Shelby Debell who completed 3 weeks of intensive physical rehabilitation at Spalding Rehabilitation Hospital, after suffering multiple major injuries from a rollover accident leaving her with a broken neck, pelvis, wrist and leg, along with other injuries, is telling her story in hopes of preventing others from her misfortune. She realizes that had she worn her seatbelt she would have been spared the major surgeries and trauma she has endured the last 6 weeks. Shelby wants teens and young drivers to heed her warning: wear your seatbelt and don’t be a distracted driver.

Shelby and four of her friends had come from North Dakota for an end of summer road trip to see their favorite bands at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Late one night returning to their campsite at Chief Hosa, the driver fell asleep at the wheel sending the car skidding into the ditch and consequently flipping several times. Only the driver was in a seatbelt and was the only individual not injured. The unbelted passengers sustained significant injuries. Shelby was ejected from the front seat of the car, landing in the middle of the highway. Not much is remembered from that point until she woke up several days later from a coma in the hospital. She had gone through several surgeries to fix and stabilize all her injuries.

Shelby was told by one of her physicians that she had only a 1% chance to live. Her broken neck required a fusion resulting in a permanent 50% loss in movement for the rest of her life. She also sustained a brain injury due to a ruptured artery at the base of the skull. Shelby suffered through intense pain and challenges through-out her recovery. The others who were unbelted in the car also suffered significant injuries, however, none as severe as Shelby. Her friends returned to North Dakota for their continued recovery. Shelby was not able to travel safely so she remained in Colorado for her physical rehabilitation at Spalding Rehab in Aurora. She needed to find a way to stay strong since her support system was all in North Dakota and she would have to complete her rehab in Colorado alone.

Shelby did stay strong and kept a smile on her face. She was quickly adopted by the staff at Spalding. Realizing how lucky she was to be alive she stated that she had two choices, 1. be grateful and find a way to be positive, or miserable. She chose to be positive. That positive attitude paid off for Shelby. She made friends with everyone she met and gave others hope as they watched her work hard to recover and learn to walk again.

When she first came to Spalding she was in a wheelchair and needed 2-3 people to help her do anything. In the end she walked out with only a cane and neck brace. When asked what was the hardest part of therapy she quickly responded, “Stairs!” She was pleased to show her mastery of the stairs. Although her gains were significant she still needs continued therapy but was well enough to finally head home.

Before she left she wanted to share her serious message with others. WEAR YOUR SEATBELT! A 3 second click of a belt could have saved her from this trauma. Don’t be fooled by distance, she says, an accident can happen at any moment.