Yesterday, September 10th 2020, two and a half years after I was hit head-on on the highway, the person responsible, Nicolas Rader, was held accountable. I had moved on mentally a long time ago from wanting revenge or punishment. With that said, I think Rader has a chance to get off lightly. Many people seem to think that the person he is unlikely to meet his probation conditions.
He has a major restriction to deal with. No driving for three years without a license and a qualified medical professional’s written validation that he is fit to drive. This has to be updated every six-months. He has to pay restitution to the county for all claims submitted by me and the other victims. This is close to $9000. He also has a couple of $1000 in fines that the judge imposed. The judge seemed to listen to the statement I made in court and the effect the wreck has had on me. The judge was not impressed with the plea deal and imposed the highest fine amounts he was able to. He has a deferred judgment, by three years, on the major charge of vehicular assault which is a felony. He also pleaded guilt to careless driving which resulted in injury or death which is class 1 misdemeanor.
Here is the victim’s impact statement I wrote and read to the court:
Your honor, thank you for allowing me to make this statement. I have been waiting for this day for two and a half years since Rader’s actions put me in the hospital.
I added this paragraph on the fly as I listened to the defense attorney.
I want to start with, you cannot be diagnosed with CTE. It is only something that can be diagnosed post mortem. You cannot drive along I-225 for 3 or more miles while having a seizure.
That day started uneventfully; I had helped my wife in donating some items we no longer needed to a group that helps veterans. I had left our house and set off to my client’s office on a trip I had taken virtually every day for two years. I drove north on I-25 through the Denver Tech Center and exited north onto I-225. Right at the point that the north and southbound I-25 traffic merges and I-225 curves left to the north, the cars ahead of me scattered and swerved. Rader appeared, sideswiped the car ahead of me and ran head on into me. It seemed like he did it deliberately leaving the lane he was in to hit me. I thought that my life was over. I literally thought that this is it, I’m dead.
There was a massive explosion and then the sound of someone sobbing and gasping for breath. I was amazed to realize that the sound was me trying to breathe. Eventually, things calmed down and I could breathe. I could hear people outside. I was covered in glass and powder. The steering wheel on my car was pointing upward. My feet were trapped by the engine in the footwell. I hurt everywhere. People started to talk to me and assure me that the paramedics were on their way and asking me if they could do anything. When the firetrucks finally arrived, they had to use the jaws of life to get me out of the car. They asked me to crawl across to the passenger door, but I couldn’t because although I didn’t know it at the time, you’d broken my back. Finally, out of the car, they put me on a stretcher but told me I had to wait. You were getting the first ambulance because you looked in worse shape than me. Based on news reports, it seems you were out of the hospital and galivanting around long before I was. In the ambulance with the paramedic assessing my injuries, I knew things were bad when he took of my shoe and said, “That doesn’t look good”. He was right, you have left me with permanent reminders from a day where I did nothing wrong. At the hospital, I had to call my wife and tell her to come on over to see me. I’m okay but I’m not going to be moving under my own steam for a while.
I spent the next twelve hours being wheeled back and forth from x-rays, to CT scans, to MRI tunnels. Each person focused on a particular issue not realizing as the moved me around and bumped my feet that searing pain was shooting through the other injuries. You left me with a broken back, broken ribs, a broken breastbone, my heel broken off one foot, the other foot crushed looking like a deflated football, and with bruised lungs. In the time that has passed since then, a number of first responders have said how lucky I am to be alive.
I spent the next 10 days in hospital much of it immobilized because of my spinal fractures until the neurosurgeons could determine the right course of treatment. I had surgery on my left heel to fix it back in place. I had two surgeries on my right foot one to stretch it out and a second to reconstruct it. I was on oxygen and breathing treatments because of what you did to my ribs and lungs. Everyone was worried that I would end up with pneumonia although I didn’t realize it at the time. I was put in the undignified position of needing to use a bed pan and be bathed like a child. My family had to see me looking like a wreck and in constant pain because of your actions. I would wake up in a cold sweat convinced that this was just a nightmare. I fought with a care giver because I disoriented by the pain medications I was on and was conviced they were doing me harm.
My next stop was the Spalding rehabilitation hospital. I was there to learn how to live life in a wheelchair until my injuries had healed enough to allow me to walk again. I had to learn how to use a board to get into and out of a car, into the bathtub, onto the toilet. My wife had to be an active partner in making adjustments to our home. A ramp to get in the house. Doors removed to get into rooms. The bed lowered so I could get on it. She became adept at hauling a 30lb wheelchair into and out of the car’s trunk and pushing 250lbs of me and wheelchair from place to place.
Our next weeks were spent with countless rounds of visits to see specialists for check-ups and assessments. The neurosurgeon for my back. The trauma surgeon for my chest. The orthopedic surgeon for me feet. This was all punctuated with my daily regimen of pain pills and the constant worry of addiction, along with a daily blood thinner injection into my stomach. Finally, some good news. I could stop taking blood thinners and start using a boot on my left leg to do some minimal walking around. The celebration was short-lived. I started feeling a big ache in my left leg which turned out to be a massive blood clot. Back on daily blood thinners with instructions to immediate go to the emergency room should I feel any shortness of breath or chest pain.
After six months I was out of casts, walking, and doing physical therapy. However, my right foot was painful and not healing as it should. In November, I returned to the hospital for more surgery on my right foot. Back on crutches again for another two months I was hobbled for Christmas and the new year. Skiing, my favorite winter pastime was out of the question. In January, back in a boot, my foot started to swell and discolor. Another trip to the emergency room proved that it was infected, and I was admitted to the hospital once again.
The infection resulted in more surgery to clean up the wound. A special pump that was attached to my foot to drain the wound, droned on and on for a week. This was followed by six-weeks of administering intravenous antibiotics on a daily basis. I have now been prescribed antibiotics for life all because of your actions.
I am reminded of what you did to me on a daily basis. When I get out of bed every morning, I can barely walk. Twelve months of physical therapy taught me the stretches and exercises I must do everyday to walk somewhat normally. My left ankle does not flex properly. I’m told it will need to be fused at some point. My right foot is rigid and numb. The fused bones send jolts of pain through my body if I step on something or don’t wear shoes. My breastbone sticks out at a funny angle because of the damage. I have chronic athlete’s foot from being cooped up in casts, braces, and compression socks for so long. If I drive or sit in a car for twenty minutes, I stiffen up and can barely walk when I get out.
Your actions that day had a massive financial impact. My hospital and medical expenses totaled over three quarters of a million dollars. We had to make major modifications to our house so that I could get in and out in a wheelchair. The majority of my pre-injury footwear has had to be replace with special shoes. I have to get extra wide and supportive shoes in order to be able to function. I had to get all new ski boots because my feet would no longer fit. During my time away from work, I lost out on promotions and bonuses having to remain gratefully that my job remained.
One of the things my family and I like to do is travel. The trips that we did have planned had to be canceled because you rammed into me. We had to give up a trip to Hawaii with friends that had been planned for years. We lost all that we had paid for that. Another trip to Europe to ride motorcycles with friends had to be foregone because I could not hold a motorcycle up to ride it. Now any trips come with a special worry. Will I have another DVT blood clot because I’m now prone to them? You have robbed me of some of the pleasure of traveling.
I have always been an athlete and active in sports. You have taken that away from me. I like to hike and run. I find it difficult to walk up hills these days because my ankle does not flex as it should. I find it difficult to run because my foot doesn’t work properly. The imbalances in my feet cause problems in my knees and hips making them hurt two. You have robbed me of the joy of team sports and competition.
I have never been a timid person but what you have done to me makes me anxious. Getting into a car, whether I’m driving, or a passenger gives me pause. My heart skips a beat when I see cars coming towards me in their own lane. I slow down more than I should when I’m approaching a bend I can’t quite see around. Driving to Aurora is a nightmare. As I pass through the Tech Center, my hands get clammy and my throat dries up. I can feel my adrenaline surging and it is not a good feeling.
I’m not sure who I intended this statement for, Nicholas Rader or his family. I don’t feel like anyone has taken responsibility for what happened to me on February 21st, 2018. I have heard of issues with traumatic brain injuries and the like. If you are suffering from them, I truly feel sorry for you. However, I doubt it because you’ve been found mentally competent to stand trial twice. Whether you have had them or not they are an excuse. Either you are using them shamefully to avoid taking responsibility for what you did. Or, your family is hiding behind them from the responsibility of knowingly giving you the keys to a weapon that you used to devastating effect on me. All I want to know is why me and so far, you, your family, and your legal counsel have denied me that.
Your honor, thank you once again for allowing me the time to share what Rader’s impact has been on me.