The Unbreakable Hannah Woodward

February 18, 2016

Kaskaskia College student Hannah Woodward is a very strong young lady, with an unshakeable belief in herself. She has needed that strength ever since the events of January 26, 2007.

On that date, Hannah was riding with a friend down Green Street Road when the car she was travelling in hit a truck making a left-hand turn at approximately 90 miles per hour. Hannah was on the side of the car that took the brunt of the impact, which tossed the car more than fifty feet. In the aftermath, Hannah’s arms, hands and fingers were all broken, her ribcage and hip were crushed, her back was broken in five places, and her spine was severed. An emergency tracheotomy was done on the spot.

Hannah wasn’t expected to live. She was airlifted to Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, where her friends and family gathered to say goodbye. Somehow, Hannah clung to life and was placed in a medically induced coma, where she remained for 10 weeks. She breathed through one tube, was fed by another, and had severe bleeding of the brain. Doctors weren’t sure if she would ever regain consciousness, or if she would be able to overcome her brain injury.

But Hannah is a fighter. She did regain consciousness and endured a 10 month rehabilitation at Barnes and Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital. While in rehab, Hannah was immobilized for most of the time, lying flat on her back and with her arms and hip in casts, unable to even sit up. But she had a goal. She was in the class of 2008 at Salem High School, and she wanted to take part in graduation. The hospital provided tutors, and when she was able to come home on Halloween Day in 2007, she had more tutoring.

Unfortunately, the tutoring funds ran out before Hannah was ready for graduation. Although she was six months from having the requirements to graduate, she was able, in her wheelchair, to take part in the ceremony.

Hannah had no long term plans, and her day-to-day recovery and care took up her time. Yet these things, while slowing her down, could not stop her. In 2010, Hannah woke up one morning with a strong resolve to move forward with her life. She began taking GED classes through Kaskaskia College, and praises her tutor, Terry Chappell, for his encouragement. When she completed her GED, Hannah took advantage of KC’s scholarship for GED graduates and began classes at the Salem Education Center.

“Everyone here is wonderful,” Hannah said. “They are all so genuine and supportive, like my own little family.” Hannah especially credits Salem Education Center Director, Janice Eischens, for being unfailingly kind and supportive in light of Hannah’s special needs. Despite delays caused by the need for further medical treatment, Hannah is on track to graduate from KC.

Hannah wants all of her instructors to know how much she values them, especially Don Beatty, Sam Bundy, and Bruce Jones, who taught the Psychology classes Hannah attended. “Bruce pushed me to expand what I learned,” she said. “I feel like psychology is what I need to do with my life now.” She also pointed out that the KC Trio program and counselor Yvonne Hallam were instrumental in her success as a student. “Yvonne was my right hand,” Hannah said. “Without her to listen and encourage me, and without the stress balls she sent me, school would have been much harder.”

Recently, Hannah met Julie Kerner, Donor Recruitment Representative for the American Red Cross, at a Blood Drive event at the Salem Center. Hannah shared her story with Julie, and Julie has asked Hannah to speak at area high schools about the importance of giving blood. “I used twenty-three units with my accident,” Hannah said. “Without that blood being available to me, without the people who donated it, I wouldn’t be here now.” Hannah will be speaking to physical education classes in Centralia, Salem, Effingham, Odin, and Teutopolis in the coming weeks.

Hannah is eager to share her story to help others. She knows that without the support of her father Jim, her mother Christa, who serves as her primary caregiver, her boyfriend of 11 years Will, her 4 year old daughter Jenesis, her grandparents Robert and Teresa Crouch, her siblings Connor, Cole, and Jabria, and all of those who helped along the way, she couldn’t aspire to the life she wants to lead. “The hand I was dealt is not easy,” Hannah said. “But I am focused on the positive side and I want to go on to help people as I have been helped.” She plans to complete her doctorate in psychology and go into practice.

Even with her physical disability, Hannah is not someone to be easily discounted. While her body may have been broken, her spirit, intellect, and determination to live her life to the fullest will carry her forward to fulfill her dreams. Her personality draws you in, and there is no trace of self-pity in her. Speaking with her makes you feel better about yourself.

Hannah Woodward is more than strong. She is unbreakable.

Pictured are Hannah Woodward and Janice Eischens, Director of the Salem Education Center

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