Side by side with friends in need

Island musicians gather to raise funds for accident victims.

It may be a long journey from accident to recovery, but for Vicky and Laura Spray, the road is lined with well-wishers.

“We’ve had many silver linings, many,” said Laura Spray, badly injured with her sister Vicky in a December accident on SR-305. “In terms of people, it’s been an amazing heartfelt journey because of the people who have come into our life because of this experience.”

Benevolent strangers brought meals, donated money and even retooled front stairs to accommodate a walker. A benevolent account, set up at American Marine bank under Spray Accident Fund, has helped with mounting bills, and now friends plan a musical benefit March 27.

“Fortunately we have friends like Side by Side, the group who’s organizing this benefit,” Spray said. “We’ve got a lot of angels out there working for us, that’s for sure.”

The sisters were hurt Dec. 9, when an oncoming tow truck crossed the center line, rolled over and crushed their Subaru Outback. While they have been advised by their attorney not to talk about the specifics of the crash, the aftermath is still vivid, both say.

Firefighters with the “jaws of life” pried open a door to free Laura, who landed at Harborview Medical Center’s helipad just 23 minutes after rescuers arrived at the scene.

For Vicky, freed only after the car’s roof was cut away, the wait was longer.

“When I didn’t have Laura to talk to, that’s when I really started to fall apart,” Vicky Spray said. “But the police were great and so were the Bainbridge Island Fire and Rescue people. This one firefighter, Dag Lilejquist, he got into the back seat and put his arms around me and talked to me the whole time.”

Vicky suffered a fractured skull and pelvis, while Laura’s left hand and foot were broken and she was encased in a body brace for a fractured spine.

The sisters shared a room for a week at Harborview, a circumstance that made early recovery more bearable. Then they were treated at Island Health and Rehabilitation for three weeks.

“The nurses and the nurses aids were fantastic,” Laura Spray said. “You’re in such a vulnerable state. I was in a body brace. Every type of movement, you need help. We felt they treated us with respect and compassion every time they came into the room.”

When the sisters were discharged, their North Kitsap homes had to be fitted with hospital beds, wheelchairs and walkers. Laura Spray was cared for by partner Jeannie Grassi, who took a month off from her work as a piano technician. Their mother cared for Vicky.

The sisters had their final surgeries on their hands last week, three-and-a-half months after the crash, and have begun outpatient physical therapy.

“That’s pretty challenging right now,” Spray admits.

Both can walk with a cane and are able to get out of the house, although they tire easily. Resuming cleaning houses – a business the two share – is still far off.

“We have a clientele we really love,” Laura said. “We don’t know what we’re going to do. We haven’t really talked about it. Right now we’re in a place where we’re focusing on healing and getting better and then we’ll decide after that.”

But with the ongoing challenges, have come unexpected, life-transforming gifts. The shared trauma and recovery has knitted the sisters even closer.

Vicky Spray has learned to journal, while Laura Spray turned a long-time interest in writing toward penning works that include poetry about Tricia Cook, the compassionate stranger who, arriving first on the accident scene, stayed to help.

The crash has also and has promoted a shift in personal priorities, the sisters say, to value the people in their lives even more.

“It’s made me more open,” Vicky Spray said, “and less afraid to ask for help. Seeing people and their compassion has been incredible.”

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