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Wellington Daily News - Wellington, KS
  • After nearly 12 years, effects of drunk driving accident linger

  • It's been almost 12 years since Sheri Baker-Bruster was severely injured in a car accident with a drunk driver. She lost her father, Frank Baker, in that accident.

    The physical reminders are still with her and her mother, Debbie, of that fateful evening on Dec. 20, 2001.
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  • It's been almost 12 years since Sheri Baker-Bruster was severely injured in a car accident with a drunk driver. She lost her father, Frank Baker, in that accident.
    The physical reminders are still with her and her mother, Debbie, of that fateful evening on Dec. 20, 2001.
    Sheri had a lot of injuries, not all of which have healed. Her left foot is still mangled and hurts when she walks. She still has metal plates in her hip and at age 33, she could be facing hip replacement surgery in a few years.
    She and her mother are also still contending with medical bills and insurance companies. The combined medical bills were $350,000. The drunk driver had no insurance and no way to pay for any damages. They used up their insurance limits, had to pay deductibles and co-pays, so there was a heavy financial burden as well.
    "We still have not recovered," Debbie said last week as she and her daughter discussed the accident.
    Sheri also has trouble getting insurance now because insurance companies deny her because of her pre-existing condition.
    The state Dept. of Transportation is trying to raise awareness of drunk drivers on the upcoming Labor Day weekend.
    Sheri and her mother also hope to raise awareness and get people to not drive drunk.
    When the accident happened, the driver of the other car had a blood-alcohol level of .34, which is more than three times the legal limit. That driver was killed instantly.
    At the scene of the accident, Sheri and her father were airlifted to Via Christi Hospital in Wichita. Frank Baker was able to talk with officers, but Sheri was incoherent and does not remember the accident itself.
    Debbie Baker had talked with her daughter a little while earlier, and was expecting them to arrive home. When they didn't show up, and she heard there was a wreck site and recognized the car immediately.
    Frank and Sheri had been to Wichita and were less than two miles from home on Highway 81 when the accident happened.
    Frank Baker died 36 hours later. At that time it was not certain that Sheri would survive. They were holding off surgically repairing her hip until they determined her chances of survival were good.
    She spent six weeks in the trauma center, and two weeks in a regular hospital floor. She had two broken wrists, her pelvis was broken in three places, she had a head injury and her left foot was severely damaged.
    When she did go home, she still could not feed herself and could barely move. It was months later and she had to learn to walk all over again.
    Page 2 of 2 - "I was like a 21-year-old baby," she said.
    She worked very hard, and got married on schedule, complete with walking down the aisle in July of 2002.
    Sheri and her husband, Chris Bruster, have had two children since then.
    It has been a very long road to recovery for Sheri and she may never fully recover. But she wants people to think before they drive intoxicated.
    She speaks about her experience at the DUI victims center in Wichita.
    People convicted of DUI have to attend the meetings.
    She shows a video, tells about her experience and how it is still affecting them.
    "I tell them God has given you a second chance to make a better decision next time," Sheri said.
    Debbie Baker said she feels the laws on the books are good enough, but she questions whether they are enforced well enough.
    She said she has heard of people having accidents while drunk and never being charged.

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