Crash victim says pain, indignities are 'rest of story'
Michael O'Leary / Herald File Nov. 15
Everett firefighters prepare to remove Teri Cantor from her car after a two car accident on South Third in Lowell. Police believe Johnothon Bagley, the driver of the car that slammed into her, was impaired by drugs.
Annie Mulligan / For The Herald
Cantor, facing a long road to recovery, has another five weeks before she'll know when she can try to start walking again.
Annie Mulligan / For The Herald
Teri Cantor shows one of her many scars after a man allegedly high on meth slammed into her car in Lowell last November.
Bleeding heavily, she was whisked to one hospital and transferred to another. The Everett woman spent five days in an intensive care unit.
The other driver, Johnothon Bagley, departed in the back of a patrol car. Police believe he was impaired by drugs when the Pontiac he had borrowed crossed the center line of a residential stretch of road in Lowell and slammed head-on into Cantor's Toyota.
Bagley, 27, fell asleep on the short ride to the police station. A ringing cellphone in his pocket didn't rouse him from his slumber, according to a police report.
In a basement conference room, he nodded off again and mumbled in his sleep.
More than two months after their worlds collided, Cantor, 51, rolls around her second-floor south Everett apartment in a wheelchair. She's recovering from multiple broken bones, including two shattered heels. Her feet are puffy and swollen and she must carefully tend to her wounds each day. She'll have to wait another five weeks for doctors to let her know when she might be able to try to walk again.
Bagley was arrested for investigation of vehicular assault. He posted $200,000 bail and for a while was out of jail. At the time of the crash, he was awaiting sentencing for several crimes that likely will send him to prison. Prosecutors later were able to convince a judge that Bagley had violated the conditions of his release, and his bail was revoked.
In a sense, both drivers are facing lengthy confinement.
Cantor has spent weeks at a time without leaving the tan walls inside her apartment.
Eight neatly sorted stacks of paper take up a portion of the beige carpet on her living room floor. They include medical bills and insurance papers. The tab so far exceeds $350,000.
Cantor was within a few blocks of her job in the inventory and receiving department at the Acrowood manufacturing plant in Lowell when the crash occurred shortly before 8 a.m. Nov. 15.
"I remember a red blur coming at me," she said. "There was no reaction time. There was no time to swerve."
To her, the crash sounded like an explosion.
"It kind of echoes in your mind," she said. "It's something that doesn't go away."
Collision detectives with the Everett Police Department are wrapping up their crash investigation, Sgt. Ryan Dalberg said. They will forward the case to prosecutors.
It pains Cantor to know that police believe Bagley was impaired by drugs.
His eyes were bloodshot beneath droopy lids when he was first questioned. His speech was slow and slurred, according to police reports.
A drug recognition expert from the Lake Stevens Police Department evaluated Bagley and concluded that his ability to drive was impaired, court papers said.
He's not been charged in connection with the crash, so toxicology results haven't been made public in court records.
On the day of the collision, Bagley already was awaiting sentencing for driving while under the influence of drugs. His license was suspended in August.
Six days before the crash, he appeared in Snohomish County Superior Court where he pleaded guilty to assault, attempting to elude police and possessing a controlled substance. In April 2011, he dragged a Lynnwood police officer a short distance after the officer leaned into his car during a traffic stop. Police found pills in the car and $3,204 in Bagley's pants pockets.
Police also arrested Bagley in February 2012. He later pleaded guilty to possessing 185 grams of heroin. During that arrest, police suspected he was driving under the influence of drugs. A blood test found methamphetamine in his system.
After the November crash, police obtained a judge's permission to search the car he was driving. They found "miscellaneous drug paraphernalia" and "unknown miscellaneous suspected narcotics," according to the search warrant.
Cantor wants people to consider the misery they can cause others when they drive impaired.
Her physical pain has been immense, but there also are emotional scars, she said. At the hospital and rehab center, there were many indignities -- the struggle to maneuver into a position to use a bedpan and the need to rely on others to bathe her.
"It really takes a lot of your self-esteem, relying on other people when you have lost your independence," she said.
Cantor also dreads putting on shorts under the summer sun, knowing that long unsightly scars will remind her of the crash.
Since the accident, she has learned a lot about how the body heals. Along with her crushed heels, she broke her leg, her pelvis and two ribs. She also dislocated a thumb.
X-rays show the breaks and a mini-hardware store of screws and metal drilled into the broken bones.
It took three surgeons 10 hours to repair her heels.
Feet, she has learned, hold an untold number of nerve endings. The damage to her feet was extensive. Sometimes, it feels as though her feet are on fire. Other times, they prickle with icy goosebumps.
For now, she must sit and mend. She misses her job and the simple rhythms of the daily grind. She fears the muscles in her injured limbs are wasting away and losing strength.
A photo and short story about the accident appeared on the Herald's website the day of the crash and in the print edition the next day.
"People need to be aware that this is the rest of the story," she said.
"It's going to be an emotional thing for the rest of my life."
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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