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Tabitha’s Story

Tabitha’s Story


“Before the accident, Tabitha had graduated high school. She was going to college to be a veterinarian. She was the top female junior bowler in the area with her high game being a 300. She liked to fish. She liked to hunt. She was an outdoorsy person, but she could still be girly-girly with the rest of them. She was fun still full of life, knew what she wanted to do in life and she would do everything she could do get there,” recalled Yvonne Clark, Tabitha’s mother.

“We’re sisters. We fought growing up. Who doesn’t fight with their siblings? But then when I moved out, we grew closer. We would hang out. We’d go bowling. We’d go see a movie,” explained Alisha Clay, Tabitha’s older sister.

“I get a call at about 1:45, December 5th in the morning. That Tabitha was in an accident and I needed to get to the hospital,” said Clark, “Her and some friends had gone out bowling and they were on their way home that night. She was sitting as the passenger in her own car and she took the full impact of this Ford F-150. He ran a flashing red light. The impact threw her car down a ravine and landed on the driver’s side of the car. Everything going through my mind, ‘Is she going to be okay? How bad is this?’ I’m thinking maybe a broken arm or something like that, but I know I couldn’t think straight. I remember Devon saying, ‘Mom let’s just go.’ I get to the hospital and I called her dad. I called her sister. I said ‘I don’t know what happened. Tabitha’s been in an accident. They’ve not told me anything. You might want to come.’”

“When we walked in she was cut up still, they hadn’t cleaned her. She had blood all over her face, all over her clothes,” said Clay.

“She had a lot of internal injuries that she needed to go into immediate surgery. She ruptured her spleen. She ruptured her bladder. Multiple fractures. And he [the doctor] said, ‘But that is not the worst of it, she has a traumatic brain injury and there’s evidence she may never wake up.’ My girls broke down. I remember thinking, ‘I have to be strong for them,’” said Clark

“We’re all sitting in the waiting room while Tabitha was in emergency surgery. We got a police phone call and they confirmed that it was a drunk driver,” said Clay.

“It was tough. It was tough to see her the way she was, machine breathing for her, and that this was totally preventable,” shared Clark.

Joshua Oswald had a BAC of .152, nearly twice the legal limit.

“He got a DWI. He went to jail immediately. He got arrested on the scene. He bonded out that night, so that night while Tabitha’s fighting for her life, he was out, I’m assuming, enjoying life,” said Clark.

 “I was angry at him, but I was more worried for my sister. Not knowing if she was going to wake up,” said Clay.

“She started coming to and waking up while she was in the ICU, but it was always ‘lights on, nobody home’. She was just staring. As far as her actually waking up and I knew she was there.

When the girls were little we always gave the ‘I love you’ sign and then they would give it back to me. And I said ‘I love you, I’ll see you in the morning,’” Clark said with her hand raised, “She comes up with her left hand, she does the best she can, and she gives me the ‘I love you’. That was on the 27th day. I knew that right then, everything was going to be okay. That was the day I knew she was in there. We spent almost a total of four months in the hospital.”

Joshua Oswald pleaded guilty to four counts of second degree assault

“He is currently in jail. There was three people total in Tabitha’s car. He had a passenger in his vehicle, so there was four people injured in this accident. He had four counts of assault. He got sentenced to five years. This guy took my daughter’s life. The Tabitha we knew that day is gone. This is the new Tabitha. She is totally dependent on someone for everything. She cannot walk. She cannot talk properly. She has a feeding tube. We had to teach her everything. We had to teach her how to eat again. We had to teach her how to swallow. She was like a 18-19-year-old newborn. She needs lifetime therapy. So, we just kind of wing it and go wherever the services are provided. At home we still have to do a daily program with her just to maintain what she’s gained,” said Clark.

“I am a part time care-giver for Tabitha. I come in in the mornings about 6-6:30 and I get Tabitha ready: Get her a shower, get her dressed, feed her breakfast, do therapies if we have time. That way Mom can focus on herself, get herself ready for work. On days where I have off completely, I’ll stay at home with her,” shared Clay.

“This is a lifelong sentence for Tabitha. She will never be 100%, we are aware of that,” stated Clark.

“Beforehand, she was going to get married, she was going to have kids, she was going to be a veterinarian, she was going to live a normal life. Now, she’s totally dependent on everybody else. She just loves animals and to not be able to follow her dream of becoming a veterinarian is just heartbreaking,” said Clay.

“Her goals right now are to walk and talk. Her goals have totally changed. So, with life, we changed,” said Clark.

“My sister’s life was changed forever. So, you don’t want to be the drunk driver who changes someone else’s life. And you really need to watch out for drunk drivers,” advised Clay.

“It’s not an accident. This was totally preventable. Please don’t drink and drive. It doesn’t just change the victim it changes the whole family,” said Clark.

“So, what would your message be to the teens who watch this video?”

“Please don’t drink and drive,” Tabitha said through her speech device.

Ciera DuBan
Ciera@missourisafeandsober.com
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