Thursday night dozens of trauma survivors met at UT medical center - to talk about the progress they've made and to thank the people who have helped them.
UT's Trauma Survivors network has only been around for a year, but the impact the group is making will be felt for years to come.
According to UT nearly half of the traumas they see are due to injuries from falling. Another 30 percent come from car accidents, and motorcycle wrecks make up 7 percent.
The people celebrating Thursday night experienced trauma and leaned on this program, faith, and family to try and get their lives back to normal.
"I wouldn't have guessed when I woke up in a hospital bed in 2012 that I would be doing physical therapy 5 years later,” said former Tennessee Highway Patrolman Sgt. Lowell Russell.
Back in 2012 Russell was lucky to be alive. The Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper was injured when a trucker fell asleep behind the wheel on I-40 in West Knoxville and slammed into his cruiser.
"I was knocked 336 feet and the patrol car caught on fire. I was brought to UT hospital where I spent 14 days on life support and an additional 15 to 20 days here,” said Russell.
He now serves as a mentor in the program, helping survivors navigate recovery and the life changes that come with it.
"It's sort of hard to relate to some of the doctors and nurses because most of them probably haven't been through a traumatic experience like this,” explained Russell.
The Survivors Network encourages people to talk about what they're going through. Programs include group and one-on-one peer counseling.
"There’s people that have had similar circumstance that you can communicate with,” said Coordinator Elizabeth Waters.
For families that means leaning on those who have already been where they're going.
"We knew that there could be hope,” explained the mother of one survivor.
The network started in 2016 and served more than 1,000 people in it's first year. This year they've already helped more than 500.
"We saw them from day one of their recovery to where they are now, it's heartwarming, just amazing,” said Waters.
Russell likes to fly and has been a pilot since 2004. Despite twice a week physical therapy, he has since taken to the skies again.
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