Student on the road to recovery
Her leg was injured and she needed surgery. She was alone, surrounded by doctors and nurses, in a different state, in an unfamiliar place.
In short, Basehor-Linwood High School junior Jennifer Pooler was scared.
"I just wanted to go home," she said.
Just hours before, a charter bus Pooler and 22 other BLHS band students were riding in was rear ended by a truck in Colorado.
The students were returning home from a spring break trip to the Rocky Mountain state.
Pooler was in the back of the bus, seated in front of an on-board bathroom.
When the truck hit the bus, pieces of the bathroom came crushing forward, pinning Pooler between the bathroom and a table in front of her.
Pooler said she thinks she was trapped for about 20 minutes, but she doesn't know for sure because she was upset and in shock.
"I have heard and been told it was 20 minutes but I'm not sure," she said. "I was pretty much saying that 'I want out of here.'"
Pooler needed immediate surgery when she was pulled from the wreckage; doctors would later place a titanium rod inside her right leg.
Her parents had been notified of the accident and were on their way to Colorado. They, like their daughter, were scared, especially not knowing what was happening to their daughter a state away.
"You dream about that call and hope you never get it," Pooler's mother, Pam said. "It was just devastating. I don't think anybody ever knows how they would react."
Finally seeing their daughter and knowing she was OK, despite her injuries, was a relief.
"We were just glad to see her," Pam said. "All the IV's didn't matter. It was a relief just to hold her."
Pooler would have to stay in the hospital, away from home, friends and family, for three and a half weeks.
She returned to school and to some semblance of normalcy last week.
Today, roughly a month after the accident, Pooler said she remembers only parts of the crash that temporarily has her using a wheelchair.
Although she is expected to make a full-recovery, no one knows for sure when that will be.
Pooler said being in a wheelchair is sometimes tough to take.
"I always felt bad for people that were handicapped," she said. "I know what they're going through. I've seen what it's like to be in their shoes for a while."
The wheelchair makes everyday tasks more difficult.
Especially simple tasks that she took for granted things like going to the restroom or getting into a car.
She doesn't go out much right now because "people stare," Pooler said.
It makes her want to walk that much more and have the opportunity to move around freely.
Right now, she can walk a few steps at a time, but sometimes the frustration mounts and "I wonder if I'll ever get back to normal," she said.
"One day life is fine and then it's not," she added.
But she doesn't place blame on anyone for the accident, and she doesn't point fingers.
The accident just happened and energy that could be used for feeling bad is used for getting back to normal, she said.
And not all is bad. Friends and teachers at BLHS help her get from class to class and the school itself is very accessible, she said.
Plus, Pooler's mother is a library aid at BLHS and is there for her during the school day.
Being close is a relief for both daughter and mother.
"It's peace of mind being near her each day," Pam said.
Neighbors have also helped Pooler deal with her injuries.
While Pooler and her parents were in Colorado, a group of neighbors built a wheelchair ramp at the Poolers' house.
They also rearranged living room furniture and moved the teen-ager's room downstairs, all to make things more comfortable.
"We were all just thinking of Jennifer's situation and we realized she was going to need some special items when she got home," said Scott Kraemer, one of the numerous neighbors that helped build the ramp. "I think we all just put ourselves in their position, that if that was our child. Everyone really wanted to help because they were going through a tough time."
"We're in a very caring community," he said. "We care about our neighbors and their kids."
Pam said the help and kindness of the neighbors did not go unnoticed.
"It was just amazing what they did," Pam said. "It was just so nice to get home and have all that taken care of for us."
But while the help has been nice as she recovers and goes through physical therapy, Pooler said she only has one goal in mind.
"I want to walk again," she said.