Ellie Skromme remembers when it first set in that she couldn’t walk anymore.
After being in rehab for two months, she came home to her father’s house in Lockwood, California, about an hour’s drive northwest of Paso Robles.
“I got to my dad’s Ranch. His house is kind of a little off the ground, so they had to build a ramp for me. When I got home, that’s when it really hit me. I was like,‘ oh this is not all going to go away. This is my life now’. I’m in a wheelchair. I have to use a ramp to get in my family house that I grew up in.”
The accident happened Sept. 13, 2017. It was a Wednesday, as she recalls.
Skromme, who was a 17-year-old agriculture student at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo, had missed her three-hour-long soils class the Monday before because she was helping a friend with car trouble, and therefore was unaware that the class had gone on a field trip.
Now noon, Skromme had five hours to kill before she had to be at work as a sales associate at a Kohl’s department store.
As many would, she decided to make the hour-long drive back home.
While trekking along the country roads, she noticed something was wrong with her truck.
“My truck kept pulling to the right and obviously I consciously noticed it, but I didn’t do anything about it,” she said.
Going 70 miles per hour, Skromme’s right rear tire blew out, sending her car to spin out of control, flipping over and ejecting her out of the driver’s-side window onto the road.
To say that she was in a precarious situation might just be the understatement of the year. Face down in the dirt, the truck was now pinned on top of her, antifreeze dripping onto her back causing burns.
A family friend heard the accident and called 911 for help.
Unable to wait for the airbags to lift the truck off of her, she was dug out and air-flighted to the nearest trauma center in Salinas.
Skromme had broken her scapula, collarbone and fractured a vertebrae, causing fragments to penetrate into her spinal cord.
“I don’t remember them telling me that I would never walk again, but my family, they all remember. It was very emotional, obviously,” Skromme said. “The doctor came out and said that it looks like she’s going to make it, but it’s likely she is never going to walk again. Nobody was expecting that. It was hard.”
But she is thankful to be alive.
Recovery has been a long, arduous process. She hasn’t given up on walking again someday.
Two days a week, she travels from her place in King City to the physical therapy office SciFit in Clovis, a two-and-a-half to three-hour drive. She is looking to move to the area so she can do it every day, but for now stays with her best friend since fourth grade, Mackenzie, while in town.
The physical therapy takes two hours, but she powers through.
But it is an expensive process, $1,400 a month type of expensive. Because her therapy isn’t covered by insurance, she has been left scrambling to find other ways to pay for it.
She had been able to afford it at first due to a GoFundMe that had been set up for her. But a family friend wanted to find her a permanent sponsor. And it seemed like she did.
Someone from Skromme’s hometown had volunteered to anonymously provide her the funds to afford the physical therapy.
However, the ongoing COVID-19 viral pandemic has thrown a huge monkey wrench into the equation.
“When this whole COVID thing happened, SciFit shut down. I messaged [the family friend] and was like, ‘just touching bases. Is my sponsorship still there’, and she said it wasn’t,” Skromme said. “Whoever was sponsoring me now has financial problems.”
Luckily, she had two months of therapy already paid for that she couldn’t use then because of the pandemic.
But that funding only lasted her through June, so Skromme set up another GoFundMe; a link to it can be found on her Facebook page. So far, she has two months paid for.
Skromme said she has been overwhelmed by the generosity of others.
“I have been blown away by the amount of love and kindness that I have been shown through this.”
Having graduated high school early and being a very driven person, asking for help wasn’t easy, either. She tries not to feel guilty about asking for help.
It all seems to go part and parcel with her outlook on the situation.
Although she has her good and bad days, Skromme does her best to retain a positive attitude. And not just for herself.
“I feel like we are put into this world to impact other people positively and that’s what I based my life off of,” she said. “We need more positivity in this world, not more negativity. If there’s anything that I can do to make a positive impact on somebody’s life, I am going to do it.”