16 years and 22 surgeries later, woman's crash with drunk driver serves as good reminder

December 31, 2018 08:16 AM

A young woman whose life was changed forever by a drunk driver has a story to tell. She is inspiring Minnesota kids and adults to make good choices, especially this New Year's Eve holiday weekend.

After 16 years, Sadie Holland has returned to the scene of the crime.


"You know it's kind of surreal. This is where everything changed for me," she said.

Holland and her mom were in a crash on a bend in the road on 10th Street Northeast in St. Michael.

"We were right at this spot and we were hit head-on by someone who had been drinking and driving," Holland said.

It happened in November of 2002. Holland was 10 years old at the time. Firefighters had to cut the roof off the car. She was airlifted to the hospital.

"I lost most of my jaw and my adult teeth. I shattered my cheekbones, fractured my skull. So I have metal plates in place to kind of piece that back together," she said.

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If you look closely at Holland you will see the scars of 22 facial reconstruction surgeries.

"They're just as a daily reminder; you know when I wake up and I put makeup on them," she said. "And I tried for a really long time to hide them and cover them up. But I've learned to embrace it. And it's just part of my story and who I am."

But out of her pain, Holland found a calling. She runs the Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge "Know the Truth" substance abuse prevention program. As prevention education manager, she coordinates visits to more than 160 schools each year.

"We go into high schools and middle schools all across the state," said Holland. "We reach about 60,000 students annually and talk to them about the dangers of using and abusing drugs and alcohol."

Holland talks a lot about consequences. And this holiday weekend she reminds everyone that one decision can change everything.

"I mean everyone can kind of think it will never happen to me, but that's what my family thought too and one split second changed everything," she said. "So just between Uber and Lyft and cell phones and friends and family there's just never a reason to be driving after you have been drinking."

There's one footnote to Holland's story. She was speaking recently to a group and a tearful woman approached her after. She told Holland her husband was the drunk driver that hit her 16 years ago, but ever since that day he has been sober.

So that crash, as horrible as it was for Sadie and her mom, likely saved his life and kept his family together.
"It made it feel like it wasn't all for nothing," said Holland. "You know I've always wondered why I've had to go through this. But to know that it changed his life too is really healing for me."

It's easy to set up Know the Truth in your school. To access treatment services at Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge, call 612-FREEDOM (612-373-3366).

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Kevin Doran

Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company


UPDATE: Arrest made in connection with a homicide in St. Paul Friday night

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