Shock, pain and recovery: Hit-and-run victim from MLT tells her story

Joy Tate of Mountlake Terrace was the victim of a hit-and-run driver on Sept. 20.

It was the last thing that Mountlake Terrace resident Joy Tate was expecting.

An honors student at Edmonds Community College and a 38-year-old single mom with three children – ages 18 months, 5 and 11 – at home, she was concluding an end-of-summer evening out with friends, a rare chance to relax before the school year begins. It was late, but she’d had a fun evening and now looked forward to going home, relieving the baby sitter, and preparing for fall quarter.

Tate was walking north in this crosswalk when she was hit.

Tate was walking north in this crosswalk when she was hit.

She and a companion, a 36-year-old Everett man, were about two-thirds of the way through the crosswalk at 220th Street Southwest and Highway 99 when a speeding pickup truck appeared out of nowhere headed straight for her. A split second before the impact, her friend pushed her out of the direct path. The truck hit her with a glancing blow and threw her into the intersection.

The next thing she knew she was flat on the pavement staring up at the bumper of a Dodge Ram pickup. “I’ll never forget the image of that bumper and Ram logo,” she said. “I’m sure my friend saved my life by pushing me out of the way.”

The truck hesitated for an instant, pulled around her and sped off, leaving her lying in the road like a broken doll. She tried to move out of the street, but couldn’t even crawl.

Police and medics were on the scene within minutes. Rushed to Swedish/Edmonds, she was treated for numerous bruises, sprains and a dislocated hip.

- Tate's left femur was broken in several places in the accident. "The doctors said it was one of the worst fractures they'd seen," she said.

— Tate’s left femur was broken in several places in the accident. “The doctors said it was one of the worst fractures they’d seen,” she said.

But the x-rays revealed the worst news. The impact had shattered Tate’s left femur (upper leg bone) into several pieces, a major injury. Her doctors ordered her transferred to the Harborview trauma unit, where surgeons cut open her thigh and inserted pins to hold the bone pieces together. After a very uncomfortable 10 days in a fog of potent pain killers, Tate was released on Oct. 1. She’s home now, but recovery is a slow road.

My Edmonds News talked with Tate about her accident, how it’s changing her life, and what she would say to the person who hit her and drove off leaving her lying in the road.

MEN: Did you see the pickup coming at all? Did you even have a moment’s premonition it would hit you, or was it just out of the blue?

Tate: I recall seeing the headlights, but that’s about it. I’m not even sure which lane the truck was in. This much I do know…if my friend hadn’t pushed me out of the way the truck would have hit me straight on, and I’d probably be dead. As it was, it threw me 6-8 feet into the intersection.

MEN: What do you recall of the truck itself? Color, striping, tires…anything that might help tracking it down.

Tate: The memory that sticks with me most is lying in the street, looking up from the pavement at the bumper and seeing the big Dodge Ram logo. I think there was some printing on the side, so I’m guessing it was a work or company truck, but I can’t be absolutely sure. I was pretty stunned. The driver only hesitated a moment before driving around me and speeding off west on 220th Street.

MEN: What happened after the impact? How did you get out of the street? How long till help arrived?

Tate: After the truck sped off, I tried to move out of the intersection, but my body just wouldn’t work. It didn’t take too long for the initial shock to wear off, and as it did the pain just washed over me. It was so intense. I can honestly say that I’ve never experienced that kind of pain. Childbirth is a piece of cake by comparision.

MEN: How is this affecting your life now? What about your ability to work, take care of your children, attend school, shop for groceries, etc.?

Tate: I can’t even get up and down the stairs to my apartment without help, so I simply can’t work right now. Luckily I was able to arrange to do my coursework online, but I do have to go to campus for tests. My real aces in the hole are my mom, my friends and my neighbors. These folks are the best support network ever. They are there for me every day to help with shopping, transporting my youngest back and forth to daycare, getting my older kids to school, helping me get back and forth to the doctors. Thanks to them I have help with the children from the moment they wake up until they go to sleep. I am so grateful. Thanks to the online coursework I’m keeping up with school, but every night I have to choose between crying through my algebra homework or taking my pain meds and being too fuzzy to do it right.

But I’m trying to find the lessons for me in this experience. It now takes me so much longer to do the little things…get a glass of water, go to the bathroom, etc. I’m gaining tremendous appreciation for the handicapped community and others who are less able. I’m trying to use this as a learning experience rather than an anger experience.

And along these lines, the amount of time allowed to cross at this intersection before the light changes is not sufficient. Seniors and handicapped people routinely get stranded in the middle of the intersection. I sure hope this can be fixed.

MEN: What’s your prognosis for recovery?

Tate: The doctors aren’t giving me a firm timeline at this point. They have to see how the bones mend and how the muscles and tendons in my leg heal. They hope to get me out of the walker in about six weeks, but we’ll see. They say it’s unlikely that my leg will ever be the same again; some level of pain will probably be with me for the rest of my life.

MEN: What would you say to the Edmonds community about your accident and needing their help to find the driver who hit you?

The hit-and-run suspect vehicle.

The hit-and-run suspect vehicle.

Tate: An experience like this changes you forever. This person could easily have killed me. I don’t understand how the driver could have sped away and just left me there like a discarded toy. How much more tragic would it have been if it had been a child, a senior or a handicapped person instead of me? And the street wasn’t deserted…other motorists saw what happened, and just drove on past…didn’t want to get involved, I guess. Someone must have seen something. I guess what I’d say to the community is speak up. No matter how trivial it may seem, if you know ANYTHING that might help find the person who hit me, call the number at the Edmonds Police (425-771-0212) and tell them.

MEN: You recently posted on  My Edmonds News that you are offering a reward for information leading to the arrest of the person who hit you. Tell me about this.

Tate: We don’t have much money, but my mom and I scraped together some cash and are keeping it to reward whomever comes up with information that leads to the arrest of the driver who hit me. I don’t want to say how much at this point, other than that I wish it could be more.

MEN: What would you like to say to the person who hit you?

Tate: It would be nice to hear an apology. Please, please, please slow down and pay attention. You’ve affected lots of other people’s lives…me, my kids, my mom, my friends to name a few. Even if you never come forward, I hope you read this, learn what you’ve done, and that it changes you for the better.

The driver who hit Joy Tate has yet to be caught. Edmonds Police detectives are asking for the public’s help in locating the driver and the truck. If you know anything or have any information, no matter how trivial it may seem, please call the Edmonds Police Department at 425-771-0212 and ask for Officer Tony Collins, Lead Traffic Collision Investigator.

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel, My Edmonds News

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