‘It Changed Our Life Forever’: Recovering After Distracted Driving Crash
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Patrick Oki is visiting a very familiar place today: the neuro-specialty rehab unit at Intermountain Medical Center. He spent a month there after a traumatic crash on a motorcycle.
On July 8, 2014, Oki had just finished dinner. “It was the first date after nine months of talking to this girl,” he said.
They decided to continue the date after dinner and both got onto Oki’s motorcycle. Unfortunately, a motorist failed to yield on a left turn, hitting Oki and his passenger.
“He wasn’t paying attention … I ended up on the hood of the van that he was driving,” Oki described. “My leg had been smashed.”
Oki was in critical condition, and sadly, his passenger was killed.
According to Oki, the driver had been distracted and didn’t see them traveling through the intersection. “He was on his phone. He was texting and that happened to be more important at the time,” Oki claimed.
Unified Police Department spokesperson Melody Grey said the investigation showed the driver had checked Facebook and read a text message while he was at a stopped light. However, the district attorney’s office closed the case and declined to file criminal charges.
Oki’s leg was amputated that night. He spent the next month learning how to walk again with a prosthetic leg.
Now, after lots of physical and emotional healing, Oki has recovered. He’s learned that “I can be OK and still live my life and try and find ways to enjoy it,” he said.
Today, Oki finds joy by mentoring other amputee’s during their transition through Intermountain Healthcare’s RAMMP program. It stands for the Rehab Advocate Mindset Mentorship Program and is designed to connect current recovering inpatients with former rehab patients who are now healthy.
Oki met Terry Conley in the unity, a diabetes patient who recently had his leg amputated after finding a serious infection in his ankle. They immediately bonded.
Over the course of an hour, Oki gave Conley encouragement as he practiced standing up.
“The more you do it, the better you’ll get,” Oki said.
Oki also got back into a wheelchair to give Conley a few tips on how to get around more easily. ‘When you do it, throw your hands through it,” Oki said. They even had a friendly wheelchair competition.
Conley called Oki a hero.
“I want to make sure someone knows I’m thankful,” he said holding back tears. Conley said seeing Oki’s success gave him new hope and helped him see that normal life is within his grasp.
Conley was inspired by Oki’s ability to return to normal life activities — things Oki never even though he could do again like snowboarding.
Oki said returning to the unit also helps him heal through his own journey. “There’s nothing better than helping somebody else accomplish their goals,” he said.
Oki’s mother, Nora Oki, urges drivers’ to put all their focus on the road. “It changed our lives forever. And it’s just not worth the text and drive,” she said.
Today, Patrick Oki and Conley are finding healing together.
Utah Department of Transportation spokesman John Gleason reminds drivers to eliminate all forms of distraction while driving, not just your cellphone.
“It only takes a moment for a crash to occur and if you think about it, it only takes a moment for you to look down at your cellphone to see who is calling in or to read a text message,” he explained.
Gleason said talking to a passenger or messing with the radio can be just as dangerous.
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