From the bottom of a 50 foot embankment the trees looked awfully high.
Stacie Reis found herself contorted, her driver’s seat to her right, the cup holder above her, and her windshield cracked.
She estimates now that she was unconscious no more than 30 minutes, but it was the start of a 14 hour waiting game over night until daylight when she’d be sure she’d be found.
From what she remembers right before the accident that sent her Ford Escape over the edge of the highway between New Hazelton and Terrace was a stop for an ice cream cone. Forever the optimist, she specifically remembers how delicious it was.
Her story has captured the attention of the world over, from major media outlets in British Columbia to worldwide Internet outlets like Buzzfeed. She has, in some headlines, been dubbed the “Badass nurse” for how she handled herself that night.
She laughs when asked how she originally expected to have been made famous in her life.
“I don’t think I ever thought I was going to be famous. It’s pretty funny,” she said.
Her skills as a nurse — which she does for a living in Prince George — played a heavy part in how she got through that night July 4. She saw her legs twisted in the wrong directions and straightened them out.
“I just prayed for 15 minutes or so, I was like ‘I need some extra strength,’ and then I picked them up and moved the one and then I picked the other one and moved it.”
She was in pain for sure, but with the revelation later of the extent of the number of broken bones she had she says she wasn’t in nearly as much pain as she would have expected.
And the pain was nothing to the relief she felt in the morning when, some time after sunrise, she heard her name being called.
A group of her friends from her church in Kitimat had found her. There were scores of other friends and family members elsewhere on the highway scouring for signs of her. Some people had gone out the moment they knew she was missing and spent the night in their cars searching while Stacie awaited in hers.
Among the things Stacie has learned from this ordeal is that her network of support and friends extends far, far further than she had ever expected.
“I wouldn’t have dreamed that I was so loved. I didn’t know,” she said.
The attention she’s receiving is apparent. Over the course of her Sentinel interview — which she did while in Tamitik Arena watching her niece skate — she had her nephews and mom at her side, a group of young girls stopped by to say hello, and more friends arrived towards the end to check in.
“Everyday I have at least…one person come to visit me. Usually more,” she said.
Even as her mom pushed her in her wheelchair from the Kitimat hospital to the arena Stacie says a chef at Mr. Mikes called out to her and said “You don’t know me but I know you. Hi Stacie!”
“It was pretty funny, it was nice,” she said. “[The attention’s] given me and my parents a good laugh.”
The support has been tangible too: friends in Prince George opened a fundraising campaign for her and raised approximately $17,000. Some money has already been earmarked to cover the expenses incurred by her parents who spent a lot of time by her side during her month-long recovery at Vancouver General Hospital.
Meanwhile she said she’s seen so much other support too, including prayers and well-wishes from other churches throughout the Northwest.
Last weekend Stacie also managed to arrange her first outing away from the hospital — a trip to see Sunday service at her home church of the Kitimat First Baptist Church, where the congregation has been continually offering prayers and support through her recovery.
Stacie said she has a couple more months before she can starting putting weight on her left foot, and she has another surgery expected on her right in about three months.
Doctors say it’ll be a year before she’s really up and moving around.
A return-to-work program does awaits to get her back at her job.
It’s all the best possible outcome from one of the worst possible scenarios. But from the moment she was found it’s been an upward journey.
“It was so amazing. I can’t even really describe it, how good it is to be found after so long.”
She always knew she’d be found though. That night, with the trees looming over her, she had faith.
“As far as being afraid, I really wasn’t too afraid in the night. Every once in awhile I would look out my window and I would see how tall the trees are…and I’d get a little nervous.”
She just kept calm and waited for the rescue she said she knew would be coming.
“Thankfully I was right.”
It turns out the love from her family and friends is greater than the trees are tall.