Elizabeth Ramos was running her usual route down Bellflower Boulevard in February.
Making a loop back to Cal State Long Beach, she stopped at Beach Drive to press the button for the cross walk.
She kneeled down to tie her shoe, and that’s the last thing she remembered until March 11, when she started talking again.
Finding a voice again
Ramos, a senior nutrition major at CSULB, was hit by a car during her jog on Feb. 4, according to Long Beach Police Department Public Information Officer Nancy Pratt.
LBPD Public Information Officer Marlene Arrona said Ramos was crossing a marked crosswalk when Ali Vahdatiasl, a 78-year-old driver in a 2003 Honda Civic, ran a red light.
“Thankfully I don’t remember anything,” Ramos said. “I had an angel there.”
Ramos was not identified until the following day because she carried no identification with her at the time of the accident, according to her father, Vincent Ramos. Elizabeth Ramos usually wears a bracelet with her information on it when she jogs.
She was initially admitted to St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach with a broken leg and arm as well as heavy bruises. Doctors sedated her and placed her on oxygen support, according to Vincent Ramos. She was later moved to Kindred Hospital in Westminster, though, and now she is at Long Beach Memorial Hospital for rehabilitation.
On March 11, Elizabeth Ramos’s friend Meredith Robe visited her at Kindred Hospital. Elizabeth Ramos opened her eyes, looked at Robe and started mumbling and waving her arms.
“Oh God, we were crying,” Vincent Ramos said. “We couldn’t believe it. It’s a miracle to hear someone speak who hasn’t for six weeks. We didn’t know if she would speak again.”
According to Elizabeth Ramos, her doctors said that full recovery will take a year.
“Sometimes I forgot that I was in an accident because I don’t remember anything,” Elizabeth Ramos said. “I’m ready to move on.”
Before the accident, Elizabeth Ramos said her life consisted of going to class, working out at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center or running every day and volunteering at the Life Fit Center, a gym for those 50 and older on campus.
She only had three classes to complete this semester and was due to graduate next month.
“I don’t really know anyone in my major that’s younger than me,” she said. “All my friends are graduating in May.”
Now, graduation and Elizabeth Ramos’s plans of moving to Minnesota to be with her boyfriend of six years, Jacob Young, will be on hold for a year while she recovers.
Elizabeth Ramos hopes to re-enroll at CSULB in spring 2014 and finish her last three classes. After graduation, she plans to attend the University of Minnesota for medical school and specialize in rehabilitation or geriatrics.
On a typical day, Elizabeth Ramos said she is woken up by a nurse, eats breakfast, walks a little in a walker during physical therapy, takes two naps and relearns tasks like brushing her teeth or making pancakes during occupational therapy.
Still, Elizabeth Ramos knows that her situation could have been much worse.
“Everyone [in rehabilitation] is in the same boat,” she said. “It makes me appreciative that I didn’t get hurt that bad compared to other people with spinal injuries.”
Her parents, Vincent and Lydia Ramos, took time off from their jobs in Calimesa, Calif., in order to be closer to their daughter while she recovers. They are staying at her apartment in Belmont Shore.
Elizabeth Ramos said that the support of her family, friends and her faith have gotten her though everything.
“We’re Catholic,” Elizabeth Ramos said. “I don’t think just medicine could do this. They didn’t think I was going to come out of this for a while. I’ve heard stories of people who have been in comas for three to six months or longer, a year. I just think [God] helped. He saved me.”
Her mother also said that she couldn’t have made it through without God.
“It was devastating,” Lydia Ramos said. “I remember that first week thinking I’ll be okay if I hear her breathe. It’s our faith really that pulled me through. I have a heart that is so grateful to God and to others for that support, their energy and their love.”
The road ahead
Elizabeth Ramos said she will leave Long Beach Memorial Hospital on Thursday and return to her apartment. She will participate in outpatient therapy for at least a few months. Lydia Ramos said she will stay with her daughter while she gets back on her feet.
According to Lydia Ramos, health insurance has so far covered all of Elizabeth Ramos’s medical expenses. However, the Ramos family also has an attorney and plans to file a personal injury claim against the driver, Vahdatiasl, so that his insurance will pay for some of Elizabeth Ramos’s medical expenses.
Above all, Elizabeth Ramos said she and her family just want Vahdatiasl off the road.
Long Beach Police Detective Sirilo Garcia said in March that the City of Long Beach will charge Vahdatiasl with running a red light and speeding. Garcia will also ask the Department of Motor Vehicles to submit Vahdatiasl for a re-examination of his driving test.
Elizabeth Ramos said she hopes people see what happened to her and remember to be a little more grateful for what they have and more aware of their surroundings, whether they’re driving or running.
“You can’t take life for granted; it could be really short,” Elizabeth Ramos said. “Just really appreciate what you have each day. I have my ups and downs. First I was like, ‘Why me?’ I think it was meant to be, even though it was a bad thing.”