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Survivor shares story to urge teens not to drink, drive

Two years ago, Alfreda Kendrick was a "real people-person." She stayed busy on a daily basis helping others, especially those in her family.

On a hot afternoon in June 2008, Ms. Kendrick went out to buy ice. She was driving on Washington Road in Thomson, when she was hit head-on by a drunken driver.

"It changed my life completely," Ms. Kendrick said. "And not just me, but it took a toll on my whole family."

Even though her accident was caused by an adult driver in the middle of the day in the summer, Ms. Kendrick thinks prom season is the perfect time to share her story. She knows that prom night is when many teens have relaxed curfews and the opportunity to experiment with alcohol or drugs.

"I just want to tell anybody and everybody don't drink," Ms. Kendrick said. "And if you do, don't get behind the wheel of a car. I could have been killed."

Ms. Kendrick's accident was severe enough to require reconstructive surgeries on her right leg and left arm. She said she remembers looking down at her leg after the accident and "seeing the bones sticking outside my leg, and my arm was numb, just dangling by my side."

"So, now I tell everybody I'm the bionic woman because of all the metal in me," the 44-year-old mother of three said.

The surgery was followed by six months of physical therapy in which Ms. Kendrick had to learn to walk.

"I used to see people in the movies walking on parallel bars, but I never thought I'd do that," she said. "It's hard and it hurts."

Ms. Kendrick was totally dependent on her daughter, Taylor Kendrick, her son, Pierre Mance, and her own mother, Betty Kendrick, to assist with walking, bathing, going to the bathroom, dressing and driving.

"That hurt me because I had always nursed everyone else who was sick," she said.

And when it seemed the situation couldn't get any worse, it did. While Ms. Kendrick was living in her mother's home, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and went through chemo treatments. So, the two ladies were nursing each other.

"The accident gave me the chance to spend time with my Mama, one-on-one every day. I was trying to hop around to help her, but I couldn't do too much," she said. "God showed me a lot of patience. It taught me to be stronger and read my Bible. So, I'm closer to God."

Ms. Kendrick's mother died four months after the collision.

"My family had a double tragedy at one time," she said. "My family went through a lot of pain."

She became depressed and overwhelmed with the struggle of her physical therapy. She gained 80 pounds and developed diabetes and sleep apnea. Her sister, who owned Pam's Beauty Salon, encouraged Ms. Kendrick work with her and help answer the telephone in the salon.

"She knew what I needed," Ms. Kendrick said. "There, I got to be around people again, so I didn't think about Mama and the accident."

These days, Ms. Kendrick said she is walking on a track to regain strength in her leg and lose weight. She doesn't want to forget the lessons she has learned.

"God gave me another chance to do his will. ... God saved my life for a reason. I can't tell people not to drink, because it's sold in the stores," she said. "But I can tell them don't drink and drive. ... And wear a seatbelt. The seatbelt saved my life."

Web posted on Thursday, April 22, 2010

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