CENTERVILLE — Clara Lewis said it's a miracle she and her daughters are alive after their vehicle was hit by a commuter train in Kaysville last fall.
"That was what I was most worried about, was that the kids were OK and I didn't hurt anybody," Lewis said. "I didn't know what had happened at all."
She was driving to pick up her son at a friend's house in Kaysville on Nov. 14, but she never made it across the train tracks. The high-speed FrontRunner train hit the driver's side of the minivan near the front wheel. The impact left her seriously injured, but it was inches from an impact that could have killed the mother of three, family members said.
"First responders arrived on the scene, (then) they paralyzed me enough so that they could intubate me so I wouldn't suffer anymore brain damage or brain trauma," Lewis said.
She was rushed to McKay-Dee Hospital Center in Ogden with a fractured skull, a broken collarbone and shoulder blade, and two broken ribs. She spent much of her time in the intensive care unit in a medically induced coma. Her daughters, Emma and Michaela, were also in the van when the train hit. Both girls were released from the hospital after only a few hours.
While Lewis doesn't remember what happened, her husband, Evan Lewis, remembers where he was when he got the news.
"I tried to call Clara but no answer. I called again, no answer. (I) started trying to do Christmas lights, and I was actually up on the roof when I saw the first police officer pull into the circle," Evan Lewis said.
His wife remained in a coma for 3½ weeks.
"It was a miracle that I'm here and that I'm able to walk," Lewis said. "They didn't think I was going to have function of my whole left side."
Lewis is going through physical therapy and is making such good progress she's needed less than 10 appointments. Doctors said her brain is unlocking and her strength will return. The high-level balance exercises help her deal with constant dizziness.
"She's got one of the best attitudes I've ever met of anybody. She does anything and everything," said Laura Jones, Lewis' physical therapist at Intermountain Medical Center. Lewis played a year of basketball at Utah State University and participates in triathlons, disciplines that Jones said will help in her recovery.
She also does occupational therapy and speech therapy in her recovery effort.
Lewis came home Dec. 29 to family members, friends and neighbors who had taken over child care, cooking, cleaning and laundry. She said she felt people's prayers. When her son Taylor attended a special church meeting, Lewis said he told his grandpa, "Look at all these people. They love my mother."
"That was neat that he could see this, that ‘yes, they love my mom and they're going to pray so that my mom will get better,'" she said, on the brink of tears.
Friends and neighbors supplied more than enough Christmas presents for the children. Their mom was able to return home that day for a few hours to participate in gift opening but had to return to the hospital. The Lewises are grateful for people who still send donations to help with medical costs and gift cards to the family. Zions Bank set up a fund for Lewis.
The Kaysville Police Department leads an ongoing investigation into the collision. Evan says doctors have indicated Clara will likely never remember the accident, meaning investigators may never know why her vehicle ended up on the tracks.
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