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Back on track: Skyview's Farrington quickly recovers from car-crash injuries

Posted: Friday, April 22, 2011

After the collision, Allison Farrington panicked because her tooth was chipped.

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Photo By M. Scott Moon
Photo By M. Scott Moon
Skyview's Allison Farrington, second from right, listens to coaching instructions with other members of the Skyview track and field team during a practice earlier this week. She is running again after suffering a serious injury.

"I just got my braces off," she reasoned. "My parents are going to be so mad."

Then, from the passenger seat of the crumpled Chevy Lumina, she touched her neck.

"My reaction was there is this big chunk of moose on me, and I was completely disgusted," Farrington said, "then I realized blood was coming out."

Her neck muscle and jugular vein were severed and her carotid artery was punctured when the car in which she was traveling collided with a moose on the Sterling Highway between Soldotna and Sterling on a January night.  

Farrington, 17, a junior at Skyview High School, will compete when her school hosts the Skyview Invitational at Skyview at 1 p.m. today and 10 a.m. Saturday. Cook Inlet Academy, Seward, Nikiski, Kenai Central, Soldotna and Homer also will compete.  

"That was one of the very first things that I asked my doctor," she said of participating in track for a third season. "I was really worried about sports because I don't want to be sitting at home all day long."

It's been three months since the collision, but Farrington has made a full recovery. A glance at the left side of her neck reveals the severity of the crash, which killed the moose and damaged the car beyond repair.

The Alaska native received more than 200 internal and external stitches -- the surgeon stopped counting after 200, she said -- and spent three days in the hospital after going into emergency surgery.

Around 8 p.m. on Jan. 18, Rebekah Stigall, Farrington's 20-year-old sister, was driving Farrington north toward Stigall's former home in Sterling when a car passed in the other direction and the moose walked behind it into the road.

Traveling 55 mph, there was no time for Stigall to react. The car hit the moose head-on.

"I never thought I would hit a moose," said Stigall, the second oldest of eight siblings. "It's scary. You never know when it's going to happen."

Farrington didn't realize they hit a moose because she was texting a friend when the collision occurred, with her eyes focused on a screen. What she first noticed after the impact was a chipped tooth, but when she ran her fingers down her neck, she discovered a pool of blood.

Although the steering wheel was damaged and the driver's-side door smashed in, Stigall maneuvered the car to the shoulder. Farrington dialed 911, then passed her phone to Stigall, who alerted emergency responders to the accident.

Stigall then found a jacket and pressed it against Farrington's neck, minimizing the bleeding.Stigall estimated 10 or 15 minutes passed before an ambulance arrived, though she said she wasn't counting.

Farrington was placed on a gurney and carted toward the ambulance. Before she went in, she signaled to her sister.

"She made a heart shape with her hands," said Stigall, who feared the worst. "It worried me."

Farrington underwent surgery until 3 a.m. and was transferred to the intensive care unit, where she spent two days. When she returned to school, she couldn't twist her head for two weeks because of the stitches around the wound.

"I was basically like a robot for the first two weeks," she said. "It was the most irritating thing."

As soon as the doctor authorized her to run, Farrington began training for the track season.

A long-distance specialist, she runs the 1,600- and 3,200-meter races. Her favorite is the 3,200.

Although her times are modest -- she hopes to run two miles in 13 minutes by season's end -- Skyview coach Rob Sparks said Farrington is a hard worker with an attitude he wishes more athletes possessed.

"From Day 1 Allison was out here doing it for herself, just having a good time," Sparks said. "As a coach I've always been attracted to those kids in terms of encouraging them and all that. It takes a lot of courage to come out when you know you're not going to win the race."

Doctors later told Farrington that had she not been texting, the injuries could have been worse.

Because her head was down and she didn't anticipate the impact, her muscles were relaxed and absorbed the blow.

Had they been tight, a likely scenario with a raised head and a moose a few feet away,  the muscles would have resisted the hoof, making for a clean cut.

Now she jokes about the perks of texting and driving.

"If I had braced for the accident, it would have been worse and I could have died," Farrington said. "A small angle can change everything."

Although Stigall admits guilt over the crash, the sisters agreed what already was a close bond is even stronger now. In their family, Stigall and Farrington are the closest in age of all the siblings.

Stigall stood on the side of the track during Farrington's meet last weekend, waiting for her at the finish line.

She was the first person Farrington found after each race.

"We're always going to be there for each other no matter how crazy it gets with our big family," Farrington said. "And it can be very crazy."



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