The impact was catastrophic, leaving the vehicle unrecognizable and the lingering question of whether the driver was even alive. Within eight minutes sirens could be heard as an ambulance drove in and retrieved 69-year-old Larry Howell from the front seat, limp and unconscious.
“All I can remember is thinking that I needed to get home to put together scheduling for work and then seeing the truck come at me swerving,” said Howell. “I don’t remember anything after that until I woke up weeks later.”
Howell is a husband to his wife Denise and a father to his three children. He currently lives with his wife at Emeritus Assisted Living and until the accident was working as a general manager of Hite Security. It was on Jan. 14 when Howell’s life would be turned upside down. He was heading home early from work southbound on Interstate 77 and as he was passing Biosphere 2 in his Ford Crown Victoria, he saw a big pickup truck traveling in the opposite direction and swerving in and out of his lane. Howell tried to avoid the truck, but it was too late. The truck hit him head on – hurling Howell into layers of crumpled medal on the left side of the driver’s seat.
Following not too far behind the swerving truck was a driver who, before the collision occurred, was flashing his lights in attempt to wake up and alert the truck driver, but to no avail. The driver kept drifting on and off to sleep. Fortunately for Howell, the driver of the car was a paramedic who Howell will forever be grateful to for keeping him alive.
“I was up so far in the corner of the car that my neck was in a position where I couldn’t breathe,” said Howell. “I was very fortunate he (the paramedic) was there.”
The paramedic adjusted Howell’s neck and dialed 911. Howell was soon transported to University Medical Center (UMC) where he remained unconscious for the next few weeks. Howell’s only response came from movement behind his eyes and twitching from his fingers when doctors were testing his nerve response. He also suffered from fractured bones on his entire right side as well as hemorrhage in the brain. Fortunately, the damage to the brain has solely caused Howell to experience short-term memory loss on a more frequent basis. On Feb. 27, Howell was sent to Phoenix Care Meridian where he spent seven more months receiving care and eventually physical therapy.
As for the driver, his stay in the hospital after the accident was short and he was later fined for the damages in the collision.
The road has not been an easy one for Howell. Numerous fractured bones restricted him to his bed for months as his body slowly healed, but progress was being made, slowly but surely. In April, after much therapy and recovery time, Howell was able to walk with a walker and while in the hospital he wrote a letter thanking his family and friends for all their support.
“It was a personal letter but to a broad spectrum of people. His handwriting was exactly the same as it was before the accident and he has beautiful handwriting,” said Kendra Howell, one of his daughters. “That’s a moment that always sticks out to me. It was very emotional for me to read it.”
On Sept. 27, Howell was released from the hospital and sent back to his home in Tucson where he continues to go to therapy four to six times per week with the hope that the therapy will strengthen his ankle, knee and shoulder. His hope is that his story will remind people of how important and critical safe driving is on the road.
“I would never want anyone have to go through what I have,” said Howell. “It shows how a person’s actions can cause a bad or serious situation.”
Howell is immensely thankful for the support of his friends but especially his immediate family, which includes his wife, two daughters and son. When asked how supportive of a role his wife has played, Howell was brought to tears.
“I have a deeper appreciation,” said Howell. “All of this has given me more of an emotional side. I’ve been in the police force and air force and seen a lot of things, but this is different. They (his family) have all been a great support to me.”