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News / Health / Clark County Health

Family full of forgiveness after mom, children hit by car

Mom, children recovering from injuries after July incident

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter
Published: December 25, 2017, 6:04am
6 Photos
Melissa McAllister, left, watches as her husband, Guy McAllister, tickles their two sons, AJ, 3, and Christopher, 2, in their Vancouver home on Thursday. Melissa and her two sons were struck by a car while standing on a sidewalk in a nearby Safeway parking lot in July. This month, Melissa finally joined her family back home, after spending three months in the hospital and a skilled rehab facility.
Melissa McAllister, left, watches as her husband, Guy McAllister, tickles their two sons, AJ, 3, and Christopher, 2, in their Vancouver home on Thursday. Melissa and her two sons were struck by a car while standing on a sidewalk in a nearby Safeway parking lot in July. This month, Melissa finally joined her family back home, after spending three months in the hospital and a skilled rehab facility. Ariane Kunze/The Columbian Photo Gallery

Guy McAllister peeked into the bedroom and saw his wife and two sons sleeping on a makeshift bed on the floor.

The night before, the boys — 2-year-old Christopher and 3-year-old AJ — wanted to play, so Melissa McAllister plopped down on the bedroom floor with them. Early the next morning, before heading out for work, Guy found them still together on the floor.

It was a bright, Saturday morning in late July. The sun was filtering through the blinds. Melissa and the boys looked peaceful.

So Guy did something he never does. He pulled out his iPhone and snapped a photo.

A few hours later, Guy got a phone call that brought his world to a halt. Through stunned disbelief, Guy tried to process the news coming from the hospital worker on the other end of the line.

His family had been struck by a car. He needed to get to the hospital. No details about their injuries — or if they were even alive.

“That’s not possible,” he told the hospital worker, “they were walking to get doughnuts at the store.”

Melissa had planned to walk to the Safeway by their Walnut Grove house to get the boys treats. Guy later learned that his family was run over by a car as they stood on the sidewalk in that Safeway parking lot.

In the days that followed the accident, when AJ’s future was uncertain and Melissa was writhing in pain, Guy keeps coming back to the photo he took before heading to work that morning. Would that picture, he wondered, be the last photo of his family?

“I held onto that picture,” he said.

A fast car

Melissa McAllister doesn’t remember much about the accident.

Melissa, 35, had just pushed the stroller carrying Christopher and AJ out of the store and into the sunny parking lot. She stopped on the sidewalk to give the boys their doughnuts for the walk home.

While standing with her back to the parking lot, Melissa heard something: a fast car. Seconds later, Melissa and the boys were pinned beneath a Honda Accord.

“He just hit us so fast,” she said.

A good Samaritan jumped into action, grabbing a jack and hoisting the car off of the family. Melissa was taken by ambulance to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland. The boys, to Randall Children’s Hospital on the same campus.

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When Guy arrived at the hospital, he was under the impression his wife wasn’t badly injured. He quickly learned that wasn’t the case.

Melissa had four fractures in her pelvis. Her back was broken, as were several ribs. She was covered in bruises and lacerations. She had tire marks across her stomach. AJ’s condition wasn’t any better. The toddler suffered a skull fracture and concussion. He was on the brink of needing life support.

In the days that followed, Guy learned that AJ’s injuries were even more extensive. The impact of the collision not only caused severe brain trauma, but it tore his carotid artery in two places. He also had a stroke, leaving about 60 percent of his brain responsible for cognitive ability gone.

“By some miracle, he was able to get through that,” Guy said.

Christopher sustained only a concussion in the accident. Melissa said her body shielded her youngest son.

The driver

The McAllisters were told that an undiagnosed medical issue may have caused 18-year-old Babucarr Touray to crash his car that July morning. The Clark County Sheriff’s Office investigation is ongoing; a medical issue is among several possibilities being considered, said Sgt. Alex Schoening. Touray did not respond to The Columbian’s request for comment via Facebook.

Touray, the McAllisters learned, was a “good kid” who earns good grades, plays sports and comes from a good family, Guy said. That information prompted the McAllisters to dismiss the attorney they retained after the accident.

“We don’t want to hurt them anymore because there’s enough people that’ve been hurt by this,” Guy said.

Guy hopes to meet Touray and his family. He wants them to know he and his family have forgiven him. They’re not angry. They don’t blame him. And they don’t want this accident to derail his life.

“You have to have empathy for your fellow man,” Guy said. “We have to help him move on from this.”

The slow path

The family is finally moving forward, too, though the recovery continues for Melissa and AJ.

AJ’s future is somewhat unknown. The 3-year-old is still experiencing a slow bleed in his brain. The damage caused by the stroke may lead to cognitive issues as AJ gets older, but doctors are hopeful his young brain will be able to remap itself.

“He’s where a 3-year-old should be, but they don’t know his limit,” Guy said.

You Can Help

Donations to help the McAllister family pay for medical expenses can be made on the YouCaring website, www.youcaring.com/melissamcallisterajmcallisterchristophermcallister-892013

The right side of AJ’s body was impacted by the stroke. He couldn’t walk. He couldn’t talk or eat. His hand wouldn’t move. Slowly, those functions came back to him. AJ was released from the hospital in September. He continues weekly physical and occupational therapy to address lingering issues with his right foot and hand.

AJ is also still experiencing vision problems. Doctors hope the issue will correct itself in the coming months. If not, he’ll need surgery.

Despite those issues, doctors have been amazed by AJ’s recovery, Guy said.

“We thank God for helping us because there’s no explanation for what’s happened with AJ,” he said.

Melissa spent three months in the hospital and a skilled rehab facility before finally returning home last month.

She underwent surgery to have a 6-inch pin placed to support her pelvis. She also had an external bar for additional support; that was removed in mid-October.

Melissa was on her feet after the bar was removed, far exceeding doctors’ expectations. She’s still undergoing weekly rehabilitation.

“I still have pain every day, but not a lot of pain,” she said. “I can manage the pain — not like before.”

Guy took four months off from his job driving trucks for LTI, Inc. to care for his family. Guy returned to work earlier this month, and Melissa is back to caring for two busy boys.

Guy’s sister created a YouCaring fundraiser account, for the family, raising nearly $20,000. That money helped to cover bills while Guy was out of work.

The family also received an outpouring of support from the local community. Churches donated food. Safeway employees and customers contributed $2,500. Members of the local Filipino community brought food to Melissa in the hospital.

Now, the family is facing a mountain of medical bills and repeated calls from debt collectors. The hospitals and insurance companies are still sorting out the details, but the family expects to be on the hook for some of the costs. Once those bills are paid, the family hopes to begin setting aside money for future care AJ may need.

The last five months have forever changed the McAllisters’ lives. Despite the challenges they’ve faced — and those to come — they’re all together and home for Christmas.

“I have my family,” Guy said, “so it’s probably the best Christmas gift I could ask for.”

Columbian Health Reporter