After a night out with friends on Jan. 23, 2015, 21-year-old Kaelyn Curry woke up to a dark room in Clarkdale and departed for a 6 a.m. shift at a gas station in the Village of Oak Creek.
Less than a half hour later, her 1999 Jeep Laredo left the roadway, overturned and flipped end over end three or four times before coming to rest on a small hill along Beaverhead Flat Road.
Curry had not been wearing a seat belt and was ejected 20 feet from the driver’s side window, sustaining a number of injuries including a ruptured spleen and a broken jaw. Her back was broken.
Three men passing by saw the fire that engulfed the vehicle’s engine compartment and stopped. As the fire grew, they approached Curry as popping sounds were coming from the burning vehicle, according to the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office report.
Believing it could explode at any time, the men lifted the injured Curry and carried her away from the crash site to safety. One of the men called 911.
YCSO deputies said they could see flames nearly three miles away as they drove toward the scene. Fire personnel arrived soon after, treated Curry and extinguished the flames. Curry was airlifted to Flagstaff Medical Center in critical condition.
“I was tired, with maybe a beer’s worth of alcohol in me,” Curry said last week. “I wasn’t drunk, but I was tired. It was the combination of things.”
Normally, Curry added, she wears a seat belt — an oversight on the evening of her accident that, oddly, may have saved her life. By being ejected from the car, she avoided being burned by the fire or asphyxiated by its smoke.
Seated in a local cafe a year and a half later, Curry showed little outward sign of her injuries. Lifting the hem of her shirt, however, she displayed the long, livid pink scar from the operation to remove her spleen.
On her lower back is another scar to mark the titanium rod placed in her spine. There are others on her right humerus and her left clavicle, showing where over a dozen screws are inserted into bone.
“I went from being 5-foot-10 to 5-foot-8,” Curry said of her post-operation body. She has gained an inch over the last year as her spine healed.
Curry said she went from 20 percent physical capability after the accident to now close to 100 percent.
“Everybody at Flagstaff Medical Center was so amazing,” Curry said. “I had five majors surgeries .... Without the doctors and staff there, I wouldn’t be walking. It’s amazing, the physical capabilities I still have. They gave it all back to me.”
Following the accident, Curry spent well over half a year in recovery, including rest and
extensive physical therapy. The total bill approached $100,000.
Thanks to a successful application to the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System — not to mention the help of family and friends, particularly her father, Roger Curry, and those associated with his band, The Retros — her medical bills are all paid.
“I was so lucky .... And programs like AHCCCS really save people’s financial lives.”
Now, but for a slight reduction in activities that might result in a fall, Curry is pretty much back to normal. She just bought her first car since the accident and attended her first bookkeeping class at Yavapai College.
Nonetheless, Curry said that there is unfinished business she needs to address. Since the accident, she has not talked to the three men who rescued her. She does not know if they can be contacted.
“They saved my life,” Curry said. “I don’t know if they read the paper, but I want to talk to them .... Thank you so much for finding me.”