CLOVER -- A car wreck two days before Christmas left one Clover family in chaos during what should have been a happy time.
Stephanie and April Brakefield were both hurt when Stephanie lost control of her SUV on Hwy. 55, less than two miles from their home. The car rolled over three or four times. April's leg was broken and she suffered multiple cuts. Stephanie got the worst of it though, she was thrown from the car and landed face down in the mud by the side of the road, her back and neck broken, unable to move anything below her chest.
"She went a little off the road and tried correct herself, but she went too far and flipped the SUV," the girls' mother Leslie Weekly said.
Now Stephanie is confined to her bed, a halo neck brace screwed into her skull to immobilize her neck while the vertebrae heal. Her shelf is lined with stuffed animals, many of them get well soon gifts received since the accident. She keeps warm with a prayer quilt signed by several of her friends and family.
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Weekly has been staying home a lot to take care of her daughter, and because she can't go back to work full time, she recently lost her job with Gaston Hospice in Gastonia, N.C. Meanwhile the medical bills are piling up.
"So far, altogether, the medical bills are about $7,000 - $8,000, and that's only part of it," Weekly said. "Both of them were airlifted and that's another $10,000 each."
Both girls had some health insurance coverage through their father, Weekly said, but she has had to hire an attorney to fight with the company over paying some of the costs, and the policies won't cover it all, she added.
Brakefield was lucky. Weekly said her daughter's doctors told her if Stephanie had hit the ground any harder when her neck broke it likely would have killed her.
The halo will come off in March, and then Brakefield will begin intense physical therapy to learn how to function without the use of her legs. But she remains upbeat. She feels a lot of pain in her legs, which the family takes as a good sign.
"I'm gonna walk again," Brakefield said with a smile. "God tells me all the time."
For now her life is on hold. Brakefield was studying to be a physical therapist at York Tech. She still plans to pursue her dream.
When the wreck happened, the girls, Stephanie 18 and April 17, were on their way home from Victoria's Diner in Clover, where they both worked. The diner is organizing a hot dog and bake sale fundraiser to help with Stephanie's medical bills, according to Crystal Ledford. The fundraiser is scheduled for 1:30 p.m., Saturday, March 7, at The Granite Shop located at 801 North Main St. in Clover.
"She's still just as outgoing as she always was," Ledford said of her friend and co-worker. "She doesn't ever worry about herself, she's always worried about everyone else.
"Everybody in here has asked about her, everybody here loves her, and it just broke our hearts when we heard."
Weekly also set up a Caring Bridge Web site for Brakefield (www.caringbridge.org/visit/stephaniebrakefield) where people can follow her progress, post messages and donate to help pay her expenses.