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Sallie Potts doesn't let tragedy keep her down

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By Becca Owsley

Vine Grove’s Sallie Potts had a life-changing experience in 2009.
She was hit head-on by a drunken driver.

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“My life came to a dramatic change the evening of Nov. 30, 2009,” she said.

Potts, who was 62 at the time, was on her way home from a long lunch with friends when a drunken driver crossed the road and hit her. He died on the scene and her life was forever changed, she said.

She was trapped in her car and rescuers had to use the jaws of life to free her. Because she was in shock, she felt no pain, but she remembers the incident.

The scariest moment of the experience, she said, was when she couldn’t get out of the car. Smoke was coming from the hood and she thought she might die. Later, she found out the smoke was from the radiator.

She had no head trauma but extensive injuries, including a collapsed lung, broken ribs, a broken left hip, a broken left leg, a crushed right ankle and a left forearm broken in two places.

She went through hours of surgeries over several days and has titanium pins and rods throughout her body.

When she got out of the hospital, she went into rehab and was in a wheelchair she said made her feel helpless. She referred to the wheelchair as “the chair.”

After a month, she was able to go home and had in-home therapy until transitioning to outpatient therapy near the end of March 2010.

On the first day of outpatient therapy, the therapist asked her if she wanted to walk again. She told him her goal was to get out of “the chair.” He brought her a walker and sat it in front of her. She didn’t know he meant to walk right at that moment.

“He looked at me and said, ‘Well, that’s the goal,’” she said.

She took a few steps that first time and took more each time until she could walk again with a cane.

Potts credits her faith for pulling her through the experience.

“God has given me the grace to endure things I never thought in a million years I would endure,” she said.

Last year, when she was still using a cane, she was lying in bed and woke up at 1 a.m. She turned on the TV and watched author Don Piper talk about an wreck he was in. Doctors told him he would never walk, but he does.

She said God told her, “if he can do it, you can do it.” She put down the cane and has walked without it since.

The November after the wreck, her husband, Albert, was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer and died in 2010. He was her best friend and liked to joke around.

But Albert was part of one of the biggest blessings she received from the experience. Before the wreck, her husband was not a Christian, though faith was a major part of Potts’ life. Watching her church friends care for her and support her affected him, and 18 days before he died, he turned to Christianity. The moment meant a lot to Potts.

Nadine Priest said Potts is someone who is a true prayer warrior.

“When things go wrong, her first thought is to turn it over to the Lord and let him take care of it,” Priest said, adding Potts often will stop mid-conversation and suggest they pray about it.

Priest said Potts is someone who makes you feel better about yourself no matter what you have going on.

“She has a contagious laugh that lightens your heart,” Priest said, describing Potts as a friend in good times and bad.

Potts, she said, has been through a lot of downs in life.

“But she brings everyone around her up without ever making you feel sorry for what she has been through,” Priest said.

Potts hasn’t let the wreck or resulting pain stop her from keeping busy. She remains active in the Vine Grove Woman’s Club. She was president of the club for 10 years before the incident.

She sings with the Heartland Fillies and with a southern gospel trio called The Joy Singers. She’s been a part of the trio for 18 years and the group participates in a nursing home ministry, singing to residents. She also volunteers at her church and helps with Wreaths Across America.

Whenever Potts gets the chance, she shares her experience and the dangers of drunken driving. She also talks to wounded warriors about her recovery to let them know there is life after tragedy.

Potts writes a devotional thought every day on her Facebook page since 2010 to encourage her followers. Some have told her what she writes is exactly what they needed to hear that day.

“No matter what happens to you in life, there’s always something better coming,” Potts said. “Stay positive, trust God to get you through it and rely on your friends and family.”

Becca Owsley can be reached at 270-505-1741 or bowsley@thenewsenterprise.com.

Getting to know Sallie Potts:

  • Favorite movies: Anything from Tyler Perry
  • Church: She is a Sunday school teacher, sings in the choir, is a part of the ladies’ ministry and helps in the kitchen at Stithton Baptist Church.
  • Favorite book: “Heaven is for Real” and books written by Don Piper
  • Pet: A 10-year-old Boston terrier named Sassy who was a great comfort as she recovered from her accident.
  • Family: She was married to her late husband, Albert, for 30 years. They have three children, Penny, Ross and Samantha, and seven grandchildren.
  • Home state: North Carolina

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