‘Don’t text and drive:’ Teen survivor revisits ICU, thanks medical team who saved her life

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Walking down the ICU hallway at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital Friday, Kathryn Dotas bravely took in the familiar rooms and voices.

Dotas, 17, relived painful memories of a traumatic crash that happened two years ago this Saturday: she was the passenger in a close friend's car when a distracted driver t-boned them after speeding through a stop sign at 13 Mile and Myers Lake Avenue.

"There was nothing I could do." said Dotas. "I yelled stop, but it was just too late for that."

Before hugging and thanking the medical team who saved her life, Friday her mother Julie Starnes recalled, "As she was being wheeled down the hallway it was, 'I'm not going to die am I?' They said 'no,' and you're like, 'pinky promise?'"

That pinky promise turned into friendships with the team who saved her daughter.

"We lived here and this was our life for a while," said Starnes.

"Kathryn was in a medically-induced coma for about nine days. So it was a time we will never forget. And we couldn't be more thankful. We don't know where we would be without Helen DeVos and 'Trauma Lindsey' as we call Lindsey," she sniffled, hugging the nurse practitioner.

Continuing to heal, Dotas says she's inspired: growing from someone who hated blood and needles to telling the surgeons Friday how she wanted to become a trauma surgeon or nurse practitioner. And she is already giving back.

"We know it's a huge problem with texting and those distractions in the cars, and that's why Kathryn ended up here," said Kim Hernden, Spectrum Health injury prevention specialist.

"So being able to talk about [her accident], I say she's one of our courageous."

For almost a year, Dotas has been speaking to peers about the crash to help raise awareness and prevent injuries through Spectrum Health's Think First program. She is a voice for others, sharing her message in part to help stop distracted driving.

"It’s really nice to just go in and talk to the kids to help them realize that you’re not invincible," said Dotas.

"I know a lot of teenagers, if not all, think that they’re invincible and that nothing’s going to happen to them, because I thought that I was never going to end up in a hospital, in a medically-induced coma with heart surgery and 17 broken ribs and all that. It's just, life happens, and it’s not something you should take for granted."

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