Injury survivor shares her story

A simple drive home changed her life forever—and Melissa Hague wants local youths to make the right choices so that her experience doesn’t happen to them.
“Nineteen years ago today, my life changed,” Hague told a crowd of local teens in the Fort Frances High School gym Monday morning.
“I was injured when I was 12 because somebody was drinking and driving. Because of drinking and driving, I will spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair,” she said.
Hague spoke to students in Grade 7-12 as part of the Smartrisk’s “Heroes” presentation seen by up to 1,600 youths from across the district.
“We are promoting smart risks,” she said in between presentations. “We don’t want people to stop living their lives. Everyone should have the opportunity to live their life, just take smart risks.”
The program was sponsored by the Fort Frances Paramedic Association, Ontario Students Against Impaired Driving, Rainy River District Substance Abuse Prevention Team, the Moffat Family Trust Fund, and Pizza Hut and McDonald’s restaurants.
Paramedic John Beaton said this the third time the program has been brought to the area and that it has been very effective in helping students make safe choices.
It teaches kids there are smart risks and stupid risks through a multi-media presentation and a discussion from an injury survivor.
It impresses on youths that there are five simple choices. People should always buckle up—be it seat belts, life jackets, or safety harnesses.
They should look first before acting, whether it’s checking out water depth before diving or planning a route when hiking or skiing.
Kids are urged to wear the protective gear at all times, to get trained in what they wish to do, and to always drive sober.
Hague’s mother had been driving to their Lakefield, Ont. home when a drunk driver plowed into their car.
“My mom and I were on our way home and we saw a really bad car crash,” Hague told the students. “I said, ‘We’re really lucky nothing like that happened to us.’ My mom said, ‘You’re right, we are lucky.’”
The crash that involved them happened 20 minutes later. Hague’s mother was killed instantly.
“I don’t remember the crash. I only remember waking up in the hospital in a great deal of pain,” she said.
Hague’s spinal cord was damaged, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down.
“I was 12 years old, I didn’t know what paralyzed was,” she remarked. “My life at that time was running and playing basketball and skiing and dancing and skating. I couldn’t imagine not being able to walk.
“I thought I would be a miracle patient. That I would walk out of the hospital because I really wanted to.”
It would take months for Hague to come to terms with her new life in a wheelchair—and master the once simple tasks of moving around and getting dressed.
During this time, she also was grieving the loss of her mother and recovering from her extensive injuries.
The driver responsible for putting her in a wheelchair came out of the crash unscathed. He received a few months in jail and had his licence suspended for 10 years for driving while impaired.
But Hague stressed to the room that this chain of events could have been prevented.
“I call it a crash because it was no accident,” she said. “A person crashed into my mom’s car . . . because of choices he made.”
She noted the driver had been drinking with friends since 9 a.m. that day. While his two companions tried to convince him he shouldn’t be behind the wheel, they failed.
By around 10 p.m., the friends got out of the car and tried calling the police. But before they could do so, he had already crashed.
One student asked Hague what she would say if she ever met the driver.
“[I’d say] I miss my mom,” she replied. “I have a great life and do everything I wanted to do, but she isn’t here for all the great things in my life.”