Thursday, April 29, 2010

Update 4/29/10 Day 171

Dear friends,

As warned, this is a long post. It is simply a transcript of the victim impact statement I delivered today when Oscar Lewis was sentenced to 3-9 years in prison. There is much to say about today, but not tonite. Here goes:

On November 8, 2009, the life of my family changed forever. That change plowed into us like a hurricane, and the wind continues to blow.

It was an unusually warm day for November. I was working my part time evening job at Albany Medical Center, when my friend called me at work to ask where my husband was to pick up our 12 year old son from his afternoon of playing with his buddy. I was surprised Stephen hadn’t arrived – he was almost an hour late. That simply never happens. I was unable to reach him, or my 14 year old daughter Hannah, on their cell phones. My older son wasn’t answering either. Finally I called my neighbor to go to my house and see what the problem might be. She arrived to find an East Greenbush police officer at my door. At about 6:30 I got the call. Stephen was on his way to Albany Med via a rescue helicopter, and Hannah, who had simply wanted to ride with her dad to pick up her brother, would arrive by ambulance.

The next few hours are difficult to describe. Both my dear ones were intubated, unconscious and catastrophically injured when they arrived at the hospital. My 14 year old had a frontal lobe subdural hemorrhage, which is a serious brain injury, an orbital fracture over her left eye which would ultimately necessitate surgery, a liver laceration, and multiple cuts and abrasions requiring sutures on her face, legs and hands. She also lost 2 front teeth, and another 2 had to be removed in December because they were loose. Hannah was in a coma, and no one could tell me when, if, or how she would wake up. Stephen arrived having lost an enormous amount of blood. Medical personnel struggled to keep him alive as his blood pressure dropped to 50 in the ER. Nurses squeezed blood from packaged units into his body to pump it into him quicker than he bled out. Dr. Dailey finally came out to tell me he wasn’t sure if Steve would make it through the night.

Stephen’s injuries included a punctured lung, 2 broken legs, 2 broken pelvis bones, a broken right shoulder and elbow, broken right foot, and multiple lacerations. He also sustained a concussion. His legs, elbow and foot fractures were compound and external, putting him at serious risk for infection.

Meanwhile, my two boys, 16 and 12, in the care of wonderful people, worried, wondered and waited.

I will not go into all the terrible details of the next few weeks and months. A book could be written about the threat of death, amputation and infection to my husband. As for my daughter, there are no words to adequately describe the agony of brain injury, or the combination of pain and hope as I watched her emerge with the usual impulsiveness this type of neural devastation brings to the surface. Her emotions were completely flat, she picked mercilessly at her scabs, she endured the pain of extubation, IV’s, medicine side effects and confusion and fear. She lost 2 months of school, and has permanent scarring on her face and legs. Her 4 front top permanent teeth are gone for good. By the great mercy and grace of God, she continues to make her way back, with personality changes and relational changes that are heartbreaking to her father and me. But we hold out great hope. And we love her more than we can say.

Stephen was intubated in the ICU for 8 days. He received 4 major orthopedic surgeries in 16 days. He was fitted with an external fixator, which was on his right leg until January 21. He was not able to bear weight on his leg until February 4th. He did not walk for 3 months. He has a large skin graft on his left leg and a rod in his left tibia. His left leg is permanently shorter than his right. His right femur is fitted with a permanent internal fixator, and his right foot is also full of pins and screws. His right elbow has lost function, is loaded with metal, and according to doctors will never fully bend and extend. He continues to receive therapy for all of his injuries, and unfortunately his risk for arthritis is sky high. He has pain and stiffness every day, but his attitude is outstanding.

Officer Ernie Tubbs informed me that awful night at Albany Med that it was an intoxicated Oscar Lewis who had crossed the yellow line while driving his 6600 pound truck 70 miles an hour at 5:15 on a Sunday afternoon and nearly killed my husband and daughter. This is not hyperbole. These are the stubborn facts. Mr. Lewis’ decision to get in his vehicle with a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit has meted out consequences on my family. These consequences are forever.

It was important to me to tell the truth here about what has happened as a result of this crime. I have not exaggerated the harm done by the crash on November 8. If anything, I have left out mountains of details on the sufferings of not just Stephen and Hannah, but of my boys, our extended families and friends. I don’t know if Mr. Lewis was aware of any of this prior to this court sentencing. But there is more to say as well.

I do not hold any anger or hatred in my heart toward Oscar Lewis. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I have been forgiven greatly in my life. Because of God’s mercy to me, I freely extend forgiveness to Oscar Lewis. My great hope for him is that he will find the love of a kind and forgiving God as he pays the price our state requires for his criminal actions. I will pray for his freedom from alcoholism, from guilt and from shame. Perhaps, like me, he would give anything to turn back the clock. I don’t know if he is sorry or not. I know I wish no ill to this man. I have no malice or vengeance toward him at all. But there is a great deal of difference between vengeance and justice. That is why I both forgive Oscar Lewis, and support his incarceration.

No amount of time in prison will rewire my daughter’s brain. It will not make her scars disappear, or give her back her original smile. No one really knows the long term affects for her either. Jail time will not grow Stephen’s leg back or enable him to cast a fishing line, or run on the beach with his children. Justice on planet earth is rough. But imagine living in a world where there were no consequences for breaking the law? We would be like a corrupt, third world country where power is to the strong and innocent people have no earthly recourse. Justice is a beautiful and righteous virtue. It is our laws, with all their earthly limitations, that will hopefully protect Oscar Lewis’ children from the ravages of drunk driving. I pray he will never have to experience with his loved ones what I have with mine.

Though the impact of this crime on my family has changed our life paradigm permanently, I must add that it has also shown us the power of love in ways we could never have imagined. People in this courtroom, people across the country, indeed over the ocean, prayed, helped and cared for us and continue to do so. To them I owe a debt of gratitude I can never repay. As I have said before to all of them, I can’t pay it back, but I will do my very best to pay it forward.

To Oscar Lewis, I say there is hope for your future. You will lose your freedom, but you need not lose your soul. The Great One loves you, and will forgive any transgression. If you want to know Him, if you need Him, you have only to ask. The choice, like it was on November 8, is entirely up to you. It is my sincere desire to see your life changed for the good, and raised up from the ashes. To see you completely restored and ready to live the life your Creator meant for you to live. I know with God’s help, this can be.

That's it, my dear friends. This was a big hump to go over on the pilgrim road. This part, anyway, is officially in the rearview mirror. I'm dead tired. Goodnight.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,



Susan said...

Sleep well, and let our prayers hold you up as you rest.

I pray for Oscar Lewis, too.

Well done, Loriann.



Anonymous said...

Wonderfully said, Loriann.

You all are more than victims. You are victors. Through Christ, you are more than conquerors. You are making your way through this battle. There is some more healing that is needed, but the worst is over.

We are proud of you. So is God.

We love you.

Lorraine & Ernie

Anonymous said...

First, belated Birthday greetings to Hannah. Best wishes for all our wonderful Heavenly Father has in store for this precious young lady. Secondly, well done indeed! I'm glad that this day has come & gone for you and has relocated to your rearview mirror. Thirdly, your words continue to inspire, encourage, teach, lift up and among many other things, provoke good works in us all. It and you & your beautiful family are blessings touching many a life, no doubt. God bless you all. Sue Cummings

Anonymous said...

Well done and well said!!!

Enough said - by me!

God will honor you and continue to lift you!!
All our LOVE,
Pastor Gordy and Girls

Larry Tarantino said...

Thanks, LA, for sharing with us your moving "victim impact statement"; its description of the horrible events and your thoughts, conclusions and wishes are direct, clear, honest and, amazingly, without malice. You are indeed a great human being, LA. And Mr. Lewis is lucky that he has the law of our land that grants him a second chance. Imagine that. God is forgiving; not all human beings are. There was once a time, many, many years ago in my old neighborhood of lower Manhattan, when there lived a small group of very powerful men who both judged and enforced their own version of the law. I did not know these men but I and everyone knew of their existence and their absolute autocratic body of power. I could hardly imagine the severe punishment the perpetrator of such a terrible crime would have received. Today, under our laws, Mr. Lewis is given a second chance. As are many of the men and women who take the lives of innocent men, women and children. But on the day of judgment, when they stand before God, and He asks them why did they kill one of his true miracles, what are they going to say?

Anonymous said...

I was just reading this after my dad recommended it to me. I read it, and I'm glad I did. I don't know if I could ever forgive someone who did that to me or my family, but I've just been taught a lesson. Best wishes to Steve and Hannah, and Good Luck on the red road.

Dan Petrillo

Anonymous said...

Words spoken from the heart with grace and without malice. You are indeed a source of strengh and inspiration to many. Although this day is finally behind you, the journey continues. Thank you for sharing not only your impact statement but you love and devotion to Him. I pray for the continued healing of the Smith family.

TGS said...


Chris Cloutier said...

Loriann- This was a bug hurdle to jump. well done. I will pray for Osar lewis too.

Anonymous said...

Once again, you are an inspiration to me. We continue to lift your family in prayer, as well as all those involved in the rescue and treatment, and Mr. Lewis & family.
Thank you for sharing from your heart each day and encouraging your readers! Pamm Kuhl

TGS said...

I just re-read this. Powerful stuff.