The Long Journey
In the early morning hours of July 7, four Iowa Park teens were involved in an accident that left two of them critically injured.
Two occupants, Jason Schobert, 18, and Bobby Scobee, 18, were treated and released, according to an article in the July 12, issue of the Leader.
Shelby Viator, 16, and Brandon Burns, 18, were transported to United Regional Health Care Systems in Wichita Falls where they spent time in ICU recovering from serious injuries that will require them to spend an extended amount of time in rehabilitation centers.
Shelby is at HealthSouth in Wichita Falls and Brandon is in the Baylor Rehabilitation Institute in Dallas.
Brandon’s story has been told in several articles in the Leader leading up to the benefit Saturday for his family.
This week Shelby’s story will be told.
The night of the accident Shelby had borrowed her dad’s vehicle to go to Wal-mart, where she picked up articles she would need during her stay at Sea World were she was going to a camp and learn to work with animals.
She, Brandon, Jason, and Bobby were returning from when something happened that caused the vehicle to roll several times on US 287 near the Bell Road overpass.
“They (police) don’t know what happened that night. They looked and didn’t find anything,” Shelby’s mother Eileen said.
And none of the teens in the vehicle recall what happened.
Shelby was trapped inside the vehicle and first responders used the Jaws of Life to extract her as she dangled upside down in the overturned vehicle.
Brandon was ejected.
Hospital personnel called Shelby’s mother to the hospital.
She didn’t have a clue how bad Shelby was hurt, but she went alone to the hospital not wanting to upset Shelby’s dad, Chuck, because he suffers from health problems.
Because of a head injury Shelby was rushed to surgery.
She suffered from a hematoma caused when a skull fracture at her temple went into a main artery in her brain.
In addition to the fracture she had another large head laceration, a shattered left elbow, and a broken right hand, as well as five fractures in her neck.
“I called my daughter Kaitlin, who is attending University of North Texas in Denton, to come to the hospital,” Eileen said. “It wasn’t until she arrived through the emergency room and talked with some teens there that I learned three others were in the vehicle with Shelby.” Eileen said.
After several hours of surgery Shelby was taken to ICU, where she recalls waking up.
“ When I woke up I didn’t know what had happened, but I knew I had done something wrong. The first words I said was ‘I’m sorry,’ Shelby said, as she reflected on the night that changed her life as well as the lives of her friends and their families.
At first Shelby’s family didn’t tell her about Brandon’s injuries, but she kept asking why he wasn’t visiting her when Bobby and Jason did.
After she moved to HealthSouth they told her his condition.
After a few days in ICU Shelby returned to surgery where doctors operated on her shattered left elbow. After a few more days in ICU she was moved to the Eighth Street Campus where she stayed until being transferred to HealthSouth.
Shelby is learning to walk again and is having some trouble with her balance.
She said she has good days and bad, depending on the pain.
“Today has been a good day,” Shelby said. She explained sometimes the pain is so bad it affects her balance more than other days.
Shelby’s head and neck injuries cause her a great deal of pain that doctors still haven’t been able to control, but she also doesn’t have her emotional pain under control.
She has nightmares or “flashbacks” that give her no answers and leave her with more questions.
Eileen spends a great deal of time consoling Shelby and telling her it was an accident and it could have happened to anyone.
“The kids have been a lot of support to Shelby. They are important to Shelby’s recovery and well being. There is nothing more important when a kid is hurt, than friends,” Eileen said.
One special friend of Shelbys, Brad Bryan, travels with her to doctors appointments and holds her hand and hair as she receives from four to seven injections in her neck weekly.
“That is what has pulled her through this, family and friends,” Eileen said. “Before the accident she didn’t know how much people care.”
The kids that visit Shelby at the hospital as well as at the rehab center give Shelby strength.
“My friends come when they can. But they have lives they have to get back to,” Shelby said.
“I have learned who my friends are. My friend Katy, we’ve been friends since fifth grade, has really been there,” Shelby said.
Katy is one of several Shelby says who has been there for her.
She said Bobby and Jason have really helped her and been there for her. As well as her boss at Golden Chick, “Chunk,” and Jonathan to name a few. Her other co-workers at Golden Chick have been very supportive.
“They have been great, she said. “And I want to get back to work.”
“I have made a lot of new friends,” Shelby said with a smile that lit up her face.
She told of her new friend Pam who she had gone to physical therapy with that day. And Peggy and Richard she met at the center. “They have really helped me. They are amazing people,” Shelby said.
She is also very appreciative that her sister Kaitlin’s friend, Bo drove here from Tyler the day of the accident.
Getting back to work could be a way down the road as Shelby still has a long road to recovery.
According to medical reports, Shelby’s neck isn’t healing well, and because of that she had to stop some of her physical therapy treatments.
However, she still has enough sessions to tire her out at the end of the day.
She has five 45 minute sessions daily.
She will also be having surgery on her elbow again next week.
Shelby says she is also ready to get back in school. She had taken summer classes for extra credits in hopes of graduating early, but she is afraid that may not happen now.
But, more than anything she wants to go home where she plans to first give her dad a big hug and cuddle with her cat.
“I went from seeing my dad every day to only seeing him every couple of weeks for about an hour,” Shelby said.
Eileen explained because of his illness he is unable to visit Shelby regularly.
“My dad is a strong man. Both of my parents are strong. They are good people and they have worked hard to raise us right,” Shelby said. If I had one quarter of my mom’s strength I would be set,” Shelby said. “I feel bad. She can’t go to work - she is here everyday and takes care of me.”
For Eileen the ordeal has spread her thin, but she has had the support of Judy Nielson, a friend Shelby and Kaitlin call Aunt Judy, and her husband, Steve, known as Uncle Steve.
“When Steve walks in Shelby’s eyes light up,” Eileen said.
She also has the support of her co-workers at United Regional Health Care Systems where she works in the insurance department.
My co-workers and URHS family and VFW has been my support the last seven weeks,” Eileen said. “I am on unpaid leave now.”
Her being off work is the reason Steve and Judy and other friends at VFW held a “Get Well Shelby” party several weeks ago to raise some money for the family.
“We thought of it on a Tuesday and held it Saturday,” Judy said. We had to quickly raise some money for them with Eileen off work.”
During the event Bobby and Jason were in attendance and received standing ovations, and all four wreck victims were remembered in prayer.
Shortly after Shelby was transferred to HealthSouth, her father was hospitalized in Lawton.
Eileen spent much of her time driving from hospital to rehab caring for her family.
The hardest part for Eileen has been “dealing with her husband’s illness and trying to know who to be with,” Eileen said. “Kaitlin has been my rock.”
The Viator family has lived in Iowa Park nine years, moving here when Chuck was transferred to Sheppard Air Force Base. Kaitlin is a 2006 graduate of Iowa park High School and Shelby is a junior at IPHS.
The accident has affected the lives of many residents of the town of Friendly Living, known for taking care of it’s own and will not be soon forgotten.
“These four kids have been in an accident that has changed their life forever. It is a life experience none of them will forget,” Eileen said.
Anyone who would like to send Shelby a card or letter may send it to 901 East Texas, Iowa Park, Texas 76367.