"Caution for parents, caution for teens"
On June 11, 2008 I sat in the bleachers of Yosemite High School screaming and yelling with the rest of the crowd as my son Jared Levi Marr was called up to the stage to receive his high school diploma. A couple of hours later I stood on the football field with all of my children taking pictures of our son. brother, friend. Oh what a joyous occasion Jared had reached his goal! To graduate high school and go on to college to be an English teacher, that was his dream.
Sober Graduation an event Jared and many of his friends had been looking forward to for weeks, the conclusion of 13 years of hard work and learning. An event that is held every year after graduation. Fun, games, prizes and a free car (but you have to stay for the entire event to win the car) and good times with friends created over the years. By the time this event concluded at 5;30 a.m. these kids will have been awake for almost 24 hours.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates conservatively that, during an average year, "drowsy driving" causes 100,000 automobile wrecks, 71,000 injuries and 1,550 fatalities. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that 20% of all drivers have dozed off at least once behind the wheel. Drowsy driving accidents are often more serious than other wrecks."
"TBI is the number one cause of both death and disability in children and young adults in the U.S. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of brain injuries and death among U.S. teens ages 15-20 years."
You might wonder why that is inserted after such a nice little story.
On June 11, I had no idea what the acronym TBI was. It is now a household word.
Because on June 12, 2008, driving himself home from his Sober Grad party Jared fell asleep at the wheel. He was in a near fatal car accident that lead to a Traumatic Brain Injury severe left side broken bones and shattered elbow, four weeks in a coma, four months in a minimal state of consciousness, 10 surgeries, 4.5 months in three different hospitals and over $2.5 million, yes million dollars in medical care so far. This does not include the monthly needs for Jared that are not covered and exceed our income.
I knew that Jared was tired, he was a full-time student, held a full-time job at Rite-Aid and had spent many weeks prior to graduation preparing and taking part in all of the end of school events.
There had been many many times Jared would text me after working asking if he could go here or there (he worked the night shift) and I would say no, you haven't had enough sleep I want you to come home you don't need to be out driving.
On June 11, 2008 I did not have that "argument" with my 18 year old son. I did not want to spoil what he had waited all these years for. It is a decision I will regret for the rest of both of our lives. More for him than for me. See what should have been the close of his first year of college is a year he has spent relearning to walk, talk (yes it took five months before I heard his voice again) he is still learning to use the bathroom. We have many years of hard work ahead of us. Jared does not remember graduating high school. He has lost all but five friends because it is just to hard for people who once knew a fun, vibrant, intelligent kid, reduced to a wheelchair and communication skills that often times make no sense. I have had to quit my job to take care of Jared 24/7 as he is completely dependent on someone for every aspect of his life.
Because Jared had turned 18, three months prior in the midst of ICU and learning how to care for my son at home, I had to apply for conservatorship which meant a court date, being investigated by the criminal investigations unit just so that I could take care of Jared's needs! A son who had NEVER left my home. Not something one wants to think about or deal with while you are spending 24/7 living in hospitals with your child.
We have been blessed beyond measure by the amazing people and businesses of this community as we continue this journey that never should have happened and for that we are eternally grateful.
It is my hope and prayer that every parent, grandparent, relative, friend of a student graduating and attending Sober Grad Night this year will not allow their loved one to drive home the morning after sober grad. Have that argument if you must and win it! Bring your child home safely it is a decision you will never regret.
PLEASE DO NOT LET YOUR GRADUATE DRIVE HOME.
Sincerely, Tracy Marr, Mother and Caregiver of Jared Marr
Me again - Please, if your children are going to After Prom parties or graduation parties, please please please know that it can happen - even to the "Good Kids" who are NOT out drinking - who are simply too tired to safely drive home. Please don't let them drive while tired - pay for a cab, go pick them up, have someone pick them up - just don't let this happen to YOUR child.
I think I'll get off my soap box now...
Until next time -