WBTV’s Lileana Pearson on road to recovery after being seriously injured in crash
Lileana and her boyfriend were on their way back from vacation in Hilton Head when they were in a head-on collision in late July 2021.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - It’s been a little more than two and half months since WBTV This Morning reporter Lileana Pearson was on the air.
Lileana and her boyfriend were on their way back from vacation in Hilton Head when they were in a head-on collision in late July 2021. Lileana was airlifted to a hospital in Georgia.
“Once my parents showed up is when I started remembering stuff, and they showed up about 24 hours after the crash because they couldn’t figure out who we were,” says Lileana.
Lileana says emergency responders used her and her boyfriend’s driver’s licenses to try and find their families. Through Google, they discovered she worked for WBTV.
“They got in contact with work and work and gave them my parents’ numbers because they are my emergency contact,” she adds.
Her parents would soon learn Lileana was in an Intensive Care Unit in Savannah.
“They had to put two people’s worth of blood into me because my legs wouldn’t stop bleeding,” says Lileana.
Both of Lileana’s femurs, one foot, and the top of her knee were broken. She also had internal injuries.
“They ended up taking about a foot of intestine out of my bowels. I had a lot of lacerations on it and that’s all they had to do to me internally,” she adds.
Lileana says she was on so much pain medication it was more than a week before she really knew what happened. She adds, “I just spent the whole day crying because it’s like you finally start to realize what this actually means and you just have this flood of emotions that all the medication has been holding off.”
Lileana’s boyfriend suffered broken ribs and a broken hand and also had internal injuries. He was able to go home about a week after the crash. However, with two broken femurs and metal rods surgically implanted to take their place Lileana’s recovery was just beginning.
“I literally had two physical therapists when I was in Georgia grab me under my arms and they hold you up and it’s awful. It is so awful,” says Lileana who shared the picture of that moment. “There’s a mirror in front of you, and they tell you to look into the mirror and it’s just what I needed,” said Lileana who tears up thinking back. “It had to be done because you have to get your body moving.”
Two weeks after the crash, Lileana was transferred to Atrium Health’s Carolinas Rehabilitation in Charlotte where she would undergo three to four hours of therapy a day.
“That was the first thing we had to work through was how to help her get out of bed without too much pain so she could start getting into a wheelchair and start the process of standing and ultimately walking,” says Kim Carver, a physical therapist at Carolinas Rehabilitation.
“For Lily, we used an assessment here, and basically when she came in the first day she scored zero percent,” says Krista Hodges, an occupational therapist at Carolinas Rehabilitation. “She was needing help with everything—help with eating, help getting in and out of the shower, getting to the bathroom, dressing.”
“I was up in a walker and I couldn’t even do 6 feet of distance,” says Lileana of that first day of rehab. “I was literally all upper body strength.”
But after two weeks of intense physical and occupational therapy, Lileana would eventually score 100% on that same assessment.
“It’s incredible what they were able to do in two weeks. Both Krista and Kim hold such a special place in my heart,” says Lileana.
Those same therapists cheered Lileana on as she rang the rehab bell, meaning she was cleared to go home to continue recovery.
“I cried, and her mom was there and she cried,” says Krista. “That’s probably my favorite part about going through the rehab process.”
Lileana’s progress continues each day. The adventure lover still has more mobility to gain, and some healing is more than physical.
Just a month ago Lileana told us, “I think that’s the hardest part is again just the mental aspect of it you’re just being 25 years old and you need to be tended to by this whole host of people.”
But Lileana says she’s learned to accept the help, and she continues to focus on getting back to work one day soon and telling stories she’ll see in a whole new way.
“Going through this experience has changed the way I experience news now. I can’t tell you how many times, if I was covering my own accident I’d say, “There was a two-car accident, two people taken to the hospital with serious injuries” and then you move on to the next story,” says Lileana. “Now all I can think of is the “after.” ‘What is happening to these people once they get to the hospital?’ Because I was that person that was transported to the hospital with serious injuries,” she adds. “I think I’m going to have a level of empathy that I’ve never had before. I’ve always tried to be empathetic towards people, but I don’t think you can actually understand what’s happened to people until you’ve lived it.”
Since Lileana first came home from rehab, she’s progressed from her wheelchair to a walker, and now just to a cane. She can even take several steps on her own. She joined the QC Morning team to talk about the last few weeks of recovery and show us just how far she’s come. You can see that interview here.
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