Jessica Anderson, who earned an emergency medical technician certificate from Bates Technical College last summer, rattled off a laundry list of injuries.
They didn’t belong to some stranger involved in a motorcycle crash she’d helped by the side of the road. This mangled body she described so clinically was hers.
“I had a broken femur, a broken tibia, broken clavicle, and they had to fuse vertebrae five through nine …” the Puyallup resident said.
Her father, Dale Anderson, who used to be a Puyallup firefighter, recited an even longer list.
“She had six or eight broken ribs, her sternum was broken in two places, she had a concussion, cervical fractures, punctured lungs,” he said.
On July 26, Jessica Anderson was a passenger on a motorcycle speeding down Marine View Drive, riding behind her next-door neighbor with whom she had spent the day.
Anderson doesn’t remember the accident.
Others can’t forget it.
Not her father, who held her hand while Anderson lay unaware in a hospital bed, in a coma for 3½ weeks. Not her neighbor, the motorcycle rider who left the scene of the accident and now sits in jail. Not the witness who spent months dealing with what she describes as post-traumatic stress symptoms.
Tricia Garcia, a Tacoma resident who was driving home at 9 o’clock that summer night, saw it all.
“In my rearview mirror, I saw a motorcycle coming behind me pretty fast and they passed me, doing 65 mph or more,” she recalled. “I saw two passengers as they went by, and about five seconds later they were on ground – sand flying everywhere, and he’s sliding on the ground in front of me. I slammed on my brakes.
“I only saw one person then. I tried to dial 9-1-1 and was shaking so hard it took me a couple of tries.”
She and other bystanders got out to help.
The man on the motorcycle, Phillip Mack, 26, got up and walked toward them. He was bloodied with road burn, and took off his helmet.
“He was right in front of me, and then he was looking down at this girl by the light pole,” Garcia said. “People were asking, ‘What’s her name?’ and he said, ‘Her name is Jessica.’ ”
Among the passersby was a nurse who knelt down, peeled grass away from the front of Anderson’s helmet and took her pulse. Mack stood there a moment longer.
“He walked back toward his motorcycle,” Garcia said. “I thought he was going to move it out of the way.
“He got on his bike and took off. We couldn’t believe it.”
Calls poured in to dispatch, and the emergency response was swift. Anderson was taken to Tacoma General Hospital. Police took statements from witnesses. Within hours, detectives were looking for Mack.
At the hospital, trying to identify the young woman they were working to keep alive, a nurse found her cellphone and began dialing numbers. The first to answer was Dale Anderson, who was in central California on business.
“I called my wife and my parents, asked them to get to the hospital, then I started looking for a flight home,” he said. “It was one of the longest nights of my life.”
His daugher’s injuries were overwhelming, and doctors hoped that leaving her in a coma would help her body and mind recuperate. The family held a vigil, never leaving her alone.
“They would do these tests, call out her name and ask her to squeeze their hand,” Dale Anderson said. “Some days she would, and those were good days. Some days she wouldn’t.”
Supporters launched fundraising drives – car washes, bake sales, anything they could put together. Day after day, Jessica Anderson remained unaware of it all.
“I would hold her hand, and I’d wonder if I was ever going to see my kid again,” Dale Anderson said.
Twice, doctors tried bringing her out of her coma, hoping to remove her breathing tubes. Twice, her body wasn’t ready.
“When they tried to bring her up the next time, her eyes fluttered and she looked around,” her father said. “You could tell she didn’t know where she was or why, but what we weren’t sure of was whether she’d remember us.”
Within a few days, she was beginning rehabilitation.
“She’s young, she’s strong and she has will,” Dale Anderson said.
It took weeks, but his daughter kept progressing.
“The last week at Good Samaritan, they had me playing basketball with my dad, working on my coordination,” she said.
She has enrolled at Bates again. She wants to be a firefighter, and the school has kicked in a $1,000 scholarship. Her doctors call her a miracle baby.
Garcia, who saw the accident months ago, is astonished and happy.
“It looked so bad for a while, all those injuries, all so serious,” Garcia said. “For weeks after the accident, after just looking down at her on the ground, I’d see her face on every young woman I saw. I’d hear a motorcycle and flinch.
“When the accident happened, for all of us who saw it, the world stopped and nothing mattered other than Jessica’s life. That was our duty as human beings.”
Mack has been in jail since July 27, charged with vehicular assault and leaving the scene of an accident. He declined to talk about his case, and his attorney did not return telephone calls.
Understandably, Dale Anderson has a father’s view on the man accused of abandoning his daughter that night.
“People stop to help baby ducks on the side of the road,” he said. “(Mack) rode off and would have let her die there. I wrestle with that.”
Jessica Anderson tends bar in a Bonney Lake restaurant, making money for tuition. Asked about Mack, she shakes her head.
“I’m still seeing a psychologist I saw in the hospital,” she said. “I’m trying to work through all this. I still haven’t cried. I’m not angry – I don’t remember that day. I even went to the crash site, but it didn’t affect me.
“The only thing I know has changed is people tend to treat me as if I were made of glass. They’ll start to hug me and hold back. I tell them, ‘Hey, I’m the same person I was. You can hug me.’ ”
Larry LaRue: 253-597-8638