IU Health Methodist Hospital

A serious crash leads to career in nursing and a miracle baby

Patient Story

Donna Blackwell Cox has spent years on the road to recovery following a horrific car accident. Now, not only is she caring for others as a nurse at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, she also has a little one to look after.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

It was cold and it was dark. Donna Blackwell Cox remembers the bright lights from the ambulance and waking up inside a LifeLine helicopter. Everything else was a fog.

It was her senior year at Indian Creek High School in Trafalgar, Ind. For the most part, the year had been uneventful. Cox spent her days working at a local orchard. She was headed out on that Friday night in 2002 to hang out with a friend. She stopped her blue ’92 Chevy Cavalier at an intersection on State Road 135, preparing to turn left.

In a matter of minutes, her life changed. A pickup truck rear-ended Cox’s vehicle thrusting her car into the path of a Crown Victoria. Her vehicle was t-boned.

“I was sitting there watching and when I was rear-ended I kept wondering, ‘does he see me?’ The last I remember is my car becoming airborne and landing in the southbound lane of 135,” said Cox, the daughter of Ernest and Cindy Blackwell.

Her father and younger brother came to the scene; her mother was leaving the grocery store when she saw a LifeLine helicopter hovering overhead.

Cox remembers few details – waking up in the helicopter and asking what happened, and arriving in the emergency room at IU Health Methodist Hospital where she didn’t wake up for four days.

“They told me in ER that they were going to ask me questions but I wasn’t to move my head. They did all sorts of scans and at one point I noticed a priest in my room and thought it was the end,” said Cox.

Her injuries included a concussion, collapsed and bruised lung, and fractured pelvis. She later learned that the back seat of her car had wrapped around her head and the passenger seat had broken in half causing severe injuries to her pelvis and lungs.

“After the accident I did so much physical therapy. They couldn’t operate on my hip to put it back in place because I had so many infections, so they let the bones repair themselves,” said Cox. To date she has completed six rounds of physical therapy. She was out of school for four months causing her to miss her senior prom. A neighbor tutored her every night keeping her on track to graduate with her class.

After high school she started working at the Trafalgar Volunteer Fire Department and obtained training as an advanced EMT, and firefighter while attending nursing school. She worked for the fire department for 10 years and also worked at IU Health Methodist Hospital caring for heart and lung transplant patients. The last four years she worked as a dayshift coordinator. During her time as an EMT she met a paramedic at a train crash. She and Randy Cox were married in 2009.

Last year she took on a new role with IU Health – working as an associate administrator for Riley Hospital. She is back in school working toward a master’s degree in nursing leadership. She has two older sisters who are nurses – one, Amanda Bell, works in PICU at Riley.

In February of 2015 she had another unexpected surprise – a miracle of sorts. Her son Jameson was born. As a reminder of how far she has come, Cox wears a “LifeLine” emblem on her nursing badge. She flips through the pages of a photo album with images depicting the horrific crash. She also takes her son on school activities where LifeLine staff members are present. She says he is obsessed with firefighters, police officers and EMTs.

“They initially said I wouldn’t be able to carry the weight of a child,” said Cox. She was on bed rest for eight weeks and delivered her son by C-section. She continues to have a lot of pain in her hips but says she is thankful to be alive.

“Before the accident I had no idea what I wanted to do. The accident taught me so much about compassion. I know exactly what it’s like to be scared and alone and questioning the outcomes,” said Cox. “I’ve been at the bedrail and the bedside. I’ve worked with some amazing doctors and team members who have brought me to where I am today. The care I received that night brought me to where I am today.”

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