The journey to recovery has been slow for Brittany Walters, but the milestones are coming, one by one, for the Hall County woman.
“She has been just headstrong ever since she came home from the hospital,” said her mother, Tina Walters, of Northwest Hall. “She is just determined she is going to get better and she’s going to be somebody, and she has succeeded.”
On the ninth anniversary of the wreck that nearly took her life, but left her with a traumatic brain injury, family gathered around the 25-year-old.
But this was no somber event.
Instead, loved ones on Thursday night at Poor Richard’s restaurant in Gainesville celebrated her successes since that terrible night, including her academic achievements at the University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus.
“I couldn’t be prouder,” Tina Walters said. “And she has done this on her own. She has taken the initiative to do this — we have not had to coach her.”
Memories are still fresh from the night of Brittany Walters’ horrific wreck off Shirley Road, south of Mount Vernon Road, in North Hall.
“This is your worst nightmare,” said her mother.
On her way home with a couple of friends, the 16-year-old Chestatee High School sophomore was driving her SUV too fast around a curve when she ran off the side of the road, Tina Walters said.
When Brittany overcorrected her steering, the vehicle ended up flipping and throwing her through the sunroof.
The reason she ran off the road in the first place, her mother said, was she had unbuckled her seat belt and was reaching in the back seat for her cellphone.
Walters described the wreck because her daughter was unable to.
“I don’t remember much about that day,” Brittany said. “I remember weeks before the wreck, actually. It’s all like a blur.”
Her friends escaped serious injury — one of them suffered a broken arm — but it was clear Brittany was seriously hurt.
She was flown to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, where she remained in a coma for several weeks.
Brittany also suffered several cervical and orthopedic injuries.
At the time of the wreck, “she had gashes and wounds from where tree limbs were imbedded in her,” her mother said.
Brittany was a patient in the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Day Rehab Program at the Ronald McDonald House, where she spent five days a week for rehabilitation.
She eventually was able to come home, but she had to return to the Ronald McDonald House for therapy during the week.
Her recovery was strenuous and painful.
“She had to learn how to walk, talk, everything, all over again,” Tina Walters said. “... We have seen lots of miracles.”
Eventually, Brittany Walters was able to return to high school, graduating in 2008.
She started college in the fall of 2009 and was able to get her associate degree from UNG this winter.
“She just takes baby steps — that’s why it has taken her so long,” Tina Walters said of her daughter’s college career.
Brittany now is taking classes at UNG toward her bachelor’s degree in psychology.
“I love school,” she said. “It keeps me on the right track.”
“I never thought I’d hear her say that,” said her mother, looking at her daughter and the two sharing a laugh.
Brittany said that before the wreck, “I was a party girl … a rebellious teenager.”
“The wreck changed who I am,” she said. “It made me into a better, completely different person than who I was.”
With her degree, “I want to help people, even people like me, who had a crazy childhood and did crazy things.”
Brittany has shared the story of what happened to her in the wreck and how it has changed her life with others.
She has talked at churches and schools, directing her message particularly to teenagers, “who aren’t as invincible as they think they are.”
“My goal is just to reach one individual, to make them think before they take action,” Brittany said. “Put that seat belt on, because anything can happen.”