“Paralyzed teen testifies in D.C. for car rearview rules”
BY ROBERT J. HAWKINS
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED MARCH 22, 2011 AT 6 P.M., UPDATED MARCH 23, 2011
Patrick Ivison, a 16 year old Scripps Ranch resident, was 14 months old when a car backed over him, crushing his spine and paralyzing him from the neck down.
Since then, Ivison has amazed the San Diego community with his grit and soaring optimism, occasionally documented on TV and in print. Today, he surfs competitively, he drives a specially outfitted van, he’s planning for college, and he’s studying for his SATs.
And, once in a while, with difficulty, he actually stands up and walks.
On Wednesday, Patrick Ivison and his mother, Jennifer Kayler, will take another major step, of sorts, as they testify before a federal panel in Washington DC on the need for better rear-visibility standards for all vehicles.
Speaking from a hotel room around the corner from the Capitol in Washington, Ivision says he can barely recall testifying before the San Diego City Council as a nine year old, trying to save funding for a special sports program in which he participated.
Speaking before the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration panel will be a bigger deal.
“I’m a little nervous,” he said with a chuckle on Tuesday. “I’m not going to lie. I’m not going to lie.”
Ivison was undecided on Tuesday as to whether he would stick to the text he wrote or speak from his heart. Either way, he said, “I want to share my story.”
Ivison and his mother were brought to Washington by the advocacy group KidsAndCars.org which, according to its president and founder, Janette Fennell, is confident that Ivison will make an impact.
“I am so impressed with this young man,” said Fennell from Washington. “The world needs to see what happens when a car backs over a child.”
Fennell has waged a decade-long campaign to establish standards for improved rear visibility in all vehicles. In 2008 a bill was passed and signed which called for rear-visibility standards. The proposed standards were published in December 2010 and, in most cases, will require cameras on vehicles to meet rear-view visibility standards.
The comment period ended Feb. 7 but in an “interesting and unusual” development, said Fennell, the federal agency has reopened the comment period. The final standards are due Feb. 28, she said.
Most speakers on Wednesday have lost children in vehicle accidents or their children were injured and recovered. Ivison is the rare survivor who can speak directly to the consequences of poor visibility in vehicles, said Fennell.
In his prepared text, Ivison writes, that it is important that those writing the guidelines “understand that it’s impossible to avoid hitting something you simply cannot see.”
Check out Patrick’s full testimony below from SIGNONSANDIEGO.COM
My name is Patrick Ivison and I am 16 years old. I came to Washington from my hometown of San Diego to talk to you about how important and how absolutely necessary complete rear visibility is in all automobiles.
On Sept. 24, 1995, I was walking with my mom. We lived in a small community (Imperial Beach) and it was a beautiful, hot Sunday afternoon. My mom and I had very little money and didn’t own a car so we walked everywhere. This Sunday changed our lives.
We were walking home and were directly behind a car when the driver suddenly backed up. My mom had been carrying me, but seconds before, she had set me down. She remembers grabbing for me and just barely missing before the car struck and completely ran me over.
My mom tells me that she started screaming over and over again and that people came running from every direction. They could tell by the screaming that something was horribly wrong.
My mom tried to get me out from under the car, but I was wedged under the rear tire and bottom of the car. A man lifted the car and as soon as my mom pulled me out from under the car, she knew I was gone. I was completely limp, covered in blood and turning blue. She just clutched me in her arms, screaming “No! No! No!”
A man who witnessed the accident told my mom to let him take a look. He tried to convince her that it was just a cut on my forehead. In fact, I had what was called de-gloving of the scalp. The car had peeled back my scalp. My mom out of desperation laid me on the ground and the good Samaritan immediately started CPR and mouth to mouth resuscitation. After several rounds of CPR, I let out a weak cry. Moments later, the paramedics showed up and within minutes a helicopter was landing in the parking lot of a nearby restaurant.
I was flown by Life Flight to Children’s Hospital. My mom was not allowed to ride in the helicopter and by the time she got to the hospital, I was already in surgery. My mom was sitting in the waiting room wondering if she would ever see me alive again. Someone from the hospital came and got her and took her to a conference room. She wouldn’t go in the room. She thought if she went in there they were going to tell her I was dead. But instead, they gave her the news she desperately wanted to hear. I was stabilized and in surgery.
I sustained a C4/C5 spinal cord injury. I was unable to move anything from the neck down. The police report listed my injury as a minor scalp laceration and the driver was cited for unsafe backing.
The challenges of a spinal cord injury go well beyond the inability to walk. I am unable to dress myself, take a shower or even use the restroom without assistance. Imagine for one moment, laying in bed until someone comes in to get you up, or having your blood pressure spike every time you need to use the rest room because your body is unable to regulate your nervous system. The spike in blood pressure is a medical emergency that I have to monitor extremely close daily.
I have literally spent thousands of hours in rehabilitation and in recovery just to regain some independence and function. I spend eight hours a week in rehabilitation. This is my reality.
I recently turned 16 and worked very hard to train to be able to drive a vehicle. I have an old van with over 200,000 miles on it. We modified it with equipment so I could drive. One of the first modifications I made was to purchase a $60 backup camera so that I can see when I back up.
Backing up blindly is dangerous. Even now, in my (wheel) chair I am not very tall and on two separate occasions have come extremely close to being struck by drivers who couldn’t see me as they backed up in a hurry, oblivious to the dangers. Recently, someone yelled and smacked the car and the driver slammed on the brakes. I think my mom almost had a nervous breakdown right there in the parking lot.
However, I am not here today to complain about my life. I survived an accident that many other children didn’t. It would be foolish of me to complain. There isn’t one moment of my day that isn’t affected by my injury, but I feel blessed for this life. It would be a shame if I wasted my time thinking about what I can’t do instead of focusing on what I can do.
The reason I’m here today is to honor those children who couldn’t be here. I want to speak on their behalf so the world understands that it’s impossible to avoid hitting something you simply cannot see. Just like when I was 14 months old, little children do not understand that it is dangerous to be behind a car or that the driver cannot see them. Parents do the best job they possibly can to protect us, but sometimes we make it downright impossible for them to do so. Children are quick and fearless.
My mom (Jennifer Kayler), Kona (guide dog) and I would not have traveled 3,000 miles if we didn’t think it was so incredibly important to prevent children from being injured or killed in the blind zone that exists behind all vehicles. Please issue a strong standard that eliminates the blind zone behind a vehicle. This standard is just as important to America’s children as seat belts and air bags.
Please make sure that not another family has to suffer the loss of a precious child or that children who are meant to run and play do not have to rely on a wheelchair and those around them to move on.
“I was quite fortunate to survive,” said Ivison from Washington. “I want to honor kids who didn’t survive.”