The Car Crash that Changed the Wight Family

Nicole Wight talks about the day of the car crash that killed her mother and left her two young children with brain injuries.

View more videos with Nicole Wight.

[] [Nicole Wight - Mother and Caregiver] The accident happened. Aaron was deployed to Afghanistan out of Fort Drum, New York, where we lived, and I had gotten a job with Cornell Cooperative Extension, which was located at the base, and I needed somebody to take the kids for the summer because Aaron was deployed and I had to work. So I called my mom, who wasn't working at the time, and I asked her if she would take them for the summer and she said, "Of course, I would love to take them." So her and my dad picked them up in June and they had them all summer. She was coming home from taking them to Chuck E. Cheese on August 9th of 2006, and she went through an intersection and was hit by a truck that was trailering a race car on the driver's side and a sedan on the passenger side. She sustained chest trauma and passed away en route to the hospital, and Mackenzie, who was 6 at the time, suffered an open skull fracture with a laceration on the durometer and a fractured collarbone, and Michael, who was 4, he sustained a closed skull fracture, which we later found out was kind of like shaken baby syndrome, and he fractured his eye socket and he broke his leg. Our friend Megan was driving us home, and I knew that my mom didn't survive. I knew before we got there. It was like Megan's cell phone was ringing, my cell phone was ringing, Lisa's cell phone was ringing and then they all stopped ringing. I wasn't 100% sure if the kids were alive, but I was totally positive that my mom was. You see it on TV all the time. I had that feeling. It came over me. I knew. You just know. Got to the hospital and they happened to be doing renovations. I couldn't find a way to get in. I'm in my slippers and my work clothes. And I finally got in because some nurse was going in a side door and I begged her to let me in. I went to the first desk that I saw, and they made a phone call up to the pediatric ICU and she said, "I just need you to wait here." And they brought a nurse down who had a wheelchair and she said, "We'll need you to sit in this to bring you upstairs." And I was panicking because then you're like, "This is so much worse than I could have ever imagined." And I was like, "I'm not sitting in the wheelchair." And she's like, "The only way you're getting upstairs is if you sit in the wheelchair and we bring you up that way because your family is very concerned about how you're going to react." So I sat in the wheelchair, went upstairs with my sister-in-law and my friend, and they brought me to the Ronald McDonald Room, which is like the family room where they tell you bad news and that your life is going to change. I remember when the door opened—it was a very tiny room, but I remember thinking that that's maybe what heaven looked like because everybody I knew—ever—was in that room, in this tiny little room. The only difference between I think what heaven would be like is they're really happy to see you, and everybody was completely distraught and hysterical. So I went in and I saw my dad was sitting on the—there was a small couch next to the wall, and he was sitting with my brother. And it clicked that if my mom was alive, my dad wouldn't have been sitting there waiting. So I rushed over to my brother, because he's like my best friend, and I said, "Is Mommy dead?" and my dad said, "Yeah, she's gone." And I completely lost it. And then of course you just start thinking about the kids and like, "Now what?" The nursing supervisor that they had there, her name was Ann Marie—I'll never forget her— she was one of the phone calls that I was randomly getting on the way to the hospital. She came in and formally introduced herself to me and she kind of like put me in the zone like, "All right. Yes. This is terrible, awful, I know. It's also really bad about what I'm going to tell you." "But your kids are alive, and that's the most important thing." She said, "I need to take you in there. We need to have some surgeries done. You need to talk to the doctors." "And you're shocked, you're horrified, you're distraught, your life is over, but you've got to get your head in the game and just go take care of your family."
Posted on BrainLine November 14, 2013.

Produced by Christian Lindstrom, Justin Rhodes, and Amy Joseph, BrainLine.