South Dakota woman becomes nurse after car accident

February 25, 2019

ABERDEEN, S.D. (AP) — After a brutal car crash in 1998, Roxie Orr-Price was told that she would likely spend the rest of her life in a nursing home.

“They told my parents to find a facility,” Orr-Price told the Aberdeen American News.

The prediction turned out to be partially accurate — Orr-Price is now a licensed practical nurse and has spent her 10-year career working in long-term care facilities.

“No one thought I’d make it this far,” she said. “It’s only because I’m stubborn. It’s my best quality. You tell me I can’t do something, I’m going to do it. It’s my best and worst quality.”

It was Valentine’s Day, 1998 — just more than 21 years ago. Orr-Price was 17 and a junior in high school on her way to a dance in Clark with three friends.

“I was your typical junior in high school,” she said.

They were driving a Dodge Dynasty that was owned by the Orrs, but Orr-Price wasn’t the driver, said Marcia Orr, her mother. The roads were slick that night and had recently been reconfigured due to flooding in the area.

“It was a foggy, icy night. It was not nice,” Orr said.

The Orrs were serving Valentine’s dinner at their restaurant, the Hot Spot in Bristol, that night. When they first got the call, Orr said she was worried that the girls had been drinking and that they would need to fetch them from jail, but that wasn’t the case at all.

Based on reports and recollections, Orr said the girls were likely driving a little too fast, missed a curve and hit a pole. It was in the days before everyone had a cellphone, and the girls definitely didn’t have one.

Luckily, the car crashed about a quarter mile away from a farmhouse, and one of the people who lived there was a first responder, Orr said. And one of the girls in the car was the daughter of a nurse. She knew that Orr-Price, who was vomiting, should sit up so she wouldn’t choke or develop pneumonia.

Orr-Price was flown to Sioux Falls to Avera McKennan from Watertown and was in a coma for two to three weeks. Her skull was crushed and a chunk of her brain was removed — a strip that was 4 centimeters by 15 centimeters, she said.

She got to leave the hospital early for one night — her junior prom — and even got to sleep in her bed that night.

“The night I was in my bed was nice,” Orr-Price said.

But then it was back to Sioux Falls for more physical therapy.

The first week when Orr-Price was in a coma, both Harold and Marcia Orr stayed with her in Sioux Falls. But by week two, they thought someone needed to go back home and run the business — the restaurant and Dale’s Service.. That’s what Harold Orr did. Marcia Orr stayed with her daughter until she went home for good.

Despite having a traumatic brain injury, Orr-Price graduated from Bristol High School on time with the rest of the class of 1999.

“Our special ed teacher stayed the whole summer so that me and another girl could make up our major subjects — English, science, math that you need — we got to make them up and graduate with our class,” Orr-Price said.

Her senior year, she was Miss Bristol in the Snow Queen competition.

She continued to go to physical therapy in Aberdeen. She had to relearn how to do everything, Orr said.

“My parents have been the best for saying, ‘Do it, try. If you fail, we’re not ashamed of it,’” Orr-Price said.

She was told that college might not be a good idea. So, of course, she enrolled at Northern State University and took her generals, then Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown, where she earned an associate degree to be a medical assistant.

A few years later, she decided she wanted to become a nurse, so she went back to school at Lake Area and earned her licensed practical nursing degree.

“The best compliment I ever get is, ‘I would have never known if you didn’t tell me,’” Orr-Price said. “I always do tell all my employers, and I tell my coworkers.”

Orr-Price said she still has trouble with balance. She can’t stand on one leg without falling down, nor can she stand with one foot directly in front of the other.

And she doesn’t have a filter. All of those things most people think and don’t say, Orr-Price just goes ahead and says them.

“It has a lot to do with my behaviors and emotions,” she said of her injury’s effects.

She’s an avid note-taker. Orr-Price said her short-term memory isn’t great — it’s not too bad, though. On memory tests, she said she’s about average.

Partly because of her brain injury and partly because she’s an auditory learner, Orr-Price is constantly talking. Saying things aloud helps her commit them to memory.

If there’s a lot going on, Orr-Price said she gets easily overwhelmed.

She needs a lot of sleep. Sometimes she’ll doze off for a full 24 hours if she doesn’t have any obligations.

“Everyone is different with their head injury, it affects everyone differently,” Orr-Price said. “It’s a silent disability.”

Because of the missing slice of brain, Orr-Price said she has a constant headache, something she refuses to treat with drugs.

“I will not take narcotics because I know I will like not having a headache and I’ll be addicted,” Orr-Price said. “They can’t fix it because where they took the brain out, nerves are just firing.”

Because of her injury, Orr-Price said she doesn’t have to work. She could be on disability at home all day. But that’s not what she wants.

“I’m not disabled. I have a disability, but I’m not disabled,” she said. “I feel I can work, and I want to work, so I do work.”

Growing up, she and her siblings worked at their parents’ business. She has a twin sister named Rachel and two brothers, Paul and David.

“We worked. We had to do the cashier part for the gas station and we had to mop — mop, mop, mop — and clean everything, because everything has to be clean, clean, clean,” Orr-Price said. “We had to work every day, regardless.”

It wasn’t until recently that Orr-Price started working full-time, she said. About four months ago, her boss asked her to go to 40-hour weeks.

“If I get overwhelmed or if I start making errors or something, I won’t be offended if you cut me back,” Orr-Price said she told her boss.

Orr-Price lives with her husband, Dustin, and teenage daughter, Gwendolyn, in Aberdeen.

“I’ve lived longer with a head injury than I lived without,” Orr-Price said. “It bothers me that there’s a stigma about it.”

The crash changed her life, but that doesn’t mean she’s sore about it.

“It was an accident. If it wasn’t, they would have called it an on-purpose,” Orr-Price said. “Even to this day, I have bad days and I get down, but you have to remind yourself, ‘Was it a bad five minutes that you milked out for the whole day, or was it a bad day?’”


Information from: Aberdeen American News, http://www.aberdeennews.com