Hit head-on by a drunk driver

In February of 2013, I was headed home to Deforest on Hwy 51 and a drunk driver came into my lane hitting me head on. The impact often replays in my head when I’m in a car. I was 10 weeks pregnant.

The drunk driver lost his life and it would have been his 4th OWI. I was pinned in my car as my driver’s side tire had crushed my left foot. I remember feeling so terrified, the smoke and chemicals from the airbags made me think my car was going to start on fire and I couldn’t get out. Other drivers pulled over, but no one came to me as I was screaming out my window. I had no idea what had happened and all I could think about was losing my child. Eventually, a sheriff arrived and then they used the jaws of life cut my vehicle, and got me out. I was very lucky.

I had emergency surgery and was put under general anesthesia and had to take narcotic pain meds. My only injuries were 3 shattered metatarsals, a broken and dislocated talus (ankle) bone of my left foot. I had 2 plates and 14 screws placed in my foot to put it back together. My surgeon said he had to collect all the bone pieces and then piece them together to make a bone from point A to point B.

In the hospital, I waited for days wondering when and if I would miscarry. I never did. Today, she is a spirited 3 year old who reminds me every day of what I could have lost.

I spent the next 12 weeks unable to walk and every time I did need to move my foot would get this intense pressure, feeling as if it was about to explode. I woke up in night sweats after nightmares of the impact and me being unable to get out. Sheets completely soaked and I would scream and wake my family. I couldn’t have the hardware removed until I delivered my miracle. For 9 months I was either in a cast or a boot, with crutches. I had graduated from nursing school 2 years prior. 4 years later and I deal with chronic pain everyday. I was unable to return to my job that required so much waking and was recently blessed with a job working for my local school district as a nurse, where the patients mostly come to me. I went through a deep, dark depression and struggled for a long time, requiring 3 different mental health medications to get me through.

Today, I wear a semi colon tattoo on my wrist to show mental health issues are real and can happen to anyone. While I never thought about suicide, I struggled with PTSD, my life completely changed and not understanding what to do. When all the sirens, casts were gone, I was left with so much to deal with. On the outside I looked healthy but inside I was full of pain and feelings I didn’t understand. Today, I am doing much better.

I have come to accept a life of pain and refuse to take narcotic pain meds. I have went through a ton of PT and finally found a doctor who has made a difference in my pain by injecting my scars to loosen them up. These painful procedures have come from heaven as has this doctor. This week my provider and I presented to a committee with my insurance to appeal their denial to cover prolotherapy for my foot. Although they cover knees and elbows, they don’t cover ankles. They denied it again. I don’t drive much and when I do, it’s a pretty big deal. It was struggle to get me in the car, home from the hospital. We bought our house 2 months before the accident moving from Madison and after the accident I told my husband we had to sell and move back, I couldn’t drive 51 again. Luckily, they have changed it to have 2 lanes each way separated or I would have continued my move plan. I’ve lost friends, a job and other things as a result of my pain. But I am blessed to be here as so many don’t make it.

Colleen Ehle

Our Visit to the State Capitol

Today we were at the State Capitol where we met with Rep. Jim Ott, Assembly District 23 (pictured above) and Rep. John Jagler Assembly District 37.

Rep. Jim Ott has worked many years to get tougher OWI laws in Wisconisn. In fact, one of his bills passed last year made 4th offense OWI a felony.

This session, he has introduced Assembly Bill 97 relating to mandatory periods of confinement for homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle and providing a criminal penalty (which has been referred to the Joint Committee on Finance); Assembly Bill 98 relating to court orders regarding the installation of an Ignition Interlock Device and providing a criminal penalty (which has passed the Assembly Floor and is now on its way to the Senate); and Assembly Bill 99 relating to committing a fifth or sixth offense related to operating a vehicle while intoxicated and providing a criminal penalty (which has been referred to the Joint Committee on Finance).  He’s hoping to get AB 97 & AB 99 on the schedule in June.

We can see that he genuinely cares about the issue. With Wisconsin being known as the drinking state, he has an uphill battle. Not many lawmakers want to tackle the issue.

Our next stop was Rep. John Jagler’s office. We had a good conversation with him.  He understands our frustrations.  We can tell he’s not quite as supportive as Rep. Ott on certain issues pertaining to OWI legislation. We brought up Ignition Interlocks which we really couldn’t tell if he’s for them or against them. He does not support Sobriety Checkpoints. He says, “The agencies I’ve talked to and the officers I’ve talked to just said that is not, that they would rather be out more in force with massive sweeps of officers spread out looking for them rather than a checkpoint situation.” We do plan on meeting with law enforcement officials to get their perspective on Sobriety Checkpoints since 38 states do allow them.  Rep. Jagler said, “I get your passion on this stuff, but you see how hard it is to pass common sense stuff that we have right now.”

After leaving Rep. Jagler’s office, we went to Rep. Jimmy Anderson’s office.  He was not in, but we did have a good conversation with one of his staffers who advised us that Rep. Anderson will be coming out with some OWI legislation soon. After that, we thought we would see if Senator Chris Larson was in since he was one of the senators that contacted Marla. He was not in, but we did talk with Nick Janis, Policy Analyst/ Outreach Director in Sen. Larson’s office. He was very informative and advised us on what Sen. Larson would be pursuing on OWI legislation. Nick will definitely be a good contact person for us in Sen. Larson’s office.

So overall, I would say we had a good day at the State Capitol. We would have liked to stop by to talk with more Reps/Senators, but we were running short on time. I have a feeling that we will be spending a lot of our time at the State Capitol.

Caralee Butzine

Facing the Drunk Driver That Killed Our Loved Ones

Today was an especially hard day for all of us.  Brysen Wills, the man that chose to drive drunk the night of November 2, 2016 which consequently killed Clenton Hall, Katey Pasqualini, Kim Radtke and Patrick Wasielewski was deemed not competent to stand trial yet by Judge Nicholas McNamara. The criminal case against him is suspended for now.

It’s not over though. He will be given mental evaluations every six months to assess whether he’s regained competency.  We have faith that justice will be served and he one day will have to suffer the consequences of his actions that took the lives of four successful young individuals.

The pain of having to be in the same courtroom with this monster is unimaginable. The self-control you need to have to stop yourself from running over to him and inflicting pain on him is unbearable, at least for me.  He was competent the night he chose to drive drunk, shouldn’t that matter?  These offenders are given more rights than the victims.

All I want to say is, “Please Think Before You Drink.” The actions of one can change the lives of many.

Caralee (Hall) Butzine

Priorities at the State Capitol

As I sit and read another article on a Wisconsin man charged with his 12th OWI, all I can think is why isn’t more being done to keep these people off our roads.  This is the second 12th OWI offender that I know of in the last two months in Wisconsin.

Everyone knows Wisconsin has an enormous drunk driving problem, yet no one at the State Capitol does anything about it. There are a select few that try, but get shot down. Shouldn’t the safety of Wisconsin residents be their number one priority?  Isn’t it one of the lawmakers’ duties to pass laws that protect the residents?

Instead, our lawmakers are proposing a bill for woodchuck hunting, a robot delivery bill that delivers lunch, a baking bill so you can’t sell your cookies and working on changing the tampon tax.

As a resident of Wisconsin who just lost a dearly loved nephew, his girlfriend, his co-worker, and another young man to a drunk driver, I am outraged. Outraged that they are ignoring the victims of drunk drivers. Are woodchucks, your lunch, baking cookies and tampons more important than my nephew?

Why We Fight For Change

On the night of November 2, 2016 our lives were shattered.  Clenton Hall and his girlfriend Katey Pasqualini were killed by a drunk driver.  Also killed that night was Kim Radtke, a co-worker of theirs and Patrick Wasielewski, the sole occupant in another vehicle that was involved in the crash. Brian, the driver of the car that Clenton, Katey and Kim were in, did survive with serious injuries. The drunk driver also survived.

Our sole purpose in life now is to make sure no other family has to go through what our families are going through. How the actions of one man can ruin the lives of so many. Drunk driving is 100% preventable. We intend to take our fight to the State Capitol to make our voices heard and speak out against our lax OWI laws.

It’s time Wisconsin takes action to ensure the safety of all residents driving on our roads. We have an uphill battle with Wisconsin’s drinking culture, but we will NOT stop fighting until changes are made in honor of all victims of drunk drivers.