A few thoughts crossed Jen Daubert’s mind last December when a vehicle struck her during Tunkhannock’s Christmas in Our Hometown.
“‘What the heck happened?’ I had that first thought. When I smacked my face, I thought, ‘Oh my God, I don’t want to hit my head again. I don’t want brain damage,’” she said. “And, ‘Please God, don’t take me.’”
On Dec. 7, 2019, Daubert was directing traffic for horse-drawn wagon rides through town as part of the festivities. Her father, Butch Sands, was about to steer the last wagon load of the day onto Tioga Street from Pine Street.
“I went to the roadway and I looked both ways. There was nothing coming. I had my dad start out with the horses, and he looked over my head and yelled, ‘Jen, look out,’” she remembered. “When I turned to look, that’s when (the driver) hit me in the legs. I didn’t lose consciousness, but I blacked out and I couldn’t see. When I finally could see, I was laying in the road.”
Daubert flew through the air and smacked her face on the passenger side mirror before landing in the road.
Tunkhannock Borough Police later charged the driver, Robert Charles Frederick, 48, of Pittston, with accident involving injury or death and recklessly endangering another person.
An ambulance transported Daubert to Geisinger Community Medical Center in Scranton, where she had surgery to put her right femur back into place. She also tore all four ligaments in her right knee and broke her left fibula.
The impact left her with a black eye and multiple contusions as well, but no concussion.
Between CMC and Allied Services, Daubert wasn’t home until Dec. 23. Thanks to her “amazing friends and family” who built a wheelchair ramp for her home in just two days, she was able to return in time for Christmas.
The overall recovery process has been rough, but not just for Daubert.
“It has been painful and it has been hard on everyone,” she said.
Daubert started out with her leg kept straight in a fixator, immobilizing her for two months.
“Then I was in an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) brace, immobilized for another month,” she said.
In January, she came down with an infection in her leg which was previously operated on and ended up on intravenous antibiotics for two months. This led to two procedures to clear out the infection.
In March, she started going to Pivot Physical Therapy. Her knee needs to bend between 90 and 110 degrees before her next surgery on July 21, which will replace her ligaments.
“I’m making progress,” she said. “It’s slow. It’s painful. It always hurts. It’s always aching. I have no ligaments, so I always have to wear a brace.”
This ordeal has taken away Daubert’s independence, which has taught her a lot of patience. She can’t drive and needs help with basic tasks like bathing. At home, she gets around with a cane and uses a walker outside.
Her husband Jeremy, daughters Lily and Emma, and parents have stepped up to help Daubert through her recovery.
“It’s what moms do, and thank goodness we can do it,” said her mother Josie Sands, who lives nearby.
Daubert looks forward to regaining her independence and physical stability. She’s excited to return to work at Penn State Extension in Tunkhannock and do more with her family.
“I just want to get on with life. It’s been a long road and it’s continuing for a few more months,” she said. “It’s going to affect me for the rest of my life… This has totally changed me and my family.”
She thanked the first responders, law enforcement and community members who assisted at the scene of the accident, as well as the medical personnel, friends and family members who played a role in her recovery.
“We have a great community and I’m blessed to live in this town,” Daubert said. “I’m on my way to my new normal.”