Luling family on road to recovery after life-threatening car crash

Father, mother and son were seriously injured in head-on collision

Luling’s Terry Madere says he and his family are “lucky, happy and have plenty of life to live.”

But back in May, that was anything but a guarantee.

Madere, his wife, Dawn, and their son, Seth, were traveling to Nicholls State University for Seth’s college orientation in May when they were involved in a head-on collision that left all of them seriously injured in Raceland.

“Like they say with accidents, in a blink of an eye … simultaneously, it appeared there was a car on my dashboard,” said Terry. “(The other driver) fell asleep and crossed over the line … I remember feeling the impact. It felt like a horror movie.”

Terry said he wasn’t sure what was happening. Dawn couldn’t breathe, while Seth was in the backseat, holding his stomach and unable to speak.

While Dawn has few memories of the accident scene itself, Terry remembers it vividly.

“I could see the bone poking out of my right leg,” he said. “I heard the saws and jaws of life cutting us out. We haven’t even seen pictures of the car. We don’t want to see it.”

Their injuries were numerous. Terry suffered internal bleeding, four broken ribs, broken tibia and fibia, a broken finger and a crushed vertebrate in his back. Both of Dawn’s thighs were broken, as well as a vertebrate in her neck, eight broken ribs, a bruised lung and a collapsed lung. And Seth was nearly “cut in half” by his seatbelt, notes Terry—he suffered damage to his abdomen and severed nerves at his spine, leading to his right arm being paralyzed. After a Good Samaritan stopped to help and called police, the three were airlifted by helicopter to University Medical Center (UMC).

For Dawn, it took a longer period than Terry before realization, and both she and Seth required intensive care.

“The next thing I knew, I woke up six weeks later,” Dawn said. “I don’t remember anything else. (When she came to) I saw Terry and I saw his leg, I was confused. I had no idea that Seth was injured and down the hall. It was incredibly surreal.”

She said learning about Seth was the hardest part.

“It was like waking up into a nightmare,” Dawn said. “Finding out how badly Seth was hurt, it just broke my heart, especially because I couldn’t tend to him.”

While Terry was discharged from the hospital relatively early, both Dawn and Seth had to remain in intensive care for six weeks following the accident.

Dawn suffered the most extensive injuries of the three. She has only recently learned of how serious her situation truly was.

“Terry talked about it with me about a month ago,” she said. “I was on life support. I had no idea I was so close to death. In my dreams, I was trapped, but still alive.”

Terry said it was a truly scary time for he and his family.

“I can’t begin to tell you all the doctors did to keep her alive,” he said. “We didn’t know if Dawn would make it.”Dawn pushed through. After being moved out of ICU, Dawn and Seth moved to Touro Infirmary in order to begin physical rehab. It’s a long and difficult process, she says, even more than she anticipated it would be. After 11 weeks, she began to be able to walk again.

“Emotionally, it was hard, because I felt like when it was time to put my feet down, I’d power through it and it would be easy (to walk),” she said. “It hasn’t been at all.

Everything is a little different. You have to learn how to dress yourself again because you can’t move your legs the way you’re used to. The little things you take for granted every day that you start to appreciate more”

She added that appreciation is even greater for life itself and the fact she and her family’s lives were spared.

“Hearing about where I was in the hospital and what was happening to me, it makes me ask ‘how did I survive?’” she said. “Why am I so special? I feel like God must want me to do something big, and it just wasn’t my time. I’m so grateful He gave my family and I this chance.”

The three have gone through a combined 20 surgeries since the original accident, Terry said. But they are starting to get closer to normalcy. Dawn has been able to return to her work as a notary over the past couple of weeks. While Seth has lost the use of his right arm, he hasn’t changed his plans of going to school to study music. The drummer and saxophone player is learning to play with his left hand, and Dawn said the family gave him a left-handed saxophone for Christmas.

“I think we’re on the road to recovery now,” Terry said. Both Terry and Dawn said they were touched by the outpouring of support from friends, family and neighbors in the community.

“It’s overwhelming, feeling and seeing all the support we’ve seen,” Dawn said. “I had no idea how meaningful we were to so many people who have helped us so much. I can’t express how grateful I am.”

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