Road to recovery
Young vehicle crash survivors Billy and Emily Rose are now both out of the hospital and back in school.
Neither one was looking forward to starting classes again, and 10-year-old Billy said if it wasn’t for the needle-poking, he would rather go back to the hospital, but both decided they were ready. For Billy, it was ready to be around people after almost six weeks in the hospital. For Emily, 11, it was ready to be seen with a face covered in scars and a mouth without teeth.
On Dec. 21, 2003, Billy and Emily were riding with their school friend and his father, John Wiversoll, near their home on Alta Sierra Drive. Wiversoll lost control on a curvy street and ran his van into a tree.
Wiversoll’s blood-alcohol level was .397 – almost five times the legal limit – during the crash, according to a California Highway Patrol report.
Wiversoll’s son Blake was not hurt in the wreck, but Billy’s skull was fractured and his stomach was torn in several places. In his first eight days at the hospital, Billy lost eight pounds. The skull fracture will require him to undergo reconstructive surgery in a couple months, however, he does not appear to have brain damage – a miracle, considering his injuries, doctors said.
Emily’s face had been smashed, her jaw was missing, and she lost 14 of her 16 teeth. Surgeons quickly reconstructed her face and supported it with metal plates and wires.
When she is about 20 years old, Emily will have permanent surgery and get false teeth. Until then, she will use temporary teeth.
John Wiversoll had a lacerated bowel, broken femur and tibia. He was recently released from physical therapy, but had not yet been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury and child endangerment, charges recommended in the CHP report.
Deputy District Attorney David Walters said his office has not yet taken any action, because Wiversoll was again questioned by highway patrol officers on Jan. 23 and he was awaiting the results of that interview.
The Roses have recently worked out differences with Wiversoll’s wife, but they said they are still furious with Wiversoll. He recently wrote a two-page apology to the children.
“He said he was sorry, but he knows it’s not enough,” Billy said.
“We don’t really know what to think about John,” Emily added.
Rebuilding young bodies
In the first few days after the crash, Emily had nightmares about her teeth falling out or having bugs crawling in her mouth. When she was in the hospital, her mother, Jill Rose, would have to wipe a mixture of blood and other liquids from her nose and mouth to keep her breathing passages open.
She is doing much better now. The wires supporting her jaw have been removed, though she still does not have a full range of motions with her mouth. She will soon have molds of her mouth created, from which prosthetic teeth will be made. She has to see her surgeons every month but has been allowed to participate in everyday activities.
Billy is not allowed to participate in physical activities until April. He has not regained all of the weight he lost in the hospital, and he still has pancreatitis, which makes him nauseated.
He sees a doctor each week to ensure his body is functioning properly. And while he is not showing signs of brain damage, he might begin to exhibit signs of injury at school, doctors told his mother.
Billy said he is most nervous about going through airports, because of the metal plate in his head. He cannot wait to get on his dirt bike, but he might not get to ride it for a long time because of the skull fracture.
Home is much better than the hospital, however. Billy said he was sick of the food and his too-lumpy bed.
A community’s charity shines
Emily shares a room with sisters Caitlin, 13, and Jennifer, 12. Their three beds are lined up against the wall, and Emily’s is covered with a one-foot layer of stuffed animals she was given by community members who heard about the crash.
Her dream also came true recently, when her parents got her a cockatoo with donations that came in specifically to buy one.
She was afraid to go back to her fifth-grade class at Alta Sierra Elementary School, but after attending a recent benefit dinner for the family, where 500 people raised $13,000, she said she was ready.
“I don’t know how I’m going to catch up, though,” Emily said.
Before the children started school Monday, Jill Rose and her husband, Bill, met with school administrators to talk about special precautions needed to ensure the children were safe and comfortable. Some important issues were safety on the playground, because Billy is not allowed to physically exert himself; special needs in class, like food and medicine; and that they would not be made fun of by other students.
“We talked (to students) about using kind words, not to stare and not to ask too many questions,” Principal Pat Rath said.
On their first day, both children were at school until 11 a.m., and Tuesday, they were at school until noon.
“They are gradually working into a full day,” Rath said.
Bill Rose instructed Emily to call him immediately if she is made fun of, but he said he doubts anyone will tease his daughter.
“She’s a strong girl,” he said.
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