Woman injured by distracted driver tells teens to 'hang up'

10:52 PM, Dec 23, 2010   |    comments
  • Woman injured by distracted driver tells teens to 'hang up'
  • Woman injured by distracted driver tells teens to 'hang up'
  • Woman injured by distracted driver tells teens to 'hang up'
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ST. CLOUD, Minn -- You've heard it before. It only takes a moment and everything can change.

For Jean Johnson, someone else's momentary distraction led to her long and courageous story of recovery.

"It's been hard. It's been very hard," says Jean.

More than four years ago, Jean was the passenger in her friend's car. On a rural road near St. Cloud, a driver t-boned them by running a stop sign at 60 miles per hour.

Authorities said the driver who hit them was distracted by her two small children and took her eyes off the road.

Jean's friend was killed and in that instant Jean's life changed.

"The only thing that I do remember is babysitting my niece and my nephew that day," says Jean. "Next thing I knew I woke up at HCMC."

Surgeons repaired Jean's torn aorta, but the lasting impact is not in her heart, but in her head. Jeans lives with a traumatic brain injury.

"You think of the impact - 60 miles an hour and your brain is like Jell-O inside the bones basically," says Jean.

The brain injury made it impossible for jean to continue working. And she can't enjoy the things she used to like travelling, living without physical pain.

But despite all of that, Jean is determined to prevent what happened to her from happening to anyone else.

"I'm not a quitter type of person. I just keep going and make the best of what I have," says Jean.

KARE 11 caught up with Jean at Annandale High School. Jean talked to a Driver's Ed class about the dangers of distracted driving, the crash and the impact.

"It is an important thing when you get in that car to remember that it's not just about you in that car. You are responsible for everyone around you," Jean told the class.

For these kids, texting or talking on cell phones while driving is the biggest problem.

"Hearing all the stuff with cell phones, I'm going to just not touch it or put it far away from me on silent where I can't reach it," says Kristina Steffen, one of the students who listened to Jean's presentation.

According to the Brain Injury Association of Minnesota, car crashes are the second leading cause of brain injury. And crash investigators will tell you that most crashes are caused by distracted driving. Cell phone use among young people one of the leading distractions.

"They tell me that once you have a brain injury you will always have it. It's a matter of adjusting to it and learning how to function in your new world."

While Jean Johnson can't remember the crash that nearly killed her she hopes the young people she speaks to don't forget her visit. And based on the notes they write to her, they likely won't.

"After hearing this story I will be a very safe and smart driver," Jean reads from one of the notes she received from a student.

"This has been an amazing class to get this kind of a response like I did. This is good. It tells me that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. I am where I am supposed to me," says Jean.

According to the Brain Injury Association of Minnesota, the annual incidence of traumatic brain injury is six times the combined annual incidence of breast cancer, HIV-AIDS and multiple sclerosis.

And if you're interested in contacting Jean, you can reach her at mneagle2@gmail.com.



(Copyright 2010 by KARE 11. All Rights Reserved.)

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