In an instant your whole life can change.
On the afternoon of August 4th, 2017
every parent’s nightmare happened.
Clarissa (age 20), and Zackery (age 21), were on a road trip across the country. Without warning, an approaching driver swerved into their lane and hit them head on. It’s a miracle that Clarissa and Zackery survived. Sadly, the approaching driver did not. The passenger remains hospitalized.
Upon hearing this horrible news, Zackery and Clarissa’s mothers immediately flew across the country to the trauma center ICU to be with their children.
Both Clarissa and Zackery were pinned in the car and unable to move for many minutes as they waited for paramedics. From the front seat, Clarissa watched helplessly as paramedics covered the body of the driver that hit them. As a disoriented Zackery bled profusely from his face and head, Clarissa worked to keep him calm before they both lost consciousness.
First responders used the Jaws of Life to free them from the car. Ambulances on scene worked on the kids until they were flown to the hospital. Due to their level of trauma, the first hospital was unable to treat them. They were then airlifted to a second hospital, a regional trauma center very far away from home. A Chaplain sat with the kids while the families were helplessly, states away, frantically arranging the soonest possible flights – which was not until the next morning.
Clarissa has stabilized, but she will have to undergo many surgeries. She sustained a fractured sternum and ribs, broken pelvis, shattered foot, a dislocated ankle, and many lacerations and stitches. Clarissa has been prepped for surgery on her foot three separate times and each time her surgery has been postponed. She continues to pull shards of glass from the accident from her shoulder and head. She will undergo separate surgeries inserting metal rods and plates to provide stability for her injuries and will require extensive physical therapy in an inpatient treatment rehabilitative center. The length of time it will take to recover remains undetermined, but family is told it will be lengthy.
Zackery was in critical condition in the Trauma ICU for days. He has complications from two separate brain bleeds that have caused swelling and fluid in the brain. He suffered a broken sternum, broken ribs, his heart is bruised and swollen with fluid on it, his lungs are badly bruised, his leg is broken, and he required numerous stitches for deep lacerations to his knee, elbow, and some to his face. He is on anti-seizure medication, anti-blood clot medication, and remains on Oxygen. Pain control remains an issue.
While transferred to a long term subacute unit, he remains extremely disoriented and sometimes believes he is at the hospital he worked at. Other times, he believes he is ten years old and the year is 2009 and forgets his dog name. This is telling of the cognitive impact he is suffering. Those who know Zackery, know Katrina (his social therapy trained dog who attended high school with him).
Every time he is able to mumble something, he believes he is in a different location. His eyes remained closed most of the time and when they open drift in opposite directions. He has minimal fleeting moments of accurate cognitive function. He continues to struggle with cardiac and oxygen stability and pain control.
This is an unfathomable tragedy. The road ahead will be arduous and expensive.
Here’s how you can help:
For Zackery and Clarissa, their families and friends and the other grieving families involved.
To the people who called 911 and stayed with Clarissa and Zackery until the first responders arrived. To the bikers who stopped and helped. Clarissa and Zackery’s parents cannot find words to capture their heart felt appreciation to all those who helped on scene, including the emergency responders. How do you adequately express gratitude for saving your children’s lives?
WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT
We invite you to send notes of encouragement throughout their long journey to recovery. The address to send notes to the families is:
Clarissa or Zackery
Care Of: Viola Design
1083 Vine Street Suite 103
Healdsburg, CA 95448
MEDICAL TRANSPORT CONNECTION
More than anything, Zackery and Clarissa’s parents want to get them home. If you know of a medical transport company that might be willing to donate some or all of their services, that would be miraculous. When the time is right, Zackery and Clarissa will be flown or driven back home and reunited with their families and friends to continue their long recovery ahead.
There are several ways to do this:
1) Go Fund Me:
Friends have set up a Go Fund Me account to help with expenses such as lodging, food, and transportation. These unreimbursed out of pocket medical related expenses will be high as the recovery time will be lengthy. The first medical transport was $50,000 alone for each child. This does not include any hospital, facility, doctor, surgery, and additional charges. There are many unforeseen expenses that have yet to be revealed.
Zackery sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury and the prognosis for what cognitive and physical recovery remains uncertain and what the team of doctors are saying is “his new baseline of normalcy” is yet to be determined, and will slowly emerge over time. In the foreseeable future, both families may need to modify their homes in order for the kids to get around when it is time to bring them home. Both mother’s have younger children at home as well.
Both families will incur lengthy wage loss to care for their children and be with them through their lengthy recoveries that will include long term, subacute care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. to stay with their children as they recover from this near death experience.
All donations will be shared by Zackery and Clarissa’s families.
2) Direct contributions to the families such as:
• Donated airline mileage, vouchers or tickets for family members to support the moms as they care for Zackery and Clarissa
• Directly covering lodging expenses while they stay with their kids
• Gift Cards to Walmart for moms to cover out of town incidentals
3) A Trust Fund is being set up for Clarissa and Zackery:
Check back for more information.
Those who know Clarissa and Zackery, know that they are two of the kindest people you will ever meet. Both are beloved by their families and known by friends and family for their warm hearts, patience, helpfulness and integrity.
Clarissa, a 2015 graduate of Cardinal Newman High School participated in music and drama during high school. She has earned the achievement of a lifetime Girl Scout. She is credited with saving Zackery’s life. She kept him calm(ish) and awake for as long as possible by talking to him and urging him to wake up and not fall asleep. She just finished her second year at Santa Rosa Junior College where is studying Environmental Engineering and had just landed her dream internship at Pepperwood Preserve. She has taught Catechism at Saint John’s Church in Healdsburg. Clarissa is also fluent in Spanish and is gifted in many ways. She lights up every room she enters with her larger than life personality, love, and kindness.
Zackery, also a 2015 graduate of Cardinal Newman High school, was a Rugby player and participated in Drama. He worked at Healdsburg District Hospital as a Nursing Assistant (which he earned at age 16), and a Telemetry Technician for the past two years. He speaks fluent Spanish and French. Zackery just completed his second year at the Santa Rosa Junior College as a Pre-Med Major. He was the Co-President of LMSA - the Latino Medical Student Association. He was exploring a career in Emergency medicine as an ER Doctor or a Trauma Surgeon and had recently started viewing surgery cases. Zackery is Second Degree Black Belt with Hauth’s Family Taekwondo, training for his Third Degree Black Belt. He is also a Regionally Certified Instructor, training for his National Certification and has taught numerous students. His dream was to open up his own Taekwondo studio.
The families will disclose information as they work through this tragedy and ask the location and details be private at this time. The families appreciate the messages and will respond as they are able to.
The families of Clarissa and Zackery sincerely appreciate your prayers and healing energy sentiments and are deeply touched by the messages and supportive gestures that have blanketed them.
THANK YOU, very much.
Go Fund Me account backstory:
This fund was kickstarted by Brandt Hoekenga— friend, fellow student at Hauth’s Family Taekwondo, and chosen representative of Hauth’s Family Taekwondo in Sonoma County.
Its purpose is to pay for medical bills and transport for Zackery and Clarissa. Zackery's Mother, Brigit, has been designated the beneficiary and steward of the account and all funds will be shared between Zackery and Clarissa.
- Susan Dusterhoft
- Rita(Zhen) Hu
- Megan Dybczak
- Busch Family