The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Teen’s crash injuries take toll on family
BY SCOTT SHENK
Katelyn Griczin was on her way to volunteer at a Relay for Life event on April 20 when she rounded a curve on State Route 208 in Spotsylvania’s Post Oak area.
What happened next changed life as she and her family knew it.
The then-Spotsylvania High School senior was in her 1991 Acura Legend, only a couple miles from home, when a white Chevrolet Silverado appeared around the bend and suddenly veered into her lane.
Neither driver had time to react before the vehicles collided head-on.
The crash was violent. Katelyn’s car slammed into the ditch and the hood crashed through the windshield. It apparently sliced through the airbag and likely was the cause of her severe head and facial injuries.
The truck, driven by Dustin A. Lawrence, came to a stop sideways in the road. The impact forced the front tires through the floorboard.
Both drivers were trapped in the crumpled vehicles and rescue workers had to cut them free.
“It was one of the worst accidents I’ve ever seen,” said Deputy Brandon Handy, who handled the crash investigation. “It could’ve been lethal for both.”
Lawrence, who is in the military and stationed at Quantico, sustained foot injuries and was treated at Mary Washington Hospital, according to police
VICTIM SEVERELY INJURED
Katelyn was severely injured in the crash, suffering two broken legs, a compound fracture in her left arm, a broken jaw and a concussion. She also suffered severe facial lacerations and had numerous teeth knocked loose. Her injuries required a helicopter flight to VCU Medical Center in Richmond for immediate surgery.
Handy, who said the curve is notorious for bad crashes, doesn’t know what caused Lawrence to cross the yellow lines. But the deputy charged him with reckless driving.
On July 31, Lawrence pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of failing to stay on the right side of the road. He was fined $30 and charged $61 in court costs for the misdemeanor.
Lawrence couldn’t be reached for comment.
The aftermath has been much different for Katelyn and her family.
Her recovery and the ensuing costs not covered by insurance have been overwhelming.
The 18-year-old spent 12 days at the VCU Medical Center. Since her release, she has made regular return visits to the hospital’s brain center to track her recovery from the concussion.
Because of Katelyn’s injuries, she was initially bound to a wheelchair, which she had to use to attend prom and graduation.
After a grueling rehabilitation, she has graduated from wheelchair to walker to now moving around on her own.
Katelyn’s medical issues also kept her from working two summer jobs she’d set up to help pay for college.
She started her freshman year at the University of Mary Washington on Aug. 27.
The teenager, who graduated high school with honors and received financial aid and scholarships, said the whole thing has been frustrating, but she doesn’t like to complain about it.
“It hasn’t bothered me too much,” she said recently at the family’s home, “but it hasn’t been too much fun missing my summer, trying to learn how to be a regular teenager again.”
MEDICAL BILLS SOARING
On top of the physical and mental anguish the teen has endured, mounting medical bills have put the family in distress.
The medical bills so far are well over $100,000, said Marjorie Griczin, Katelyn’s mother. Most of that has been covered by insurance, but the family still has taken a big financial hit. So far they have spent thousands, and there is a looming $26,500 bill for the helicopter flight, not covered by insurance.
“We’re financially ruined,” said Marjorie Griczin.
She works for Fairwinds and Murphy Homes Inc., which runs group homes for teens. But, because of the time needed to help care for Katelyn, she hasn’t worked since the crash.
Meanwhile, her husband, James Griczin, has been logging all the overtime he can at Printpack.
But they haven’t been able to keep up with medical bills and other costs.
FAMILY IN BANKRUPTCY
Marjorie Griczin said the family recently filed for bankruptcy and could be in danger of losing their home.
“It has just broken my heart,” family friend Charlotte Cronk said of what the family is going through. “It’s horrible.”
She has raised about $700 to help the family.
Though the situation has been daunting for the Griczin family, they are trying to stay positive.
“When I saw her in the hospital, I just wanted to get this guy,” said James Griczin, who eventually got over that feeling. “Vengeance, that doesn’t get you anywhere.”
Katelyn echoes that sentiment, though she said the ordeal has been “frustrating,” and she was upset following the recent plea deal Lawrence struck.
The family hasn’t spoken with Lawrence.
“He’s got to live with what he’s done,” Marjorie Griczin said.
Deputy Handy said that after the crash Lawrence was “very concerned about Katelyn” and asked about her at the hospital.
There is the potential for a lawsuit. Local attorney Phillip Sasser has been retained to represent Katelyn.
Whatever happens, Marjorie Griczin said the family wants to focus on the future and Katelyn’s recovery.
She sees the positives in how friends have helped them, her faith, and how her daughter has persevered.
“I see this as an opportunity for God to show himself,” she said. “I believe he has us in the palm of his hands, and Katelyn is a perfect example of it.”
Still, she knows it won’t be easy.
“It’s a day by day struggle,” she said. “But we will survive. We’ll get past this.”
Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436