.
“We’re kind of in limbo right now,” she said. “But I’m alive and thankful for that.”
Hogue and her fiance, Shawn Melton, are to be married Saturday. Despite her injuries, and fears that she might have to postpone her wedding, she said she plans to walk down the aisle with the help of her parents and a walker.
“There was still so much work to do for the wedding when I got hurt, but my family and friends have helped so much. Everyone took over where I left off,” she said.
Hogue continues going to outpatient rehab and is also seeing a counselor.
“I remember it all, the crash, them hitting me, my neck snapping, my truck being pushed off the road, the smoke, the air bag inflating,” she said. “I have nightmares. There’s just a lot that goes with something like this.”
Hogue said that when she looked at the accident photos for the first time, and realized how badly damaged both vehicles were, she’s amazed she survived.
“It really is the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced. All I wanted to do was call for help and I couldn’t do anything. It’s a miracle I’m not paralyzed,” she said.
She said she hopes to use her experience to persuade young people to refrain from driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
“I feel like kids think they’re invincible,” she said. “They don’t see that there are consequences to their actions. But no matter what, when you make choices like this, people suffer. You can kill someone, even yourself. You can go to jail and have to live with something the rest of your life. I just don’t know how to get that point across any better. Just look at me. Look at other people who have been hurt, or killed, and their children, their families and loved ones. It’s not just about you. Think about it.
“It’s just not worth it. That’s all I can say. Just don’t drink and drive.”
By VIRGINIA SHANK – Staff reporter, Tribune Chronicle | TribToday.com