Her mother repeatedly tells Rebecca how grateful she is to not be going to a cemetery to visit her. Still, nearly two months after sustaining life-threatening brain injuries and in the midst of the depression and grief that follow such wounds, the 28-year-old tells her parents they should have let her die.
The young Chilhowie woman can’t give voice to the words – only write them.
She can’t even cry out or yell. Her tears are silent.
Monday, Rebecca’s father, Dewayne Mullins remembered how hard he and his wife pushed the doctors and nurses at the trauma center at Holston Valley Medical Center in Kingsport, Tenn., to keep their daughter alive.
Now, Dewayne said, “I tell her she’s beautiful.”
He’s grateful to community members for their prayers. Those, he said, and God gifting her physicians with their capabilities have brought Rebecca this far. He also appreciates the family friends and one of Rebecca’s teachers for visiting her. He said that she’d love to hear from friends.
Rebecca has a long road ahead of her, Dewayne noted.
On March 6, she and her sister were traveling on U.S. 11 near the Smyth-Washington County line when tragedy struck.
According to Corinne Geller, a Virginia State Police spokesperson, the crash happened at 3:30 p.m. on Highway 11 at Framer’s Lane.
A 2009 Ford F-250 pickup truck was traveling north on U.S. 11 when it stopped to make a left turn onto Framer’s Lane. A northbound 1974 Chevrolet E-16 truck failed to stop in time and rear-ended the Ford.
The impact of that crash pushed the Ford truck into the southbound lanes of Highway 11, where it struck head-on a southbound 2013 Subaru Outback, in which Rebecca, her sister and another individual were traveling.
While others sustained injuries, Rebecca’s were the most severe. The swelling in her brain left her in a coma for weeks. Though she’s home now, the young Chilhowie woman faces multiple surgeries, lengthy physical therapy and additional procedures.
Dewayne said she continues to breathe through a trach (an opening in the neck that creates an air passage) and has a feeding tube for nourishment. She lost sight in one eye and faces three additional facial surgeries for reconstruction. As well, she can’t talk. Her vocal cords were damaged, and her father said, may require surgical care.
Her still recovering brain produces constant headaches made worse by sunshine or the sound of a baby crying.
Three times a week she returns to Kingsport for follow-up care and, on other days, the family heads to Wytheville for therapy.
Then, there’s the depression. Her father said they explain to Rebecca that much of what she’s feeling comes from her head injuries, but he admits the explanations don’t help much.
Yet, he and his wife, Julie, are grateful for the progress they’ve seen. Their daughter, who doctors weren’t sure would survive, is home and arguing with them.
In an earlier interview, Julie described Rebecca as an outgoing and lively young woman, who loves to work on and paint cars.
A Go Fund Me account -- www.gofundme.com/mullinsstrong -- has been set up to help the family with expenses. Julie said Rebecca doesn’t have health insurance. Julie and Dewayne work as carriers for the Smyth County News & Messenger, Washington County News and Bristol Herald Courier. They expressed their gratitude to the people who have helped with finances, left them gift cards and lifted up prayers.
Dewayne said many people on their newspaper routes have left notes asking about Rebecca and expressing their concern.
He asks that especially the prayers continue. “We’re taking it one day at a time,” he said.
Anyone who would like to send a card or note may reach the family at 39168 Golden Glow Drive, Chilhowie VA 24319.
The driver of the Chevrolet truck was charged for following too closely. The truck he was driving was hauling logs.