Betty Jean Payton Hamilton was in Eminence running routine errands on May 21 when she suffered a life-altering accident.
The 76-year old New Castle resident had been to the bank and the grocery store, and stopped in at the pawn shop to chat with relatives.
Hamilton then went to Southern States where she was going to grab some gardening plants.
She decided to leave her car running with the air-conditioning on at Southern States. “I pulled up to the door at Southern States,” she said. “It was hot and I had some meat in the back.”
Hamilton thought the car was in park, but instead put it in reverse. “I got one leg out and it started rolling,” she said. “It kept rolling faster, faster and faster.”
The car crossed the road and impacted a telephone pole, severing Hamilton’s left leg.
Southern States employee Calvin Booth was loading mulch into a customer’s vehicle when the accident occurred. He rushed to Hamilton’s car and saw she was gravely injured. “She was hollering,” he said. “I tried to keep her calm.”
Booth said Hamilton obviously was going into shock, attempting to move and trying to exit the vehicle.
Hamilton said she tried to call her daughter, Bonnie Estes. But Estes admitts she ignored that first call. “I learned my lesson,” she said. “Always take your mom’s call.”
When Hamilton reached another daughter by phone, she told her she had run out of gas. “I was pretty out of it,” she said.
Booth stayed with Hamilton until emergency personnel arrived. “It seemed like forever,” he said, “but it was only about ten minutes.”
Booth said Hamilton was partially in and partially outside of the car. “She kept wanting to move,” he said, “but I didn’t want her to see her leg.”
After being flown to the University of Louisville Hospital, Hamilton learned she would lose her leg. “(The doctor) said there was just a few muscles holding it,” she said.
Though Hamilton didn’t want to lose her leg, she told the doctor “do what you have to do.”
Despite the serious injury, Hamilton has maintained a positive spirit. She told her family “I can’t say should’ve, could’ve. I did what I did and I just have to deal with it.”
Hamilton’s five children have been taking care of her. “I figured I must be really sick if all my kids are here,” she joked. Her 10 grandchildren all came to the intensive care unit, and plead with staff to let them in the restricted area. “They are the sweetest bunch in the world,” she said.
Now, Hamilton is at Frazier Rehabilitation Center in Louisville for intensive physical and occupational therapy.
“All of the staff at University said it was remarkable that she was moved in four days,” Estes said.
She said her mother has suffered a few setbacks. A blood clot on her lung, a drop in blood pressure and an infection in the leg led to a regimen of strong antibiotics and a modified rehabilitation schedule.
“There have been a few setbacks,” Estes said, “but she’s strong and never says ‘poor pitiful me.’”
The Frazier Rehab staff is putting Hamilton through her paces, a change after getting used to her treatment at the hospital.
“I told them I don’t get up until nine and order my breakfast,” Hamilton said. “They told me over here you get up at six, have breakfast at seven and therapy at seven forty-five.”
Hamilton should be home in less than two weeks and is feeling pretty good.
“I am going to get an artificial leg and I am going to walk,” Hamilton said.
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