DENVER — At 18 years old, Apolonia Gallegos’ dream was to take her first road trip and see the ocean waters of California.
In March, Apolonia loaded up her car and friend, Maneula Mbenga, and went west. It was a beautiful trip until the drive home to Denver, on the long roads through Utah.
Mbenga said Apolonia had been driving about 14 hours when the unthinkable happened.
“I kind of woke up when the car was tumbling I was thinking ‘Oh this can’t be true,'” said Mbenga.
Apolonia had fallen asleep at the wheel and was not wearing her seat belt. She was thrown from the car when it rolled several times.
Now, her parents have decided to talk about their daughter’s car crash in the hopes it will encourage others to wear their seat belts.
Apolonia was in the hospital until Friday, when she finally got to go home after the crash.
Mbenga still remembers seeing Apolonia after the wreck.
“I was screaming at the top my lungs, I was like, ‘Apolonia! Apolonia!’ and she was like unresponsive,” she said.
Mbenga was able to flag down a car for help. Apolonia was taken to a hospital hundreds of miles from home. She suffered brain injuries and a lacerated kidney and liver.
She was later brought to Craig Hospital in Denver, where she began to learn to move, walk and communicate on her own.
Her parents decided to share Apolonia’s story with the Problem Solvers hoping to encourage others to wear their seat belts.
“It’s just so traumatic,” Johnny Gallegos, Apolonia’s father, said. “Wear your belt, I mean it is common sense.”
Apolonia spent weeks in a coma and is now going through countless hours of therapy.
“The sadness of the life that she had before the accident is probably the hardest for me, because I want it back for her and I cannot bring it back for her,” said Teresa Miller, Apolonia’s mother. “And that’s what I want young people to know, is that they are there for reason and it so it’s just, there’s so much at stake.”
Apolonia went home Friday, but she will continue needing intense rehab and therapy.
She will also need a lot of medical equipment — not all of it covered by insurance.
A GoFundMe page has been set up her.