Thanks to the bad decision of a drunk driver, Pamela Hanson’s life was forever changed – and she’s sharing her story to encourage everyone to make smart choices this holiday season.
When the 55-year-old was just 18, she was involved in a motor vehicle accident in Edmonton, Alta., caused by a drunk driver who hit her vehicle head-on.
“I had just finished graduating from high school. I was supposed to be a missionary in Haiti for the year, scheduled to leave in September,” said Hanson. “It was in August on a Sunday afternoon and I guess the guy was driving someone else’s vehicle.”
Hanson’s plans to live and work abroad were drastically changed due to the accident, since both of her legs were broken as well as four of her ribs and her cheekbone, along with other injuries.
She spent the next year of her life in the hospital, undergoing physical therapy and other treatment so that she could walk again since doctors had to cut open both sides of her legs after the accident.
“Those injuries have caused other issues along the way through my life and I still have challenges resulting from that day, that hour, that split-second choice (the man made) to jump in someone else’s car and venture out drunk without any regard of the consequences,” said Hanson.
“I wouldn’t have had these hip issues, I probably wouldn’t have had problems having children, everything that I’ve had a problem with in my life has come from that accident.”
Still, she thinks of herself as lucky when she compares her story to the countless others involved in drunk driving accidents who didn’t survive.
Hanson said that later in her life, she came to forgive the man who put her and her family through so much pain, recalling he nearly lost his life that day too.
“When we were rushed to the hospital, they put him in the hospital bed next to mine and I could hear them talking and saying that he should have been dead because he had so much alcohol in him,” said Hanson, who remarked he must have been greatly hurt to put himself in that state of inebriation.
At the time of his conviction for drunk driving, the man was handed a $500 fine and a three-month suspension on his drivers’ licence.
She said this light punishment felt like a slap in the face at the time, but she is happy that laws surrounding drunk driving have become tougher.
Now, Hanson is telling other people about her experience in the hope it will make them think twice before risking their lives and the lives of others.
“So many times when we choose something or choose to do something, it’s not always us that faces the consequences. In this case, that man made a choice and I was the one who faced the consequences,” said Hansen.
“And I think people need to be reminded of that. Make the choice to be responsible and put others’ needs before your own. If we all did that, our world would be a whole different place.”
She added that her experience goes hand-in-hand with the problem of substance abuse, stating that people need to find a better way to handle their stress rather than drinking or smoking.
“People need to be able to ask for help,” said Hanson.