Katie Potts was on her way home from a camping trip with her boyfriend last year when he accidentally fell asleep at the wheel while driving along the Coquihalla Highway, and the car veered off the road.
Potts, who just celebrated her 21st birthday this past May 9, was ejected from the vehicle and is lucky to be alive – thanks to a couple who decided to stop and help after seeing the pair desperately trying to flag down cars at the side of the highway – along the Larson Hill stretch.
Now, walking again and in better spirits, Potts has tracked down the couple that she credits with saving her life, and she is looking forward to meeting them in person.
Katie Potts was a passenger in a car that veered off the Coquihalla in 2021
The Maple Ridge resident was asleep in the front passenger seat of the vehicle at around 7:30 a.m., when, on July 11, 2021, just south of Merritt, she woke up to find herself on the grass, outside the vehicle.
She looked to the left and saw trees and when she looked to the right she saw water – she was confused.
Then she looked down at her legs and noticed that her right leg had been complete severed. She said, in the confusion, she tried to put pressure on her leg because she saw that she was losing a lot of blood really fast.
Then about a minute later, she said, she felt like her right hand was in a puddle. Potts had lost three fingers, along with half of her right hand. A fourth finger, her index finger, doctors would later manage to reattach.
She heard her boyfriend calling her name, but she didn’t have enough strength, at the time, to respond.
Nevertheless, he found her, picked her up and got her out of the ditch to the side of the road, where the couple madly tried to wave down a passing motorist.
“There was probably about five to seven cars that passed us before the people who actually stopped to help us came,” said Potts.
Marilyn and Jarrod Thomas were travelling from Salmon Arm to Vancouver to visit their daughter when they happened upon the accident scene.
Potts’ boyfriend, whose hand was also torn open in the accident, put her into the back seat of their car.
Marilyn, said Potts, was trying to keep her lips moist because she couldn’t drink water while Jarrod was trying to figure out some way to stop the bleeding.
The couple also attempted to find Potts missing leg and hand, but had no luck.
Potts estimates that it was after about another three minutes, that she told her boyfriend that he had to do something, that she felt like she was going to die, as she was drifting in and out of consciousness.
That’s when Jarrod pulled out his hoodie strings and he used one of them as a tourniquet for her leg and the other for her hand.
It was just after this when the paramedics showed up, followed by an air ambulance that flew Potts to Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster.
Potts would later discover that her back had been broken. She was told she was three millimetres away from being paralyzed.
The first surgery she had to have was upwards of 18 hours long, to fix her back with metal rods.
Her left foot had to be reconstructed, she also broke her left ankle, and broke her right elbow in the accident.
Potts would spend 53 days at Royal Columbian and undergo an additional 10 to 14 surgeries for her hand, her leg, and her back.
Now back at home, Potts knows that if Marilyn and Jarrod did not pull over, she may not have made it.
“Because I was losing way too much blood, way too fast, and the paramedics just wouldn’t have gotten there on time,” she said.
Currently she has a prosthetic right leg and has one more surgery to go before she will get a prosthetic for her right hand, as well.
Just recently she got a water leg and is looking forward to being able to, once again, swim with her niece and go boating.
Not long ago, her mother’s friend came to visit from Kamloops, and she offered to put a post online to try and find the couple who helped Potts that awful day.
After sharing it with friends, it only took 24 hours for Marilyn to see the post and respond. A few days ago, Marilyn and Potts talked over the phone to each other and are making plans to meet up in person this summer.
Potts described hearing Marilyn’s voice over the phone as the most heart-warming feeling.
“I was like, yep, that’s her, that’s my guardian angel, that’s the girl who was there taking care of me,” she said.
And, Potts added, the Thomases will always hold a special place in her heart because they took the time out of their vacation to pull over and help her.
“They really are angels just walking on this earth. There’ s no better way to explain it,” she said.
• The News has reached out to Marilyn and Jarrod Thomas for comment.
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