For more information about fundraisers for Julie Bryan or to make a donation, call Haley Sullins at 678-943-3115.
Julie Bryan’s spirits were soaring.
The Gainesville woman had just spent the March 7 evening in Rome, Italy, celebrating with friends her acceptance to graduate school at Boston College.
Then, by just stepping off a street curb into a pedestrian crossing, her life instantly changed.
The driver of a speeding car struck her and kept on going, leaving Bryan’s injured body in the street.
“It didn’t even register with me, because it didn’t seem possible,” said her mother, Lisa Sullins, recalling the phone call from a friend that brought the news.
Bryan, a graduate of Chestatee High School, suffered broken bones and bruises, but her main health problem was a traumatic brain injury. She has remained in a coma since the accident.
“Aside from fevers and drug reactions, she has basically recovered physically well,” Sullins said in an e-mail.
“She still has a (tracheostomy tube), but has been breathing on her own for quite some time. It is being kept in place to use during surgical procedures and will remain until she regains consciousness.”
In a phone interview on Wednesday, Sullins said, “I came (to Rome) the day the accident happened and have been here ever since.”
And now she and other family members are trying to arrange for Bryan to leave the hospital and enter a rehabilitation center.
That has been the tricky part.
The U.S. Embassy informed Sullins that Italy “is required to save the life of a noncitizen, but they’re not required to rehab them,” she said.
“I can’t get her into a rehab center in the U.S. until there is Medicaid in place, and I can’t get Medicaid in place until we get home,” Sullins said.
Getting answers on how to accomplish all that has been difficult.
“I’m not asking for any favors. I’m just waiting for somebody to tell me exactly what I need to file and where I need to do it at to get it done,” Sullins said.
She has learned the cost to fly her home could run about $18,000.
“And that’s at a reduced rate. I found this company where the nurses that (would be) flying with her have volunteered their time,” Sullins said.
Family members, meanwhile, are trying to raise money to help with those and future expenses.
Her daughter-in-law, Haley Sullins, who lives in West Hall, is trying to organize several fundraisers over the next couple of months, including a yard sale, a spaghetti dinner and a raffle.
Her husband and Julie’s brother, Brandon Sullins, accompanied his mother to Italy after the accident.
“They had warned us she was not going to look like what we were used to her looking,” said Brandon, a Hall County Fire Services paramedic familiar with seeing traumatic injuries.
The ordeal has affected Julie’s entire family.
Lisa Sullins also has a 10-year-old son at home, a daughter at the University of Georgia and two stepsons.
She said she has relied on a strong support system — mainly family, friends and church members — to cope.
At the time of her accident, Julie had taken a year off to travel before going back to school.
She graduated in December 2008 from University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and was planning to pursue her master’s degree in mental health counseling this fall.
“She’s a genius,” Brandon Sullins said. “She’s a brilliant person. This is a terrible ordeal.”
The driver who struck his sister has been caught; he was with his father at the time of the accident.
After the incident, they took the car to a body shop to have it repaired. The shop owner, suspecting something was amiss, called police.
Getting justice, however, has been “extremely slow,” Lisa Sullins said.
“You have to hire an attorney to make sure they are prosecuted to find fault here so you can actually sue their insurance company for damages.”