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Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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A dangerous ride: Teens who climb behind the wheel with too little sleep

Kayla Fletcher

Beginning in April, Kayla Fletcher and Kyle Preston will join the trauma program staff from Mary Washington Hospital to visit area high schools and talk about their accidents. Fletcher and Preston were injured in separate car crashes when they fell asleep at the wheel. Kayla ran off the road in Caroline County in 2010. She suffered a brain injury and spent months in recovery. Kyle ran off the road in Fauquier County in 2009. He suffered a spine injury, spent months in recovery and today is partially paralyzed. The two will ask area teens to turn off their phones and computers and get a good night’s sleep. As Kayla says, “I never thought that just an hour’s sleep would be something that was almost deadly.” Today we offer details about Kayla’s accident. Kyle will be featured tomorrow.

Kayla begins her story at her home in Spotsylvania County on the day before her accident.

She stayed up until 3 a.m. that night, then got up one hour later to get ready for the start of her 6 a.m. shift at Kohl’s at Cosner’s Corner. After work, she drove to visit her ex-boyfriend in King and Queen County. She stayed there until about 10 p.m., then headed home.

“I had to work again the next morning at 6,” she said.

She realized she was sleepy, so she rolled down the window and played the radio. That worked for a while, she said, but then she fell asleep. When her car veered to the right, she woke up. The incident scared her, she said. She figured the jolt of fear would keep her awake for the rest of the trip. It didn’t.

She fell asleep again while still on Sparta Road near Bowling Green. She believes that the second incident followed the first by just a few minutes.

“The second time was my accident,” she said. “I didn’t wake back up.”

Her 1993 Mazda ran off the right side of road and flipped onto its roof. She’s not sure who found her or when. Matthew Fletcher, Kayla’s father, told trauma personnel that a state trooper came to their house to tell him that his daughter had been in a bad accident.

“The trooper told me that she had hit a tree, and she was unconscious when they found her,” he said.

Members of the Bowling Green Volunteer Rescue Squad placed her aboard a helicopter, which took her to Mary Washington. She had facial lacerations, an injured knee, a concussion and brain hemorrhage. She stayed at the hospital for five days, then spent several weeks at home, working with a series of visiting therapists.

Today Kayla is much improved. She attends Germanna Community College and works at Walmart. Asked if she is fully recovered, she replied: “You’re never really out of recovery.”

(For more on Kayla and Kyle and the issue of teens and drowsy driving, see the story soon in the paper. A video about the two young people, made by Mary Washington Healthcare, can be seen here: