SEARSPORT, Maine — Two years ago exactly, Louise Boudreau-Bouchard was driving to a quilting class in Bangor when a drunk driver pulled into her lane and crashed into her Subaru head-on, changing her life forever.
But she feels lucky that she still has her life, and that her hard work to rehabilitate her injuries is paying off.
“I’m still alive,” the 61-year-old grandmother said Saturday morning at her Searsport home. “I’m a very religious person, and I thank God for everything.”
Boudreau-Bouchard is upbeat and forthcoming — though not about the March 23, 2011 crash or the next two months, which she spent at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.
“I don’t have any memory of it, period,” she said, looking out at the blue, sparkling Penobscot Bay through her picture windows. “The doctor told me it’s best not to remember.”
The day of the crash, William Hinkle Jr., then 35, of Frankfort pulled out to pass a vehicle on Route 1A, also in Frankfort, when he crashed into her sedan, crumpling it. She suffered a traumatic brain injury, a nearly severed right arm, facial lacerations and more.
One year ago, Hinkle was sentenced in Waldo County Superior Court to five years in prison with all but 2 and 1/2 suspended, after he pleaded guilty to aggravated driving to endanger, operating under the influence, unlawful trafficking in marijuana and possession of cocaine.
Boudreau-Bouchard’s husband, Larry Bouchard, was in court that day, and received a personal apology from Hinkle before the sentencing hearing. She was not.
“I was too anxious, too nervous,” the former therapist said, telling what she learned about the crash. “I lost all but one pint of blood. I think [first responders] thought I was dead. But they picked me up and I had a heartbeat.”
Since that grim day, things have improved. She’s spent two years now rehabilitating her brain and body. She goes to acupuncture, a chiropractor and to a psychiatrist in Bangor. She goes to the Waldo County YMCA in Belfast, where she uses the therapy pool and the hot tub and attends an exercise class.
Although she still has trouble sleeping at night, she is back to being able to do small, ordinary things that weren’t so ordinary for a long time — like doing the laundry and helping her husband cook meals and mowing the lawn last summer. She also beams when she talks about her children and grandchildren, who call her Nana.
“I still have the same temperament,” she said. “I’m getting back to some of my old self. I’m slowly getting that feistiness back.”
Boudreau-Bouchard and her husband moved to Maine from Massachusetts about ten years ago. They’d been coming up to visit for years, and found a piece of property that resonated with them. They built their house “sideways,” she said, so that they would have the most waterviews possible.
She showed off the room where she used to do quilting, and the intricate quilts that she has made over the years. The fabrics still fill the shelves there, their jewel-like tones filling the room with a rainbow of colors. While the accident has slowed down her previously busy life, she’s not giving up on anything — not even her beloved quilting, which she can’t do yet because the peripheral vision in one eye has not returned.
“Am I a miracle?” she asked. “I think I am.”