Jefferson County
Feature Story
January 22, 2003, is a day that Shannon Barnes of Gardendale, Alabama, and her family will never forget. Shannon and her younger sister, Tabitha, never imagined that on their drive home from school that day, their lives would change forever. Along the way home, Shannon, 16, pulled up to a red light and stopped, waiting for the light to turn green. When the light finally turned, Shannon paused and looked both ways to make sure that the road was clear before she proceeded home. Just seconds after she put her foot on the pedal, an 18-wheeler came barreling down the hill towards Shannon’s car.

The truck ran through the red light, slamming into Shannon’s car twice, causing it to become wedged under the 18-wheeler and the roof to collapse on top of them. The impact knocked Shannon unconscious. Tabitha, seated in the passenger’s side, began to panic and immediately called their parents and rescuers for help. Shannon and Tabitha’s mother, Anita Glasscock, said that she mostly remembers her younger daughter screaming the words, “Blood...” and “I can’t wake her up!” Anita and her husband, Bobby, drove to UAB Hospital to meet their two girls. Anita said, “Everything felt like it was going in slow circles, but I tried to remain calm.” After the doctors examined Shannon at the hospital, they told her family she was in a coma and would probably not survive due to an inoperable blood clot on the brain stem. The doctors also suggested that Anita and Bobby begin making funeral arrangements.

Shannon remained in the neurology intensive care unit at UAB for six weeks, before she was moved to the trauma intensive care unit. During the seventh week in the hospital, Anita began to pray for a doctor that really understood what they were going through with Shannon. Around that time, the Rehab Team at Children’s Hospital had been consulted about Shannon’s case, and Dr. Charlie Law was contacted to evaluate Shannon. After Dr. Law examined Shannon, the decision was made to move her to Children’s Hospital. Anita said, “As her mother, I had to get her the best possible care that was available, and at the time I felt like we needed to move her to Children’s Hospital. Dr. Law is a great man, and Shannon, Tabitha, Bobby and I are truly grateful to him and his staff for all they have done for us.” Shannon remained in a coma throughout her stay at Children’s.

Although Shannon doesn’t remember much of her stay, her mom remembers everything. “Everyone was so nice and they were great to Shannon, Bobby, Tabitha, and me. Shannon’s doctor, Dr. Charlie Law, and the nurses on the 4th floor, taught us how to roll her without hurting her and how to prepare for moving her back into our home. The care was excellent.” Anita adds “Shannon’s physical therapist, Scott Sal, was great and showed us exactly how to help her and exactly what to expect. It was a real learning experience.”

Although Shannon remained in the coma, she began to show signs of improvement and was finally able to return home. One day, Anita remembers wishing that all she wanted for Mother's Day was for her daughter to speak to her just one more time but Mother's Day came and Shannon was still in the coma. A few days later, Anita went into Shannon's room to sit her up, change her position, and talk to her, just like every other day. As Anita started to tuck the pillows under Shannon's knees, she asked Shannon if she wanted some of her favorite peaches and cream oatmeal for breakfast. Not expecting a reply, Anita was shocked when she heard a faint "peaches" come out of Shannon's mouth. She was awake for the first time since the crash. Anita described that day as "the happiest day of our lives."

Shannon remembers that she was frightened when she first woke up from the coma and it was hard to accept that she couldn’t get up and walk around. Over the past four years of recovery, Shannon has faced some difficult times, but she has achieved many of her goals as well. At first, Anita decided to home school Shannon, but by January of 2004, she was back at school. Shannon eventually graduated sixth in her class at Fultondale with an advanced academic degree.Today, Shannon works with her physical therapist, Scott Sal, several days each week. Shannon says she is not giving up on her goal to attend college. Also, Shannon and her family participate in the Trauma Prevention Program at Children’s Hospital, a statewide program to educate teen drivers on the dangers of reckless driving. Shannon and her family want to encourage teen drivers to be careful when driving and to remember, “Driving is not a privilege. It is a responsibility.”