January 3, 2010 12:13:00 AM
The left side of the 1997 Toyota Camry looks like a squashed bug.
What is left of the windshield is crumpled on the dashboard. An airbag hangs lifelessly from the steering wheel in front of a broken seat on the driver''s side.
That broken seat might have saved Rachel Hollivay''s life.
On a rainy, Sunday night last November, Hollivay, 16, was driving home with her friend, Sabrina Harris, in the front passenger seat. She admits she might have been going a little too fast for the conditions, but her speed didn''t alarm her until she lost control of the car going around a curve.
That''s when things took a scary turn.
Hollivay pushed the brakes too hard, which caused the car to spin out, to flip four times, and to hit a tree. The left side of the car crashed into a tree that caved in the doors and shattered nearly all of the glass in the vehicle.
Despite the damage, Harris crawled out of the passenger side, and Hollivay worked herself free. Both teenagers realized they were fortunate to be alive, but Hollivay''s anxiety was just beginning.
When medical personnel arrived, Hollivay didn''t realize glass from the driver''s side window had shattered and went into her left eye. She couldn''t feel the glass and didn''t know her left eye was closed until one of the people from the ambulance asked her, "What''s wrong with your eye?"
Hollivay looked down and saw blood all over her shirt.
"I thought it came from cuts and stuff. I didn''t know it was coming from my eye," Hollivay said. "The people told me it was coming from my eye. I wondered if I was going to play basketball again."
Two surgeries to her eye later, Hollivay is on the way back. The 6-foot-5 sophomore center for the New Hope High School girls basketball is wearing protective glasses when she plays, but her silky smooth moves are still the same.
Her vision in her left eye isn''t back to where it was before the accident, but Hollivay showed Wednesday she can still impact a game. She scored all 13 of her points in the second half, including a layup in the final minute, to help New Hope (9-5 through Friday) beat Brandon 61-60 in the Northwest Rankin Classic.
A member of the Clarion Ledger''s Dandy Dozen, which recognizes the top players in the state of Mississippi, Hollivay is trying to keep her progress in perspective while counting her blessings that neither she nor Harris were more seriously injured.
Harris, a senior at New Hope High, had a couple of scratches and still has pieces of glass in her arm.
"It has been difficult because I keep getting frustrated," said Hollivay, who had her driver''s license for about a year before the accident. "I wasn''t making the shots I used to make, but now I am getting back and I am getting better."
Another lesson Hollivay has learned from the accident is to be real about everything, to tell the truth, and to stay on the right path.
The first surgery to her left eye removed most of the glass. Her father, Ray, said the glass "filleted" Rachel''s eye and that she needed 32 stitches to repair the damage. The stitches made it difficult for the doctor to make sure all of the glass was removed from the eye.
It wasn''t until the second surgery, a four-hour ordeal that included a cornea replacement, that the specialist in Jackson discovered glass and pieces of windshield behind the eye.
Hollivay said she couldn''t see very much after the first surgery and had to wear a patch over the eye. She said she uses steroid drops on her eye and could see people if they were right in front of me. The surgeries have left her left eye lighter than her right one, but she said her peripheral vision is improving and she is gaining more confidence every day.
On Wednesday, she was in Jackson for a checkup and the doctor told her everything looked "wonderful." With 20-15 vision in her right eye, Rachel said she will take the next three months to see if the vision in her left eye improves naturally. If it doesn''t (her vision in the left eye is 20-70), she said she will examine the possibility of getting a permanent lens placed on her eye that she said should help her vision in that eye improve to 20-40.
Ray Hollivay said he hopes the eye heals naturally and that Rachel''s vision improves because it is unnatural to put a permanent lens on the eye. He also credited New Hope High girls basketball coach Laura Lee Holman for putting his daughter back into action as soon as she was available. She said that helped Rachel adjust and not have time to feel sorry for herself.
Rachel said she is working hard and that Holman is pushing the Lady Trojans hard in practice to be their best. She is excited about the team''s progress this season and is looking forward to doing all she can to help the team get back to the playoffs.
That would be quite an accomplishment considering things could have turned out much worse for Hollivay and her family.
"I pray about it every day," Hollivay said. "I am happy we have a new church that cares about stuff. I think about it every day and I am glad I wake up every day."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
rachel hollivay commented at 1/4/2010 8:14:00 PM: