Nearly 17 years ago, Sarah Lindsey DeForest was in a devastating car crash.
At the time, she was a high school senior traveling to Florida with her family from their home in Clifton Park. While driving through North Carolina on Interstate 95, a car crossed the median and hit their car head-on. The crash left her back broken in five places, her spleen ruptured and her left wrist broken. Her mother also suffered serious injuries.
Eleven surgeries later — the most recent about a year ago — the 34-year-old Clifton Park resident is still facing health challenges and staggering medical bills. But right now, she’s more concerned about two teenagers who share a story sadly similar to her own — Matt Hardy and Bailey Wind. The two high school seniors survived a Dec. 1 Northway crash that took the lives of their friends, Chris Stewart and Deanna Rivers.
When DeForest heard about the crash, she knew she had to take action. She got in touch with the Hardy and Wind families, who were strangers to her at the time, and told them she wanted to hold a fundraiser to help with the medical expenses they are incurring as a result of the accident.
The pancake breakfast she’s planned will take place Feb. 10 from 8 a.m. to noon at the Vischer Ferry Fire House on Riverview Road. All proceeds will go to the Hardy and Wind families.
When DeForest was in her accident, the man who caused it had no insurance.
“I have spent a fortune and continue to spend a fortune on medical expenses. Even if a settlement was received, it still would not have been enough money to pay for the medical expenses I have incurred,” she said.
Medical bills have started to show up in the mailboxes of the Hardy and Wind families.
Bailey suffered a broken neck and shattered jaw in the accident and lost five teeth. Physically, she’s recovering quickly and will hopefully get her neck brace off in two weeks, but the cost of the cosmetic dentistry she needs is of concern to her mother, Dawn.
“I’m told that they won’t take the no-fault insurance and we have to pay upfront, which is the implant part, the crown part, and she needs quite a few of them. That’s the part that’s starting to scare me,” she admitted.
Wind is buoyed by DeForest’s effort to help ease her family’s financial burden, and also by her example.
“Her experience has really made her the person that she is,” Wind said. “She said that she wouldn’t change it, and I know that this whole terrible thing is actually going to shape Bailey into the person that she is eventually going to be.”
Although it took years to be able to see her accident in a positive light, DeForest said it has changed her life for the better.
“I was on a different path at that point in time,” she said. “I was looking to go to school. I was a big volleyball player, and it just kind of changed. I ended up having to be home because of surgeries and things, and I met my husband, and I never would have met him [otherwise].”
Matt Hardy’s mother, Patricia, said she is grateful for the support DeForest and the entire community has shown her family.
“We are overwhelmed, but we know how blessed we are, also,” she said.
Matt is getting stronger every day, she reported. He was slated to have three MRIs Tuesday, and his mother confirmed the medical bills are starting to pile up.
“We don’t know what the outcome’s going to be,” she said. “It’s going to take a long time to know the whole financial outcome here.”
Both families plan to attend the pancake breakfast.
“We’re looking forward to it,” said Hardy. “It’s so nice to see everybody and see the support in the community.”
DeForest hopes the event will not only help the families of the teens struggling to recover from the crash, but also that her story and theirs will serve as an important reminder to the public.
“It’s like a wake-up call that people need to pay more attention to what they’re doing and live in the moment,” she said. “Enjoy what you have now, and live every day like it’s your last.”