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Being positive after the crash

Nikiski teen keeps smile in wake of tragedy

Posted: October 26, 2013 - 5:54pm  |  Updated: October 27, 2013 - 11:44am

Latasha King always wanted to know her own blood type.

On July 15, the 17-year-old Nikiski resident finally heard the answer while being wheeled into surgery for a massive spinal injury. In the hall at Alaska Providence Medical Center, she heard someone say, “Be positive” and thought they were emboldening her. In reality that person was declaring her blood type — B positive.

It’s a phrase she lives by today.

On the evening of July 14, the Soldotna Public Safety Communications Center received a report of a single-vehicle rollover with injuries on the Nikiski Emergency Escape Route about one-half mile from Holt Lamplight Road. Troopers arrived to find four teenagers in the rolled over car. Two of the teens were treated and released on scene. The driver was taken to Central Peninsula Hospital where he was treated and released.

All were wearing seat belts.

That day, Latasha had plans to go fishing with her sister, Heidi, so her three friends picked her up and they took off to town in a rush.

“They were all racing off to work so we took the Escape Route,” she said.

Latasha, who was sitting behind the driver in the back seat, recalled that car rolled five times and left her trapped when it came to a stop. After a few minutes struggling to get up she realized had no feeling in her legs.

“Everyone started getting out and I was trying to push myself up and I couldn’t figure out why can’t I get up?” Latasha said. “I was moving my arms and it didn’t register until I think ten minutes after trying to get up that I started touching my legs.”

Emergency responders used the Jaws of Life and Rescue 42 straps to extract her from the totaled vehicle.

“That was pretty cool,” Latasha said. “I was really pleased with the fire fighters.”

According to trooper reports, she was taken to Anchorage by Life Flight to where treatment would begin for her injuries.

After a MRI and a CT scan showed her spine crushed and flattened into her spinal cord and her first Thoracic vertebra was also broken; she had three surgeries that next day that.

When she was told her blood type before surgery, her sister-in-law Tanya Luck said Latasha gave a “thumbs up” with a smile.

“She was trying to comfort us,” sister-in-law Tanya Luck said. “It was cute.”

The injuries Latasha sustained left her a paraplegic, paralyzed from the chest down with limited use of her hands.

After ten days in Providence, King was transferred to Oregon Health and Science University and then to Legacy Good Samaritans Rehabilitation Institute of Oregon where she spent six weeks.

During that time, and the time since the accident, Latasha has kept up her “be positive” attitude with recovery and her outlook on life.

“She is amazing,” her stepmother Kriss King said. “She has helped us through this.”

Latasha is working with a tutor and hopes to return to Nikiski Middle High School next semester to finish her remaining few credits needed to graduate.

Along with her education, days are filled with doctor and therapy appointments, tutoring and learning to adapt to living life as a paraplegic — and handling it with a sweet smile and teenage spunk.

Shortly after her return home, on the day of Nikiski’s Homecoming, Latasha’s got ready for the dance. As her parents were driving her to the school dance, fire trucks quickly passed on their way to an emergency.

Kriss King said, “I hope that our house is ok.” On their return from taking Latasha to the dance, King and husband, Don, found their home destroyed by a fire, which also killed the family pets.

“We lost everything,” King said.

With Latasha’s mobility is limited, and her parents displaced by the fire, the entire family now lives with her sisters Heidi and Tanya in their Nikiski home.

Kriss King quit her job to be the primary caretaker of Latasha, while sister Heidi King, who works as a nursing assistant at Central Peninsula Hospital and sister-in-law Luck also assist with Latasha’s care.

“It’s cozy,” the family exclaimed almost in unison.

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