By Elisa Villanueva @BBElisacats
Monday through Friday students commute to Las Positas. Some from the Bay Area, some from the valley and for some, even further. Students get up as early as four in the morning to make it to class due to congested traffic on highways, such as the Altamont Pass.
Marketing major Haley Kreeft was one of these students. During this past fall semester, Kreeft would drive her cousin Paul Conlon and herself from Tracy to Livermore for an 8 a.m. biology class at Las Positas every Wednesday.
On Sept. 21, 2016, however, Kreeft and Conlon were unable to make it to class.
What was supposed to be a normal day, Kreeft drove her 2005 PT Cruiser towards the end of the Altamont Pass into Livermore off of Greenville Road.
The rest went blank.
Kreeft had crashed her car into the guardrail on the freeway. The end of the guardrail went through Kreeft’s PT Cruiser and amputated the lower half of her left leg. Her right ankle was also crushed from the impact of the crash.
“I can remember looking down and not seeing my leg there,” Kreeft said, “and that’s all I could look at.”
Conlon was left with a cut on his left leg, which was later patched up with stitches.
“It all happened within minutes,” Kreeft said. “Neither myself or my cousin remember anything that happened. We just remember the impact.”
Other commuters who saw Kreeft’s car on the side of the road pulled over to help. One bystander, an off-duty EMT, assisted in getting Kreeft out of what was left of her car. The EMT was able to wrap up her severed leg and stop the bleeding until paramedics arrived.
Kreeft was rushed to Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley where doctors were ready to prep her for surgery. “When I was getting ready to go into surgery, both of my legs were going to get amputated,” Kreeft said. “But when they touched my nerves, everything was still moving.”
“Just by luck, one of the top surgeons in the country for limb recovery (Dr. Adam Warren) happened to be there saying hi to friends,” Kreeft said.
Dr. Warren was able to perform Kreeft’s 12-hour surgery to reattach her left leg.
Kreeft was later brought to plastic surgeon Dr. James Kim, who took a muscle from her back and attached it to her left leg and reconstructed it. For two months, Kreeft was transferred between Eden Medical Center and Kaiser in South Sacramento, where she had a total of eight surgeries to fully reconstruct her legs.
After undergoing the surgeries, Kreeft had recovered rapidly and started to walk again.
“My last surgery (Oct. 11) for the complete reconstruction of my left leg was a success,” Kreeft said. “Just a month after, I was standing on my left leg and was able to walk on both legs a couple of weeks later.”
Kreeft’s doctors and physical therapist had originally estimated her to start walking six to seven months after her last surgery, so her fast recovery shocked them all. She was the miracle survivor.
Through the trauma, Kreeft was still able to keep a positive attitude.
“I had a five percent chance of living, I was seconds away from dying,” she said. “I always felt like it was going to be OK. I never felt like anything was going to go bad.”
Kreeft, who is known by her friends as humorous, also said that she didn’t cry during the accident, “I was still making jokes!”
Although Kreeft is a marketing major, she is also very involved with the Las Positas’ theater department. Kreeft said that a majority of the department was in the emergency room when they found out about her accident.
“They saw me any chance they got, she said. “It was nice having such a tight community be there for me.” Having good support from her friends and family the whole time helped her remain positive.
After taking almost a year off from school, Kreeft will be starting back at Las Positas over summer, taking online courses. “I don’t plan on physically going to school until (next) spring, when I’ll be able to drive again,” she said.
Kreeft is anxious to get back on her feet to go out and have fun with friends and family. “I was ready when I got out of the hospital,” she said. “I kept asking, ‘OK, so what are we doing? Where are we going to go?”
As of now, Kreeft’s right ankle is completely healed and her left leg is 75 percent healed. She walks around with the support of either a cane or walker.
Although the reason for her crash remains a mystery, Kreeft’s doctors are now going to conventions and sharing her miracle story.
“They’re telling other (surgeons) that you don’t need to just resort to amputation,” Kreeft said. “If you have a doctor that wants to work with you, they will try their best.”
“I lucked out with having really good doctors through it all.”
If Haley Kreeft has proven anything, it’s that the fight is worth it. She plans to be fully recovered by this September.