Chesterton Tribune

Hit-and-run victim healing but bills piling up; fundraiser Sunday

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By KEVIN NEVERS

She recalls seeing headlights in the distance.

So—you know—whoever it was behind the wheel saw her. It was dark but she was wearing a fluorescent top in neon pink and orange, fluorescent lime-green track shoes too, and in the glare she must have been lit up like a Christmas tree.

She was running against oncoming traffic—the way you’re supposed to—and as the car approached she moved closer to the side of the road. Didn’t do her any good. At the last moment it veered toward her and hit her head on, threw her into a ditch, broke her body.

Was the driver drunk? Was he—or she—texting? Sneezing? Nodding off? Or, God help everyone, did he mean to do what he did? No one knows at this point, except the coward himself, because he left the scene without stopping.

That was nearly three months ago. Today, Liberty Township resident Gabby Bigman is slowly recovering, after two weeks at Porter hospital, one of them in ICU. The neck brace is off, as the two fractures in her neck begin to fuse. Her separated shoulder is healing as well. Her right leg remains in a cast—she could probably start a scrap yard with all the metal implanted in it—but Gabby’s hobbling around okay.

Still.

It’ll be three to four months—at least—before she can return to her waitressing job at the Islamorada Fish Company, in the Bass Pro Shop in Portage, and start putting food on her 3-year-old daughter’s table again. And the medical bills are pouring in.

“I’ve got no medical insurance.” she says. “The hospital’s already sent a letter saying they’re going to sue me for all the hospital bills. I’m probably going to end up declaring bankruptcy at 21, unfortunately.”

Gabby and her mom, Carolyn Bigman, have a lot of thoughts about the person who did this to her, about the Samaritan couple who found her dazed and bleeding in the ditch, about the difficulty the Porter County Sheriff’s Police has had in solving the case. But right now—right this moment—money is the issue.

So they’re inviting the community to attend a fundraiser from 12 to 10 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 26—that’s this next Sunday—at The Boiler Room, 1050 Broadway in Chesterton.

There’ll be food, drinks, music, raffles, a 50/50 auction. It’ll be fun. It’ll be a chance to see your friends. It’ll be good for your soul. Ask Gabby to show you a photo of her daughter, Izzie. She’s absolutely cute as a button and has not-so-good memories of visiting her mom in the ICU.

A $10 per person donation is being asked, but it’s not as though you couldn’t toss a little extra into the kitty.

The Aftermath

So it’s around 10 p.m. Monday, June 11, in the 100 north block of C.R. 200W, east side of the road.

And Gabby comes to. “I put my hand down. I felt the bone stick out of my leg. I lifted my foot up and saw it just dangling there. That’s when I started calling for help.”

Now she figures it could have been as long as 20 minutes between the time she was hit and the time she was discovered. Good odds, on that lightly traveled road, she’d have been there all night, had not a couple driving by heard her screams, turned around, and begun searching the weedy ditch.

They found her. They called 911. Maybe they saved her life. To that couple Gabby and Carolyn are profoundly grateful.

Also found at the scene, once investigators started piecing things together: bits of an older Honda Civic, 1992-95. The passenger’s side mirror. Fragments of a turn signal. Of a headlight.

But no one besides the driver—not even, really, Gabby herself—witnessed the crash. And the driver was either passing through and is long gone—a possibility Carolyn doesn’t much credit, given the out-of-the-wayness of C.R. 200W—or has gone to ground and put the Civic on ice.

Someone else, though, Carolyn is confident, knows the truth, has probably known the truth almost from the beginning. And has chosen to stay silent. A husband protecting a wife, a parent a child, a girlfriend a boyfriend. Unless you live alone, have no friends, no connections, no job to drive to, no need to shop or bank or go anywhere at all, it’s pretty hard to hide a car with significant front-end damage.

“It’s just a shame, these heartless people,” Carolyn says. “Where’s their conscience? Why don’t they come forward? Friends or family. Because they know. They know who hit my daughter.”

Of the driver himself? Herself? Gabby’s blunt on that subject. “Heartless,” she says. “No conscience. There’s really no soul there.”

Yet out of that reckless flick of a wheel on a country road has come some good, Gabby says. She’s spent months—and will spend months more—rubbing up against human darkness and frailty. The scars she will carry her whole life. But she’s also learned something about loyalty and generosity, the tightness of this community, the essential goodness of neighbors and strangers alike.

“The support of the community has been overwhelming,” Carolyn says. “Very, very generous. So many donations in the buckets at businesses around town. The outpouring of support has been phenomenal.”

 

 

 

Posted 8/24/2012