West Newton Elementary teacher Jennifer Loetzerich turned what could have been merely a horrible memory into both a learning experience for her students and an opportunity to say thank you to those who helped her.
Loetzerich was involved in a car accident nearly four months ago when a van swerved into her lane and hit her head-on. When she was hit, all the airbags in her vehicle were deployed and the vehicle actually bounced back from the intense impact. The engine of her vehicle was pushed in, trapping her inside the vehicle with the steering column collapsed onto her leg.
Several of her ribs were broken, as well as her femur, and along with several good Samaritans, many EMS workers came to her aid.
"Amber Watts was the first EMS responder to reach me and she worked diligently to get me out," said Loetzerich. "Trooper Marks and another Trooper I only know by his first name of Scott stayed with me during this whole ordeal. Trooper Scott as he said call him actually crawled into the backseat and held the steering column up so that they could pull me out. Amber had already put my neck in a brace and when she pulled me out they strapped me to a backboard and rushed me to the waiting ambulance. Trooper Marks rode in the ambulance with me and they rushed me to the helicopter. Captain Queens and Keith Wilhelm were in the ambulance with me on that ride.
"They flew me up to Atlanta Medical and I went into the trauma center. They did hours of testing and scans and so much that I can't even name all of it. They called in a doctor from Emory to perform the surgery the next day to repair my broken femur. My doctor placed a rod through my broken femur bone and screwed the rod into my knee joint and hip joint. I was released after five days, and started physical therapy three weeks later, also starting school that week for pre-planning in a wheelchair."
According to Loetzerich, it was during physical therapy that she began thinking about the people who had come to her aid when she needed it.
"I saw an ambulance waiting outside of the ER and I asked one of the EMS crew how I could find out who responded to my call. She put me in touch with the right person and Captain Queens was actually the one who answered the call. When I gave him the date and started talking he responded with "I was in the ambulance with you, you were driving a PT cruiser." I met him a few days later after already meeting Amber Watts. We talked about my students and he volunteered to come do a program with my class."
Loetzerich teaches kindergarten through fourth grade special education, and her students are aware of her accident. She walks with a crutch and they have seen the scars from her accident.
"They think the scars are cool," she said, with a laugh.
The students have also been learning about EMS workers and know about those who helped save their teacher after her car accident. And, on Thursday afternoon, they had the opportunity to meet one of those people - Captain Scott Queen - as well as EMTI Kenneth Gosse and Paramedic Andrew Strickland. Not only did Loetzerich want to thank those who helped her, but she also wanted her students to be able to see those people who help save lives every day.
"Also, in previous years I have had students who have been hurt or become ill at school and when the EMS crews have shown up the children are terrified,' she said. "I want my students to learn that these men and women are people who are there to help, and that they shouldn't be scared of them."
Students had the opportunity to ask questions and to answer questions posed to them by Strickland, Queen and Gosse, such as who should you call in case of an emergency and what you should do on a regular basis to keep from getting sick. They also got to sit in an ambulance - both in the back where their teacher rode and in the front with Strickland.
"I just wanted to be able to honor them," said Loetzerich, "and to thank them for everything that they do. They go above and beyond the call of duty every day even when it is often a thankless job."