Identical twin Carrie Krug, 18, of New Windsor doesn't travel anywhere these days without a 3-inch yellow seat belt securing her snugly in a hospital wheelchair, an image that casts a poignant perspective on the summerlong Maryland State Police "Buckle Up" campaign.
A worn lacrosse stick across the foot of her bed last month at Kernan Hospital in Baltimore was the only hint that Carrie is an athlete who played lacrosse and field hockey at Notre Dame Preparatory School in high school. She completed her freshman lacrosse season at Roanoke College in Virginia, where she achieved a 3.94 grade point average in Spanish and international relations.
By all accounts, Carrie is alive and mending because she buckled up after getting into her light-blue 1986 Thunderbird on May 1.
She has no recollection of a head-on collision with a tractor-trailer, or her 14 days of treatment at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. She must rely on her tight-knit family -- her parents, Fred and Donna, and her sisters, Kristen, 23, Katie, 21, and twin Courtney -- to tell her about that nearly fatal Friday morning.
State police said the Thunderbird, which was traveling south at 50 mph on Route 27 near Sams Creek Road, drifted across the center line about 9: 30 a.m. and struck the northbound tractor-trailer.
Trooper Jeff Partridge, a volunteer paramedic with Winfield Community Volunteer Fire Department, burrowed into the twisted steel encasing Carrie, tending to her for 37 minutes until rescue workers could saw away the car's roof and extricate her.
Partridge says unequivocally that, without seat belts, Carrie would not have survived.
Partridge accompanied Carrie on the frantic eight-minute MedEvac helicopter flight to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.
"Her pressure kept dropping, but she held on," he said. "No question, the seat belts saved her life."
State police records show that 69 of 173 people killed between Jan. 1 and April 10 were wearing seat belts and 94 were not. Seat belt use was undetermined in 10 deaths.
Investigators estimate that 45 of the 94 people who were not wearing seat belts might have survived if they had worn them.
Fred and Donna Krug believe it.
During the first hours at Shock Trauma, Carrie underwent surgery to remove a ruptured spleen. Her crushed right kneecap, left leg and left elbow and arm were surgically repaired and 10 metal plates and synthetic sutures were used to reconstruct her face.
Throughout that first week, Carrie was mostly unresponsive, but not comatose, Fred Krug said.
Zeina Khoury, Susan Lavin and Tammy McCourt were Carrie's nurses at the trauma center.
All three were surprised at Carrie's rapid progress, Khoury said. Carrie's condition was beyond critical when she arrived, Khoury said. "The internal bleeding from the spleen injury was the most immediate concern. As soon as the spleen was removed, attention turned to her massive head injuries.
"We think her head shattered the windshield and the glass caused the superficial lacerations," Khoury said. "That she had no spinal injury proves her seat belts were buckled up."
By May 10, Carrie was awake, but unable to speak because her mouth was wired shut.
Carrie returned home June 2, saying she couldn't wait "to see her cats and get outdoors."
Her immediate future is clear.
Carrie will be returning to the hospital for out-patient therapy and will have plastic surgery to repair facial scars this summer.
Ann Linz, a Kernan therapist working with Carrie to improve cognitive thinking skills, said Carrie's progress is well ahead of most patients who suffer head injuries.
"I'd say Carrie has a good chance of returning to college," she said. "All signs are looking great."
In the two-month "Buckle Up" campaign, state police are striving to get motorists to use seat belts by issuing tickets to those who don't obey the law.
More than 50,000 tickets have been issued statewide since Oct. 1, when Maryland's primary enforcement of the seat belt and child passenger safety law went into effect, meaning troopers need no other reason to stop a vehicle than seeing that a driver or passenger is not using seat belts.
"Carrie is living proof that seat belts should be worn," Partridge said.
Pub Date: 6/08/98