'I remember the moment of impact, but I don't remember feeling anything'
MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) It's been nearly two years since Tiffany O'Donnell lay next to her motorcycle on the asphalt of Highway 62, crushed by a small pickup making an illegal U-turn.
Then principal of Shady Cove School and Elk Trail Elementary, O'Donnell had just pulled onto the road leaving Elk Trail on Sept. 13, 2010, when the driver of a Nissan Frontier truck attempted to make a U-turn, colliding head-on with her and slamming O'Donnell and her motorcycle to the pavement.
The crash ruptured O'Donnell's bladder and caused multiple fractures in her pelvis and leg.
"I remember the moment of impact, but I don't remember feeling anything," said O'Donnell, who was told by doctors that her leg was almost amputated.
The truck's license plate had scraped down to the bone of O'Donnell's right leg, and the toes on her right foot were wrapped so hard around her brake pedal that all five had broken.
"I couldn't move," remembers O'Donnell, who was conscious as rescue crews arrived and transported her to Rogue Valley Medical Center in Medford, and finally Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, where doctors were able to save her leg from amputation.
The driver of the Nissan pickup, a 68-year-old Prospect woman, was cited for the illegal turn.
After 10 surgeries to repair her bladder and reconstruct her leg, and months of challenging physical therapy, O'Donnell returned for part-time work in Eagle Point schools later the same school year.
Last year, she served part time as administrator for the Upper Rogue Center for Educational Opportunities, the district's alternative school.
In April, she was cleared to return to work full time, and Sept. 3 was her first day of school as assistant principal at Eagle Point High School, a job she previously held eight years ago.
"I really like the team I'm working with," said O'Donnell, taking a break from meetings and school preparations last week to reflect on her recovery.
The position was offered to O'Donnell after former principal Allen Barber became district human resources director and former assistant principal Tim Rupp was promoted to principal, leaving the job open.
O'Donnell had been the principal of Elk Trail and Shady Cove for more than three years before her accident, and said she's looking forward to seeing her former students who are now at the high school.
"It was a pretty miraculous recovery," said Cynda Rickert, Eagle Point schools superintendent. "She's one tough cookie."
After her accident, the state's Occupational Safety and Health Division questioned the safety of motorcycle travel for district employees, as O'Donnell was traveling between meetings for work at the time of her accident.
The OSHD recommended the Eagle Point School District prohibit using motorcyles for work-related travel, and encouraged the school board to enact a policy.
The board mulled the recommendation, but ultimately felt that restricting which vehicles staff use would create additional problems, O'Donnell said.
"It didn't seem fair," said O'Donnell, who knows of other Eagle Point employees who also ride their motorcycles to work.
But even without a policy restricting the use of a motorcycle for work, O'Donnell said her days of cruising to campus on a bike are over.
Now 46, O'Donnell had ridden her first mini-bike at the age of 5, and had never been in any type of accident until the collision.
"I'm a passenger sometimes, but I don't think I'll be able to ride again," said O'Donnell, who doesn't believe she could physically control the weight of a large bike anymore.
Though her broken toes have healed, they don't function well, altering O'Donnell's balance, and making it difficult to run or carry heavy objects.
"It's been a long road," said O'Donnell. "I miss my motorcycle."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press