Injuries could sideline Zemke for two months
County commissioner was hurt in an auto accidentNews Editor
May 21, 2003 — It's odd, Mary Zemke recalls, that she was headed to an emergency management meeting when she found herself in an emergency of her own.
"All I did was look up and hit it," Zemke said. "There was no reaction time whatsoever."
Last Tuesday, the Jefferson County Commissioner collided head-on with another vehicle making a left turn across Highway 97 traffic near the J&L Truck Stop.
The accident was Zemke's first near-death experience, and it has sidelined her for possibly two months.
"I've seen pictures of my car and I'm so grateful to be alive," Zemke said. "It doesn't look like a wreck where a driver would survive."
Zemke will remain home for several weeks recovering from a fractured sternum, a broken right arm, whiplash and minor soft-tissue injuries.
She spent one night in the hospital before returning home.
The road to recovery requires a lot of rest. She doesn't have the strength to stand up for more than a few minutes and the broken sternum requires her to remain still.
Medication helps ease some of the pain, but Zemke is unable to continue working as a medical transcriptionist while on the mend.
As for her duties as a county commissioner, Zemke is just trying to get by. She attended last Thursday's commission meeting in spirit on a conference call, but had to abstain from voting because she is unable to craft her own signature.
Coincidentally, the county approved the use of signature stamps the same day.
Zemke said she is thankful for the outpouring of support she's received since the accident.
"My house looks like a garden," Zemke says. "I think I've got 15 or more bouquets."
She's also thankful for the job that rescue personnel and a passer-by performed in responding to her accident.
"Those guys are all very kind and very professional," Zemke said.
After the impact, Zemke said she couldn't move her head or lift her fingers from the steering wheel. She began to lose her vision and was having trouble breathing when a witness to the accident, Marty Dickman of Culver, came to her aid.
"I was having a lot of trouble breathing and he was really, really kind to jump out and get that seat belt off of me," she said.
Zemke's 1990 Buick was totaled, as was the 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee that hit it. The driver of the Jeep, Eva Tejeda-Sanchez, 51, of Madras, was cited for driving without a license, driving uninsured and failing to yield to oncoming traffic. She was not injured in the accident.
Zemke said she'll try to do most of her business as a commissioner by conference call. She'll even use a signature stamp if she has to.
But after she heals, Zemke said, the stamp will have to go.