James Lawson was just doing his job on April 9, 2013 – the day his life changed forever.
A Virginia State Trooper, James was pursuing a suspect in Scott County, Virginia, in a high-speed chase. Seven minutes later, James’ car crashed into a dump truck.
James was airlifted to Holston Valley Medical Center’s Level I trauma center by the Virginia State Police's MedFlight helicopter. After a lengthy hospital and rehabilitation stay, he’s on the mend – but forever affected by his experience.
My name is James C. Lawson, and on April 9, 2013, my life was changed forever. I was involved in a high-speed pursuit in Scott County, Virginia, which reached speeds in excess of 100 mph. The pursuit went 19 miles in less than seven minutes and would end in a crash involving myself and the suspect – who was not injured.
I remember looking forward, and all I saw was a tree and a parked dump truck in my path. I only had a split second to make a decision, and that was to either hit the tree or truck head-on. I turned toward the truck, because I knew from my training the truck would give me some sort of cushion, but the tree would not.
I remember crossing my arms just before the impact and saying, "God, please help me." I struck the truck at an estimated speed of 100 mph.
I was airlifted to Holston Valley Medical Center by the Virginia State Police's MedFlight helicopter. I was unconscious and not responding to the emergency medical services. I can only remember waking up and my family telling me what was going on – but I couldn't see them. I could only hear their voices. When I finally saw my daughter, I had blurred double vision and saw two of her. That's all I remember until waking up later in the intensive care unit.
I'm thankful for the EMS, Virginia State Police MedFlight team and the emergency and trauma staff at Holston Valley for their quick response to my injuries and Dr. David Pryputniewicz’s rapid surgical response to my spinal cord injuries. Even though I am still partially paralyzed in my left leg, I am able to walk with a Bioness L300 control unit, which helps stimulate the nerves and muscles for me to walk and move around. Dr. Pryputniewicz suggested I consider rehab treatment at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia. I was transferred for eight weeks of intense rehab. Upon returning home, I continued to have more surgeries for my injuries and continued outpatient rehabilitation daily at 1st Step Rehab in Gate City, Virginia.
Before my accident I was a full-time Virginia State Trooper and assistant chief at Gate City Fire Department. Due to my injuries, I am now retired from the State Police but continue to serve in an administrative role as the assistant fire chief. My injuries have limited my abilities; and for that, my lifestyle has been changed forever. I would like to say a special thank-you to all of the individuals who helped and guided me medically, surgically, physically and spiritually during my times at Wellmont Health System, the Shepherd Center and during my recovery. The staff at Holston Valley and the Shepherd Center, 1st Step Rehab, First Baptist Church of Weber City, Scott County Lifesaving Crew, Gate City Fire Department, Virginia State Police, Scott County Sheriff's Office, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Sullivan County Sheriff's Office, Kingsport Police Department, Georgia State Police, Washington County, Virginia, Sheriff's Office, Virginia Department of Forestry are just a few, as the list could go on and on.
To my family and friends, there are no words that I could properly express for my gratitude and appreciation for all that was given and done for me. God has blessed me to continue my life in a different role, and for that, I am grateful. I LOVE YOU ALL. I would like to share with everyone a quote that is very meaningful to me: “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is the only choice you have.”
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