PAMPLICO, S.C. (WBTW) – Earlier this year, Florence County EMS worker Tessie Odom- Smith was badly hurt in a wreck. The ambulance she was in was hit head-on by a driver under the influence on the Martin Luther King Junior Bridge.
After the accident, Odom- Smith went through five operations in 22 days and lost her right leg.
Last week, Odom- Smith took her first steps a full two months ahead of when doctors expected her to be able to.
The first step is usually the hardest, but Tessie Odom- Smith took on that challenge last week.
Odom- Smith, a veteran Florence County EMS worker said, “It was exciting, I am excited to get up and moving and out of this chair. I’ve never been one to sit around, ever… until now.”
Smith’s mom, Sandy Weatherford, said she is proud but not surprised by her daughter’s recovery milestone.
Weatherford, Tessie’s mom explained, “She’s always taken a challenge and run with it and proven that she could take on whatever was put in front of her and this is no different.”
Odom- Smith said it’s a little scary, but exciting to get out of her wheelchair.
“To make even the first couple of steps on my own, granted it was holding on but I’m going to be holding on for a while,” Odom- Smith said.
Next month is the 9/11 Bridge walk in Charleston, and Smith plans to walk in remembrance of fallen first responders.
Odom- Smith explained, “I always planned to do it and made plans to do it but I never got it done and decided this year, I’m going to try.” She adds, “I’m going to start out walking it, I’ll probably end up wheeling most of it but I’ll do the best I can.”
Florence first responders and her family plan to walk with her every step of the way.
“She may have to push a little bit and i may have to push a little bit but we’re going to make it along that bridge walk one way or the other,” Weatherford said.
Now as she begins walking again, her family and friends hope to build her a new wheelchair accessible home to give her even more independence.
Weatherford explains, “We are trying to build her a new home that is handicap accessible, she can no longer get into the little mobile home that she was in. Independence has always been important to her.”
She adds, “So that she can have a home that she can get into and out of and functions as an independent person.”
Family and friends have an upcoming fundraiser called the Charity Ride on August 27th to help raise money for a new home. The family’s goal is to have $50,000 dollars before October 1st to break ground on the building process.
Tessie and her family have started a non-profit group called ‘Holding the Line’ to help first responders find resources after an injury.