Priscilla Martinez and her friend, Alyssa, were driving home in May 2017 when a driver ran a red light and hit them at a high speed. Priscilla remembers it like a movie, “Everything was so fast and so slow. We were tumbling around, and the car was flipping. We landed on the driver’s side, with my arm trapped outside the car. It felt white hot, then nothing. The car flipped again, and I army-crawled out.
“Alyssa stared at my arm with horror. I looked down and saw muscles, tendons, fat and flaps of skin. I knew it was bad, but adrenaline kicked in. I worked very hard not to have an anxiety attack.”
Fortunately, Priscilla was taken to Ben Taub Hospital where surgeons began a series of four surgeries. They removed debris and tissue to decrease the chance of infection. Wound vacuum assisted closure therapy kept the site drained and cleaned. After the third surgery “my arm looked empty, but clean.” Surgeons took muscles from her back and skin from her thigh to begin reconstruction.
As important as it was to save her arm, Priscilla knew she faced another battle. Starting at age 15, she had abused pain pills. At the time of the accident, she had been clean for 18 months and was determined not to relapse. She was vigilant about the medications she would accept.
“I got through it without relapsing, but it wasn’t easy. I was constantly assertive in advocating for myself. I didn’t want this accident to create more problems. I’m very grateful that my surgeon helped me manage the pain.
“My care was so awesome. The nurses were wonderful. The doctors were great. Everyone was nice, caring, personable. They gave me amazing, intimate care.”
Asked what she learned from the event, Priscilla ticks off the lessons: “You need more than liability insurance. This too shall pass. Live one day at a time. Always wear a seatbelt.”
In truth, the lessons went much deeper. “Once it healed, my arm was ugly, but it’s mine. I surrendered to it. I learned acceptance and perseverance. This isn’t a scar. It’s my arm. It’s part of me.
“Trauma can happen to anyone. Put yourself first and take care of yourself. You can get through it. That’s why I tell my story — people need to know they can get through it.”