Feb. 16, 2019 is a day Karli Mathis will never forget.
Mathis said her cellphone rang that afternoon with her sister, Katee, on the other line. Odd, she thought, since the two usually text back and forth. She knew something could be wrong, but she couldn’t have imagined this.
Karli’s parents, Rick and Nancy, had been riding their motorcycle in a mountain town near where they live when a truck pulled out of a fast food parking lot.
The truck driver never saw the oncoming motorcycle. Instead of merging into the closest lane of traffic, the driver cut over two lanes and hit the couple with nearly full force.
“It wasn’t the corner (of the truck) that hit them,” said Brian Finn, a process engineer and Karli’s fiance´. “The driver had almost completed his turn and side swiped them. It wasn’t truck into bike, it was truck into person.”
Although the motorcycle itself came out with little damage, the accident was devastating. Nancy was released after five days in the hospital with a torn MCL, dislocated shoulder, severe bruising on the right side of her body resulting in bruised lungs, as well as a broken thumb, shoulder and ribs. She suffers from PTSD, panic attacks and plays the injury over and over in her mind. Nancy will suffer from back problems the rest of her life from the accident.
Rick was even worse off. He has no recollection of the accident due to a severe, traumatic brain injury. He had also suffered a broken tibia, and his fibula was broken in several places. He shattered his hip and had a broken nose, cheek, wrist and several fingers.
The day following the accident, Rick went into surgery and had a rod placed in his lower leg and 30-pound traction put in to stretch his hip and pull his leg down back into place.
Three days later, it took two specialists over four hours to pick through the multiple bone fragments around his hip. He needed a hip replacement, but due to all of the fragmented bone, nothing left to attach an artificial hip to.
“It’s extremely life-changing,” Karli said. “I think I’ve finally accepted it and I try to look on the bright side because I still have them here and I’m extremely grateful for that.”
Karli said she’s mostly gotten through the sadness of the accident, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty more to think about.
“We’re getting to the point where it’s ‘Uh oh, what will we do now?’ because they’re only in their early 60s and they can live by themselves but they can’t mow the lawn,” Karli said.
Karli and her sister reluctantly started a GoFundMe page for their parents. The page has a goal of $7,500 to cover bills and life expenses, and had raised 5,980 by June 14.
“My sister and I were tossing the idea of starting the page around when my mom got out of the hospital a week after (the accident) and we started to realize this isn’t just a broken leg,” Karli said. “We realized he won’t be able to go back to work in the next month or two at least.
“We were expecting maybe close friends and family, but there are people on there that I don’t even know. This sounds corny, but to say this has upped my faith in humanity, it truly, truly has.”
A leap of faith
Brian is from Ohio, but took a job in Orlando, Fla. a couple of years ago. Karli had been in the Orlando area all of her life.
Two years ago, the two were happy in their corporate careers, but decided to give online dating a try around the same time.
Brian didn’t have to wait long to find Karli. Once they met for their first date, they were nearly inseparable.
Brian works in a field where jobs can be tough to find, and when he landed a dream job, he knew he had to take it.
“I approached Karli and said, ‘Look, I know we’ve only just started dating, but we’re spending every minute together and I can’t say no to this job,” Brian said. “I asked her to come with me.”
Karli agreed, saying she was confident she could land on her feet if things didn’t work out, but willing to give the new relationship a try.
The couple moved in together in Charlotte and were shortly thereafter engaged to be married.
It all changed in an instant
The couple had been hard at work planning the wedding.
But when the accident happened, naturally everything changed.
“I will say it put a strain on our relationship,” Brian said.
Karli, out of necessity, started going to the Asheville area every other week to check on her parents. Karli’s sister, Katee, is also a frequent visitor.
One such weekend, Karli missed Brian’s birthday, although she did send Buffalo Wild Wings from afar.
They have also spent the most time they’ve ever spent apart, but when Brian is able to travel with Karli, they lose a wedding planning week.
They have spent a chunk of their own wedding fund on medical bills, but Brian said it has expedited his getting-to-know period with Karli’s parents as he’s spending long hours with them during their recovery.
The wedding will go on … for Dad
Brian said the couple discussed putting off their wedding, but it has become a milestone for Rick, who was finally released after three weeks in the hospital and two more spent in rehab.
“We talked about pushing the wedding back for a huge variable number of reasons, but he’s been so driven to hit that target date to walk her down the aisle so we didn’t see how we could,” Brian said.
Rick has made some progress with the help of a hemi walker.
“He’s walking with the walker,” Karli said. “He’s going to have a severe, severe limp and he probably won’t be able to walk again without the use of a cane and/or a walker.”
That’s fine with Karli, who wants her dad – maybe now more than ever – to be able to walk her down the aisle at her October wedding.
Karli has an idea of how she’ll feel on her wedding day with her new husband and father at her side.
“It’s going to be triumph,” she said. “It will almost be like this tried to stop us, but it didn’t. It’s a ‘Rocky’-type omen.”
Want to help?
Karli and her sister are raising money for the medical bills the family has accrued as a result of the accident. The donation page is www.gofundme.com/lifechanging-auto-accident. θ