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Fair rekindles memories of accident

Pair grateful to be alive when fair rolls into town


For most people, the annual Halifax County Fair is filled with fun, adventure, excitement, thrilling rides and lots of good food. But for Donna New and her son, Matthew, when the fair rolls into town, it is a time of reflection on how thankful they are to be alive today.

Saturday marked the 17th anniversary of an accident that almost claimed both of their lives.

On Oct. 5, 1996 the pregnant mother was living in Richmond, but she had come back to her hometown to take her daughter to the fair and to make what she thought was going to be “some precious memories.”

However, while at the fair, her brother got sick, so she had to leave earlier than expected to take him home to her parents’ house on Wickham Road. 

Neither she nor her brother was prepared for what would happen once they arrived at his house. 

As she pulled into the drive, New recalled putting the car in park and walking to the back driver’s side door to put her jacket in the back seat.

At that time, her daughter did a flip from the back seat over into the front seat accidentally knocking the car’s gear into reverse. 

It all happened in the blink of an eye.

The open back car door knocked New to the ground, and the car ran over her entire right side barely missing her unborn son, Matthew, before rolling to a stop across the street.

When she came to, New said she saw her young daughter struggling to get out of the car with her legs dangling out the door. 

She managed to crawl across the street and help her out. After making sure her daughter was safely out of the car, New recalled feeling like she couldn’t breathe, and she asked her brother to call 911.  

Former Police Sgt. Dennis L. Blanks was the first person to arrive on the scene, and he sat with her on the curb waiting for the rescue squad to arrive.

“When he realized I was pregnant, he told them to hurry up,” New recalled.

The pregnant mother suffered nine broken ribs, a broken collarbone and a punctured lung. 

She was transported to Halifax Regional Hospital where medical personnel sedated her, and inserted a chest tube before airlifting her to MCV hospital in Richmond. 

During the ordeal, New said she continued to drift in and out of consciousness.

Then she started to experience contractions; however, she was unable to feel them at the time.

Hooked up to life support before she left Halifax Regional Hospital, New would remain on life support for the next five days.

She spent an additional three days in a step down unit before being released from the hospital.

 Three days after being released from the hospital, the trauma of the accident sent New into labor prematurely, and she returned to the hospital to give birth to Matthew who wasn’t due for another month.

 She warned nurses and doctors she would be unable to have the baby normally because of her injuries.

“I couldn’t even sit up,” she said.

She was injected with two epidurals, one for the labor pains and one for the pain in her ribs and chest.

 Matthew was born on Oct. 16 weighing in at five pounds and five ounces. 

He experienced breathing complications and required blood transfusions because of his low hemoglobin.

He remained in the neonatal intensive care unit for three days.

Because of her injuries, New said she was unable to take care of her newborn son when he first came home from the hospital.

“I wasn’t able to hold him. I wasn’t able to feed him. I wasn’t able to change him. I wasn’t able to do anything. My mother had to do everything for him,” New said.

She was in excruciating pain and had to sleep in the recliner for two months because she couldn’t sleep lying down in the bed.

While both mother and son have been able to move on and lead normal lives, the accident has left a few scars and reminders behind.

Matthew is now a straight A student at Halifax County High School and plays on the varsity football team. He does however suffer from a slight case of asthma. 

New had to go on disability following the accident, and she continues to sometimes experience pain in her back. She has undergone two back surgeries and is contemplating a third. 

She still sometimes experiences migraines from when the car ran over the right side of her head.

 New said it is a miracle they made it through the ordeal because some people who experience traumas similar to theirs don’t make it.

 Like his mother, Matthew doesn’t take life for granted either.

“I think about how lucky I am to be here and to never take anything for granted because not everybody has the chance to survive something like that,” he said.