Paramedic speaks about recovery, helping others after ambulance crash

Paramedic speaks about recovery, helping others after ambulance crash

FLORENCE COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Tessie Smith said she doesn't remember much about the moments leading up to, during or even after the crash that left her seriously injured.

"I have to get up every day thinking, 'OK, put your smile on, get up and make today today,'" Smith said.

It's been nearly two months since her life was changed in the blink of an eye.

"It can happen that quick, and nobody's immune to it, not even an ambulance," Smith said.

She had been riding in an ambulance, responding to a call along with fellow EMS worker Joshua Craig. However, things changed forever as they crossed over Martin Luther King Bridge near McLeod Hospital in Florence.

They were hit almost head-on by a man suspected of driving while impaired and with a suspended license.

Jody Heglar, of Norwood, N.C., was charged with a felony for the crash.

"Things changed in a matter of minutes, and it was devastating for all of us to know that. for her, life had forever changed," Smith's mother, Sandy Weatherford. said.

Smith has endured numerous surgeries and at this point is bound to a wheelchair. She lost her right leg to the crash and is still dealing with several other painful injuries.

But a big part of her recovery has been her family. They've worked to get her to where she is today physically and kept her in good spirits through the pain.

"She has to suck it up and put on your big girl panties and move on," Weatherford said. "You don't have any choice but to do that. We can't go back by one minute, so it's important that we stay up and move forward through this whole process."

Smith has spent more than 20 years of her life helping people in the Florence community, especially in organizing the Howe Springs Fire Department blood drive every year.

Now in her time of need, she's seen what that help can really do.

"If had it not been for people donating, I wouldn't be here because I used a lot of blood," Smith said. "You know 25 units, that's a lot ... and I used that plus some. So any of the blood drives you can give at ... always, always ... because you never know when you'll be the one that needs it."

A blood drive is sets to be held at the Howe Springs Fire Department on May 9 from 1 to 6 p.m.

"I think God saved her for a reason, and I think there are big things for her in the future," Weatherford said.

The community has rallied around Smith since the wreck, and there are a number of ways residents can help.

For information on the blood drive, click here.

To support Tessie through monetary donations, click here.

To send or take a meal to Tessie and her family, click here.

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