A woman realizes her strength after an accident; family, recovering dog
Orangeburg, South Carolina
It’s been a year of ups and downs since Kelli Smith survived an accident at North.
“I’m realizing this year how much stronger I am than ever before,” she said. “I even realize how much more resilient, patient and understanding people around me are.”
Since the April 14, 2021 crash, Smith and her husband, Mark, have been grateful for every day of steady improvements.
Smith said one of the main changes since the accident is that 7-year-old Buzz, her service dog, has retired and Bailey has now been “hired” for the job.
“Buzz is keeping a close eye to make sure he’s doing it right,” Smith said of Bailey, a 9-month-old Australian Labradoodle.
Even though Bailey is still training for her service responsibilities, Buzz remains the celebrity, Smith said.
“It’s really nice to see that people really care,” she said.
When the accident happened, at the intersection of US Highway 321 and US Highway 178, Buzz was either thrown from the shattered rear window or jumped out – Buzz doesn’t tell anyone exactly how He did it.
For nearly six weeks, the Lab mix wandered the North Zone.
Smith’s husband made multiple trips from their Summerville area home to North to look for Buzz.
Her husband also took to social media to ask for help from anyone who might have spotted Buzz.
Residents of North also spread the word. They put up flyers and spread the word on social media.
On May 24, 2021, the Smiths received a call that moved them to tears of joy. Buzz’s microchip company called, telling them he was at the Orangeburg County Animal Shelter.
Buzz hadn’t taken his daily thyroid medication for almost two months and he had lost weight, but he survived.
Buzz was happy to be home.
“He went back on his meds, but never got to catch up,” Smith said of Buzz’s recovery.
Smith said Buzz suffered from soft tissue hip and leg issues as a result of the crash, but thankfully didn’t have any broken bones.
“He wants to help, but he can’t do it physically,” Smith said.
Buzz can no longer ride in vehicles either.
Smith said Buzz was not a fan of driving before the accident, but since then has suffered from anxiety.
“The anxiety and panic attacks that are happening, it’s unbearable to watch,” Smith said.
Smith said Bailey and Buzz were good companions for each other.
Smith says she has made progress in her recovery over the past year.
Prior to the accident, Smith developed Guillain-Barré syndrome after contracting COVID-19 in the fall of 2020.
Guillain-Barré syndrome is a rare neurological disorder that causes a person’s immune system to mistakenly attack part of their peripheral nervous system, according to the National Institution of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Smith led a physically active life before developing the syndrome, she said. Then Guillain-Barré syndrome challenged her mobility and she frequently used a wheelchair.
She wonders if she would have improved faster if she hadn’t been injured in the accident.
At one point, she thought she might never walk again, but continued her physical therapy.
“I tried to find the new normal,” she said.
The accident left her with a broken collarbone that required surgery to fix it.
“The collarbone they put together has so much material in it – it looks like an Erector set,” she said.
She has a scar from the collarbone to the sternum, she added.
Smith also suffered a head injury and concussion in the accident, which affected his vision and hearing.
Not all of Smith’s scars are visible.
Although she has no memory of the accident itself, she is now dealing with post-traumatic stress, she said.
“It’s here,” she said, pointing her head. “It’s just not in the foreground. Of course, my body knows it. I simply have no cognitive memory” of the accident.
Smith said her daughter would often tell her, “Hunting for good.” And Smith does.
The past year has taught Smith lessons in overcoming challenges.
These lessons include:
“Hold on to your faith. Embrace it and let it help you through this ordeal.
— “Don’t beat yourself up and don’t be so hard on yourself.”
“Perfection is an illusion. If your appearance has changed, whatever your scars, whatever your battle wounds, it means you came, you fought and you are still here.
Smith said she “constantly has pep talks with herself.”
She also finds strength in prayers.
A 35-year-old Gaston man faces two felony DUI counts resulting in serious bodily injury as a result of the crash.
The Northern Police Department charged Lamar Mack on September 20, 2021. He was released on bail.
Northern Police Chief Lin Shirer alleges Mack was driving a black Chevrolet Impala about 25mph over the posted speed limit when it ignored a red light and collided with the Volvo SUV of Smith.
Smith said her husband pulled Mack out of the Impala after hearing him scream.
On March 2, Mack was taken into Lexington County police custody on charges of first offense basic cocaine distribution and first offense narcotics distribution. He is currently out on bail on those charges as well.