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Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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A dangerous ride: The day Kyle Preston’s life changed

Kyle Preston

Beginning in April, Kayla Fletcher and Kyle Preston will join with the trauma staff from Mary Washington Hospital to visit area high schools and talk about their accidents. Kayla and Kyle 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 Kyle’s accident. Kayla was featured yesterday.

As with Kayla, Kyle’s story begins the day before his crash.

He finished his shift at Wegman’s at about 10 p.m., then went to his home in North Stafford. That night, he did “what he did every night,” said his mother, Bette Anne Preston.  He stayed up late texting and playing computer games.

“He was not able to turn his brain off to be able to go to sleep,” she said. “Sleep wasn’t the most important thing to him.”

The next day, a Saturday in August, Kyle got up early and headed north on U.S. 17. He had promised a friend to take her to a doctor’s appointment in Warrenton. Near Bealeton, he fell asleep and lost control of his 1995 Grand Prix.

State police told his family afterward that it appeared that his car drifted right, then veered left when he overcorrected. He crossed the median and the southbound lanes before leaving the highway.

A Fauquier County ambulance crew took him to Mary Washington, where he became the trauma service’s first patient with a serious spinal cord injury. He had lost the use of most of his body beneath the seventh cervical vertebrae.

“I don’t remember anything until three weeks after the accident,” he said.

Kyle stayed in the hospital’s intensive care unit for 21 days, then transferred to the Kluge Children’s Rehabilitation Center in Charlottesville, where he stayed for three months. He received an additional two months of training at the Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center in Fishersville, before returning home for good in March 2010.

Kyle graduated from North Stafford High after returning from the Woodrow Wilson Center. He hopes to enroll at Northern Virginia Community College this summer.

Today Kyle uses a wheelchair to move about. He has recovered the use of his arms and right thumb. He also can move his right leg, and with help, put pressure on it.

“I’m hoping here soon that my left leg will be as strong as my right leg, and I can stand on my own,” he said.

(The blog post about Kayla is here. For more details about Kayla and Kyle and the issue of drowsy driving, see the story soon in the paper. A video about the two young people, made by Mary Washington Healthcare, is here: