Crash victim is thankful for the blessings from her community.

December 21, 2015
Erin Whitaker with the Chrismas tree that was given to her.

Erin Whitaker with the Chrismas tree that was given to her.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

HAMLIN TOWNSHIP — Erin Whitaker has always known she has lived in a great community with generous people. But, in the last couple of months, she has learned just how thankful she really is for friends, family, co-workers and complete strangers.

Erin used to be an active person, raising a teenager and a 10-year-old as a single mother, working full-time, going to college. On October 9, 2015, her life changed. Erin was driving her Jeep Cherokee north on Jebavy Drive when a Toyota Camry, driven by a 24-year-old Scottville woman, pulled out of Rasmussen Road to make a left-hand turn, causing Erin’s vehicle to “t-bone” the turning vehicle.

The driver of the Toyota and her passengers, a 32-year-old Shelby man and a 2-year-old Shelby boy, were not injured. Erin, on the other hand, was trapped in her vehicle.

Rescue personnel from Pere Marquette and Ludington fire departments used “The Jaws of Life” hydraulic extrication tools to cut open the driver’s side of Erin’s car.

“I was in so much pain,” Erin said. “The paramedics were hesitant to give me any pain medication until they could get me out of the vehicle. But, every time they tried to move me, it hurt so much.”

Once she was transported by ambulance to Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital, medical personnel determined Erin had a broken femur.

“The two broken halves were sitting on top of each other,” Erin said. “It was broke right in half, down the middle.” She spent five days at the hospital and then was transferred to Tendercare nursing home in Ludington, where she spent five weeks there. She is home now, at her Hamlin Lake Estates house, but is unable to drive. She has daily visits from physical and occupational therapists.

The crash has been a major hinderance on her life. “My kids relied on me to take them to activities. I had been taking classes, working on my bachelor’s degree through Ferris State University. I can’t work.”

She said she is making progress but still has a difficult time walking.

If there is a positive side to the situation, it has been the generosity of Whitaker’s family, friends, co-workers and strangers.

Her mother, Clara Whitaker, helped take care of the kids. “My mom has been great. She has really provided some stability to my kids.”

One of the major blessings came just before Thanksgiving. Mason County Sheriff Deputy Jeremy King, who was the first responder on the scene of the crash, showed up at Erin’s house with a turkey dinner for her entire family. Sheriff Kim Cole said he had received a phone call from someone who wanted to donate the dinner to a family in need. “I immediately thought about Erin,” Sheriff Cole said. “So, I sent Jeremy out there to deliver the turkey.”

“I couldn’t believe it,” Erin said. “The dinner was such a blessing and couldn’t have come at a better time. I am so grateful.”

Finances have been tight since the crash for Erin and her family, who already lived on a limited budget. She continues to wait for disability payouts and her attorneys have just begun legal proceedings against the Toyota driver’s insurance company.

“It’s a long process and can be very discouraging,” Erin said. “We have really had to cut back and I knew there was no way we could even afford a Christmas tree. Then one day, Dr. Amanda Overmyer brought us a tree.”

Erin works in food service at Ludington hospital. She said her co-workers, including CEO Mark Vipperman, have been great. “Mark has talked to me a few times and that just really means a lot,” she said. “My boss, Meagan VanderVlucht and co-worker Jackie Daniels, came over to my house before I got home from the nursing home and helped move things around so I could get around with my walker. My friend Eric Wilson also helped.”

Erin said she has at least another six weeks before she can return to work. But, knowing she has friends and family to support her will make the time go by faster.

“There are just so many people to thank, I just can’t name them all. I think the people I am most grateful to are the responders who were at the crash and the hospital staff. I don’t know who they all were but I want them to know I am truly thankful for each and every one of them.”

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