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Offenders hear from those in DUI-related accidents

July 27, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

Many parts of Terri Gable's body are now covered in scars, she has severe problems with short-term memory functions and her knees bend the wrong way if she is not careful when she walks.

Glenn Cook is wheelchair-bound, uses a laptop computer with a speaker to communicate to groups of people and vividly remembers his embarrassment about having a urinal bag with him at all times.

Those were the harrowing stories heard Thursday by about 90 people forced to attend a Victim Impact Panel meeting as part of their parole conditions.

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Gable and Cook were the featured speakers, the second panel meeting since April.

Gable said the meetings are designed to help persuade offenders from driving after using alcohol or drugs again in the future.

"You always have a tendency to think it can't happen to you, but it can and it does," Gable said.

Gable was hit head-on by a drunken driver about 12 years ago while taking her son to a soccer game. Gable spent six weeks in a coma, five months in the hospital, needed to have her spleen and part of her lung removed, sustained other injuries - 11 broken ribs, two destroyed knees and a crushed heel - and had pins put into her arms and legs.

"Imagine if you have an open wound and someone started digging at it with a Q-Tip," she said of the pins.

Gable said the emotional impact on her and her son also was draining.

"How awful that every time you talk to your mother for six years, you think of something like that," she said.

Gable still has lingering problems, including severe nerve damage, recurring migraines and the danger of her knee bending in the opposite direction if she does not walk with care.

At least Gable, unlike Cook, can tell her story in her own voice.

Cook addressed the crowd by typing into a computer, which generated a voice through a speaker. Cook said it is the only way most people can understand what he is saying, and he wanted people to know that "you never know when it is your time to mess up."

Cook said he did not learn a lesson years before when he was charged with driving while intoxicated.

"In 1982, I got a DWI, paid a fine and took some classes - big deal," Cook said. "It just taught me how to get around the law."

Cook was ejected through the back window of the passenger-side seat of a car about seven years ago, sustaining many injuries, including massive head trauma. Cook said he and a friend were on their way home after an evening of drinking in West Virginia.

Cook spent three months in a coma, years in rehabilitation, ate through a stomach tube for four years and still does not have use of most of his fingers. He said the most embarrassing part of his recovery was having to carry a urinal bag with him everywhere he went.

"It was convenience, but it took away my dignity," he said.

In the end, both just hoped the people in attendance would call a taxi next time they are out drinking.

"Look at my hands. Do you want to end up like this?" Cook asked the crowd.

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