Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- It was a July Nicole Smith will never forget. A month ago, she and her daughter Brooklynn Salmonski endured a terrible, tangled crash on 26th Street, just south of Ash Street Cooperative. The spot where the crash took place is still in need of more thorough repairs, as the two-vehicle collision took out a utility pole and left Birch Street Townhome residents in the dark.
Ms. Smith traveled in from Ohio with her daughter to see her mother and to attend her cousin’s wedding. When we first spoke, she was stranded in Illinois because her vehicle had been totaled. She had no way to return home. Her mother, a Well Street resident, took care of her day and night. “She’s taking care of me and my daughter,” Ms. Smith said. “Being that I have public aid Ohio insurance, it’s been very hard to get any kind of medication coverage, doctor coverage — it’s been a huge runaround. I’ve had to go through State Farm Insurance. I finally was able to get some kind of an appointment to see an orthopedic on Monday.”
At the time, she was still experiencing some pain. “Some days are good, some days are bad,” she said.
It was a night of two crashes, actually. The first, involving Ms. Smith, happened when a vehicle struck her from behind, spinning her car around, causing it to roll over two times, and slam into a utility pole. The utility pole collapsed from the impact and power was cut off.
The second crash, allegedly caused by a drunk driver, took out the iconic #TimStrong vehicle that was blocking traffic on 26th Street. That police vehicle was also totaled that night.
How did she and her one-and-a-half-year-old daughter survive? Looking at the tangled and smashed remnants of her car, it hardly seems likely that anyone could have survived.
Her daughter Brooklynn sustained some bumps and bruises but was otherwise not seriously harmed.
Mom, on the other hand, was knocked unconscious. When she came to, “terror came over her because she was unable to help her daughter in the back seat,” according to the narrative on a GoFundMe page set up by her boyfriend’s aunt. Nicole suffered multiple fractures in her pelvis, tailbone, her fifth vertebrae, the wings of that vertebrae, and her pubic bone.
Ms. Smith said she thanks God and guardian angels, “I’m actually quite surprised. Me and my boyfriend went and looked at my vehicle the other day. I cried, of course, when I seen it. But, the area where my daughter was and where I was, it was like the perfect spot in that vehicle when it happened. It was the only spots that were enough room. My daughter’s car seat wasn’t smushed or anything. It was just enough room for her car seat.”
“Where I was?” she reflected. “I couldn’t even believe I was in that spot. The seat is squished together. It was just a really crazy visual when I seen it. It was weird looking at it. Words can’t describe how I feel about that vehicle when I seen that. It looks like a squished can.”
Her daughter, Brooklynn Salmonski, was just shy of a year-and-a-half old when the accident happened.
The other driver, who allegedly ran from the scene, turned himself in the morning following the accident, according to Ms. Smith.
Her boyfriend’s aunt set up a GoFundMe page to help with expenses following the accident. And those expenses continue. “I was still in the hospital when I found out about [the GoFundMe page],” Ms. Smith recalls.
She expressed gratitude for the response of people in her life, “It kind of just really opens your mind to the amount of people that have your back, family, and friends that you never really thought would be there for you, and I have a lot of that. I was very overwhelmed by that. It was an amazing feeling.”
A witness assisted Ms. Smith and her daughter until paramedics and police arrived.
She does not know what her recovery will entail in the long term. “I finally got to get a doctor’s appointment,” she told eNews Park Forest in mid-July.
Ms. Smith said she was not able to get clear answers from anyone in Ohio as to who she could or could not see for medical treatment, so treatment, after the emergency room and hospital, was delayed.
“They did cover my medical expenses when I got out of the hospital,” she said, but when she received more prescriptions, Ohio public aid denied coverage. “I had to go through a whole process through State Farm Insurance just to get it covered. And that was another whole process trying to get a doctor.”
After leaving the hospital once, she contracted infections and had to return to the hospital, Ms. Smith said. “I had a really high temperature and had to go to the ER and found out I had infections that had to be taken care of.”
She and the other driver both have State Farm Insurance, so that did facilitate responses for Ms. Smith somewhat.
She and Brooklynn were finally able to return home to Ohio in mid-July. But her recovery continues, and that means time and further expenses.
If you can help, please visit Nicole’s and Brooklynn’s GoFundMe page here:
A “Thank You” from Nicole Smith from her hospital bed: