A reason to celebrate Summer
June 5, 2008
By Jim Feehan
Liberty High student perseveres to graduate with peers after car collision
As Summer Thompson walks down the aisle to receive her high school diploma next month at Safeco Field, she’ll have one thing on her mind.
“I have to hurry up, because I’m holding up the line,” she said. “I walk dead slow.”
But that won’t bother her classmates; or, for that matter, her teachers, counselors and other members of the Liberty High School community.
Her slow movement aside, Thompson said her life is pretty much on track and getting back to normal after she was seriously injured in a two-car collision almost two years ago on Issaquah-Hobart Road.
“I’m amazed I can live my own life like normal after all I went through,” Thompson, 17, said. “I am so fortunate for everything that has come back. I will never play volleyball or softball, but I’m already snow skiing, and I’m determined to water ski this summer.”
On Sept. 5, 2006, Thompson left her home to drive to Liberty High School to play in the first varsity volleyball match of the season.
To this day, she has no recollection of the collision in which she nearly died.
The police report said Thompson was westbound on Issaquah-Hobart Road when she went onto the right shoulder and overcorrected, causing her beige 1996 Toyota Camry to slide sideways into oncoming traffic.
At that same time, an Enumclaw man was driving home from work in a 2003 Dodge Caravan and he broadsided Thompson’s car. The crash slammed Thompson’s passenger door into her head, causing brain damage. Fearing she might not survive, firefighters arranged for a chaplain to accompany her to Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center.
Placed on a ventilator and in a coma for seven weeks, doctors inserted a bolt in her head to measure intracranial pressure. One week after the collision, she contracted pneumonia.
Through it all her mother, Sherri Thompson, remained by her bedside around the clock.
“She’s always been my best friend,” Summer said.
“We’re a team,” Sherri said. “When she got down, I picked her up. When I was down, she picked me up.”
Summer was transferred to the orthopedic unit at Children’s Medical Center to begin physical, occupational and speech therapy. Doctors told her the largest part of recovery would be in the first 12 to 18 months. Thompson set out to prove them wrong.
“I learned it took a lot of determination to get through this,” she said.
Transitioning back to school began in February 2007 at Issaquah’s alternative school – Tiger Mountain High School.
“I would stare a lot,” she said of her four months at Tiger Mountain.
While Thompson has some short-term memory challenges, she’s quick to rattle off the names of nurses, therapists, teachers and counselors who have been instrumental in her recovery process.
“I can’t thank them enough for all they have done for me,” she said.
Summer is busy with homework, preparing an all-city high schools dance and enjoying her final year at Liberty. She also started driving again.
“My mother is really scared for me to drive,” Summer said. “I completely understand. Who wouldn’t be scared?”
Last fall, Summer and Sherri were talking with a school counselor about Summer’s academic progress.
“It looked like I had fallen behind (and would not graduate on time) and I began to cry,” Summer said. “This is so not fair after all I’ve been through.”
The counselor recounted her course credits and discovered Summer was on track to graduate with her class.
She will attend Western Washington University in September and plans to go to a culinary institute to become a pastry chef.
Through it all, Summer said her mom has been her biggest source of inspiration.
“She really drives me and pushes me so much,” she said. “Ultimately, I appreciate it, for I wouldn’t be where I am without my mother.”