Tara Rahmani was your typical 25-year-old graduate student.
That all changed in February 2020, when she was hit by a car while crossing a Washington, DC intersection. The first responders on the scene were shocked that she was alive. Her doctors in the trauma unit said she wouldn’t make it.
But she did.
Here’s Tara’s story.
Life can change in an instant
Tara’s family came to the U.S. from Iran and settled in Richmond, Virginia when she was 5 years old. Today, she’s a graduate student studying for her degree in international affairs at American University in Washington, DC.
One afternoon, Tara had been doing volunteer work when her entire life changed in the blink of an eye. She left to walk home, and she came to a busy intersection. She looked both ways carefully before beginning to cross the street, and she was properly in a crosswalk as she did. There was a black SUV approaching, and it stopped at the crosswalk. Tara purposely waited until it had come to a full stop before she began to cross the street on foot.
What happened next isn’t clear to Tara. She remembers passing the SUV, but then her world went dark. She remembers the sensation of being “swept,” in her words, and her body moving in circles from the impact as she was hit by another vehicle. The next thing she remembers is waking up on the ground in the street.
Tara later learned that when she was hit by the car, her face broke the windshield, her teeth shattered, nose broken, and her body was flung over the car and landed on the ground, bloodied and seemingly lifeless. When witnesses called 911, they told the dispatcher that they believed she had died.
So, when Tara opened her eyes, she shocked the witnesses and first responders. She was bleeding from her ears and nose, her teeth were hanging out, her lung had collapsed, she suffered a spleen laceration, and the left side of her body was badly bruised.
She was transported to the trauma unit at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland.
One of the most difficult parts of the experience for Tara was that her parents lived several hours away, so it took them some time to arrive at the hospital.
From the time of the accident at 4:30 p.m. until her parents arrived at 10 p.m., she was alone, terrified, and needing to make decisions about her care. Fortunately, the doctors determined that she could be monitored for the immediate period and didn’t need immediate surgery, so she was transferred to the ICU.
There were 2 people, in particular, who got Tara through that traumatic time. One was a physicians’ assistant named Beth. Through the blood and bruises, Beth “saw” Tara for who she is… a friendly, vivacious young woman with a bright future. Beth told Tara that she would be there for her, talk with her, and take care of her every step of the way.
There was also a nurse named Molly. Molly said she had a feeling in her heart that she needed to talk with Tara and look over her. Tara still keeps in touch with Beth and Molly, and they check in with her all the time through texts and phone calls to see how she’s doing.
Tara’s medical treatments, surgeries, and recovery
Tara received surgery for a nasal fracture, and then reconstructive surgery for her teeth and gums. She later had a bone graft that involved implanting bone from a deceased person into Tara’s face in order to reconstruct her jaw. The procedure required 4 to 6 months of healing time, after which she had another bone graft.
Next, she’s looking at a nasal surgery to correct a deviated septum that is a result of the accident and that continues to affect her ability to breathe.
Her doctors anticipate a full recovery. They tell her that in about a year and a half, she should get her short-term memory back and start to feel more like her old self.
Throughout Tara’s ordeal, she leaned on her sister — both literally and figuratively. Her parents were also by her side every step of the way, but her sister acted as her advocate to the medical community because her parents aren’t native English speakers.
Tara’s sister would be her greatest source of strength and influence, translating complicated medical terms for their parents and motivating Tara to begin to re-learn how to walk.
When the nurses got Tara out of her hospital bed for the first time after the accident, her sister stood in front of her as her biggest motivator and cheerleader as she began to walk.
She was a constant source of positive energy and helped to lift Tara’s spirits daily during the worst time of her life.
The driver who hit Tara hasn’t been held responsible
After the driver hit Tara, the vehicle came to a stop with Tara lying on the ground beside the driver’s door.
The driver opened the door, saw Tara, and made a phone call. A few minutes later, the young woman attempted to drive away. Witnesses on the scene were able to stop her from leaving the scene, but the driver was hostile and didn’t seem to care about Tara’s serious condition.
Of all the things that are hurtful about that day, Tara remains especially sad about the fact that the driver — also a young woman about her own age — didn’t seem to be concerned about whether Tara was alive or dead.
The driver received 3 traffic citations:
- Failure to stop for a pedestrian
- Failure to stop for a car already stopped for a pedestrian
- Reckless endangerment
She paid a total of $180 in fines for these infractions. The speed limit in that section of road was 25 miles per hour, and the police report said the driver was traveling around 35 miles per hour. However, Tara’s doctor estimated that based on the force of the impact, the driver had to have been going closer to 40 miles per hour at the time of the accident.
Tara’s financial recovery
The driver who hit Tara had $25,000 worth of insurance, which meets the legal requirements in Washington, D.C., but wasn’t nearly enough to cover Tara’s medical costs.
Tara consulted a lawyer who said that the driver has no assets, and Tara would therefore be unable to recover any more funds from her. In other words, when the insurance ran out (as it did immediately), filing a lawsuit would do her no good because the woman had no money to cover a legal judgment.
However, Tara is strong and has a bright future ahead. She’s not planning to take “no” for an answer…nor does she want to be saddled with medical debt at 25 years old for an accident that wasn’t her fault. Tara is seeking the assistance of a new lawyer. The hope is that if she is granted a judgment, she can continue to renew it until the driver finishes school if she’s a student, gets a job, or acquires assets some other way. There might not be money to be paid now, but a judgment might be able to be renewed (and accrue interest) until it’s satisfied.
The lawyers suspect that the driver might file for bankruptcy, which would avoid her legal liability. That means Tara will need to pay her bills out of her own pocket. For now, she has a job and she’s paying down her medical debt as best she can.
Tara moves forward and embraces her new lease on life
Here at Enjuris, we think Tara’s story, and her positivity, is inspiring. She said it best in her own words:
“I think justice can be served in a different way. I didn’t get the money or damages I deserved, but … I would love to make other people happy and go through their recovery like I did.”
She’s been staying at her parents’ home in Richmond since the accident so that her family can take care of her. But she says she’s “found her purpose” and that this experience will influence her career in international affairs. She believes the accident has made her a better person, and that her family and friends value their lives more than before because of what happened to her.
Tara will resume her studies in the fall and expects to graduate with her degree within a year. She’s also working for her local Department of Health as a contact tracer, providing resources and information to COVID-19 patients.
Tara says she still occasionally wakes up to a bad day.
“It could be sunny, but I’m cloudy on the inside,” she said.
But what’s clear when talking with Tara is that she has a positive approach to life and she’s very resilient. These qualities have served her well, and we have no doubt that she has a very promising future in store.