On September 26, 2016, Lethesia Guzman and her fiancé were traveling on Interstate 80 crossing the Yolo Causeway (a long, elevated bridge) between West Sacramento and Davis. They were involved in a minor fender bender and were pulled off to the side of the narrow causeway. They exited the car and were standing in front of it, talking to the California Highway Patrol dispatcher, when they were rear-ended by an Uber driver in a Prius. Lethesia’s fiancé saw what was happening and immediately put his arms around Lethesia to protect her. Behind the Prius was a tomato truck. The driver tried to avoid the wreck in front of him and lost control of the truck, hitting the Prius and knocking Lethesia and her fiancé over the railing of the causeway to the ground below, about a 40 foot drop.
The actions of Lethesia’s fiancé cost him his life, but ultimately those actions were responsible for Lethesia’s survival. The combined impact of the Prius, tomato truck, and the 40+ foot fall shattered every bone in Lethesia’s body below her neck. Ultimately, she was transported to UC Davis Medical Center. She was in the hospital for more than 50 days and has had 18 separate surgeries. She has metal plates and rods in her legs to replace both of her femurs that were shattered beyond repair. She was released from the hospital just before Thanksgiving, traveling home in a wheelchair.
Lethesia’s mother, Clara Nichols, heard about her daughter’s accident and immediately left San Jose to be with her daughter. After spending a couple of nights at the hospital, Clara learned about Kiwanis Family House and a referral was sent from the hospital . Being on a limited income, Clara’s rent was waived.
Clara moved into Kiwanis Family House and stayed here the entire time her daughter was hospitalized. When she wasn’t at the hospital, she volunteered her services at Kiwanis Family House to keep busy, to give something back, and as she put it, “ to not go crazy just thinking about my daughter and worrying.” Being bilingual, she helped our staff to communicate effectively with Spanish speaking guests, did laundry, and assisted the housekeepers with cleaning vacant rooms.
When she was asked how Kiwanis Family House helped her during her stay, tears welled up in her eyes. She said, “By opening the doors, having someone to talk to, no matter what I needed they were there for me. They helped me stay strong and focused for my daughter. The staff members made me feel comfortable and welcome. I would have been lost without Kiwanis Family House.”
Clara told us on December 15 that she has already received her Christmas present. When asked what she got, she said (again with tears in her eyes), “My daughter had an 8 hour surgery yesterday on her legs. They took some bone from her hips and attached it to her femur bones and the surgeon told us today that she will be walking out of the hospital. We were told before that she would never be able to walk again.”
Once again, the hospital saved a life, and Kiwanis Family House helped to save a family.