ELOY -- It’s the little victories that are important to Donna Slade.
The Eloy resident has spent the last four months slowly recovering from a deadly car crash that happened near Frontier Street and Toltec Buttes Road.
Slade sustained several broken bones, keeping her immobile and confined mostly to a wheelchair. She estimates doctors have placed 30 screws in her body.
The 54-year-old has been homebound since she was released from the hospital. She’s slowly becoming more independent — cooking meals and using the restroom on her own.
These acts may seem trivial, she said, but it feels like a victory considering the injuries she sustained on Jan. 29.
It all started out as a typical morning.
Slade was picked up by a friend and on her way to work at Eegee’s. She was scrolling through her phone and suddenly noticed an oncoming vehicle swerve into their lane of traffic.
Her friend gasped. The headlights flashed. Then the cars collided head-on.
“There was absolutely no reaction time at all for us,” Slade said.
Roberto Rios, 20, was driving the other vehicle and died at the scene. He’s survived by his mother, girlfriend and several siblings.
John Lance, a retired firefighter and winter visitor from Michigan, was driving his wife to an appointment that morning and stumbled upon the wreck.
“It was not a pretty scene when we got there,” he said.
Having responded to hundreds of wrecks throughout his career, Lance had the instinct to spring into action. He checked on Rios and didn’t detect a pulse.
He then heard a woman screaming from the other car. A couple of other Good Samaritans were trying to pull Slade out of the wrecked car and Lance ran over to help.
They extracted her, and Lance held Slade up, letting her lean on him and keeping her from going into shock. The helicopters then arrived and airlifted Slade and her friend to a hospital.
The whole encounter lasted only about 15 minutes, Lance said.
After arriving at the hospital, Slade said she was surprised to find out how injured she was. Several ribs were cracked, one wrist was broken and a femur bone was shattered. Doctors told Slade her sternum was cracked in two places, which caused some bleeding around her organs.
She spent about a month recovering at Maricopa Integrated Health Systems before she returned home to Eloy.
She regularly goes to physical therapy but has been unable to return to work. Her friends have organized fundraisers to assist with her finances, yet she’s determined to get back to work sooner rather than later.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help her with expenses at https://www.gofundme.com/donna-emergency
She’s made a goal to be up and moving within six weeks. Doctors have warned Slade it could take much longer since she still struggles to stand for long periods of time. But she’s already had some small victories, so she’s optimistic her recovery time will be shorter.
Her physical wounds may be healing, though Slade still lives in a state of fear. She’s scared of falling and hurting herself again. And she doesn’t know how she’ll get back on the road again.
“I hate the idea of having to drive now,” Slade said.
Then there’s the memories of the “horrific” crash that stick in her mind. She doesn’t know how she and her friend survived, but Slade is convinced there must have been some divine intervention.
She still gets emotional thinking about the 20-year-old man who didn’t survive. Slade said she didn’t know Rios, but has been told he was a good kid.