Whether it’s crossing the street without looking, or stepping gracelessly onto the wet bathroom floor after a shower, we all do little things that put us in danger. Unfortunately, you may only realize the trouble involved once you’re in a hospital bed…
For instance, on a long, tiring road trip, a 22-year-old Canadian college student did something she had done a million times before. Undertaking what she thought was a safe and simple position, however, nearly wound up costing her everything…
In August of 2010, 22-year-old Bethany Benson was just one year away from college graduation. She’d be leaving Eastern Canada’s Trent University with degrees in history and French, then tackling a teaching credential. That was the plan, anyway…
However, before Bethany’s final year at the university, she and her boyfriend Paul decided to drive their 2002 Pontiac Sunfire to Michigan for a short visit to her aunt’s house. It was on that trip home that Bethany’s life changed forever.
On August 2nd, Bethany and Paul sped down the busy highway. The two began trailing behind an 18-wheeler in their little Pontiac, not realizing the next instant would change everything.
In front of the truck, a small car and a motorcycle collided, killing the motorcyclist. To avoid the wreck the 18-wheeler’s driver slammed on the truck’s brakes—which Paul saw far too late.
He swerved, but couldn’t avoid slamming into the back of the truck. It would’ve been an understatement to say the car was totaled—nothing remained of the front end but a twisted metal wreckage. And the people inside?
The driver suffered cuts and gashes that required a hundred stitches to successfully patch up. Bethany, however, suffered injuries beyond imagination that were compounded because of what she was doing in the car when it made the impact.
See, on the long stretch of nothing between Michigan and Canada, Bethany grew uncomfortable in the car’s cramped front seat. So she did what anyone in her position would do when on an endlessly boring drive…
To get comfortable, Bethany put her feet up on the dashboard of the car. When the Sunfire smashed into the back of the truck, the passenger airbags deployed at nearly 200 mph!
With all the speed and force of a Formula 1 race car, the bags burst into her hamstrings, sending her knees directly into her face, negating the safety of the airbags altogether. You can probably imagine the injuries.
A broken eye socket, nose, and cheekbone. A dislocated jaw and a ruptured spleen. Her feet were so badly shattered that, afterward, her shoes were two sizes smaller. But that wasn’t even the worst of it all.
The impact wiped her memory. The promising student determined to be bilingual could now barely speak one language. Bleeding in her brain wiped out—or at least temporarily stifled—her career aspirations. She described her exact symptoms online.
She had sensitive hearing and mood swings; a short temper and migraines; bars and clubs were like torture to her and her tastes constantly changed. Her behavior became inexplicable and strange, too.
The new Bethany sent angry and inappropriate texts to people in the middle of the night. She was more naive. She had bursts of anger and bouts of depression, and it put a lifelong responsibility on her mother, Mary.
“I got back a different daughter,” said her mother Mary, seen below with a young Bethany. “I lost a sweet 22-year-old who worked full-time and put herself through university. She was on a great path. I got a 13-year-old with anger issues.”
Because of the injuries, Bethany had to live with her mother. “There will be no early retirement,” Mary said. “Bethany only has medical benefits through my work, and there’s no way I can let that go.” But amazingly, Bethany’s fighting spirit returned.
Bethany—who’d been an aspiring boxer until 2009—wasn’t quite ready to throw in the towel. In 2013, she channeled her power behind a big punch to make a difference in more than one way.
Bethany wanted to get her message out. “I always used to put my feet up” in the car, she told Toronto’s The Star. “It’s easier on the back if you have your feet up. I never even thought that it could be so dangerous.”
More impressively, Bethany finished college, injuries and all, eventually earning those bachelor’s degrees in both French and history. In 2015, she entered into the master’s program at York University for critical disability studies with a stellar purpose…
“I have many invisible disabilities now and many that someone my age should not have,” she wrote on her webpage. “I have faced many people judging me and making rude comments because I look ‘normal.'”
This encouraged her to focus on what she called “invisible disabilities” while in graduate school. She hoped to create campuses where students knew that just because someone wasn’t stuck in a wheelchair doesn’t mean they weren’t suffering.
Bethany’s life is a shining example of the dangers of putting your feet up on the dashboard. And it makes you wonder: what other things do we do every day that are actually putting us in real danger?