Crash Leads To New Strengths And Career Paths


Max Giunta, Staff Writer

On Sept. 9, 2019, after the first day of Brookdale’s fall semester, political science student, Ceilie Reynolds, crashed her car into an overpass on Route 18. The accident, which occurred at 9:30 p.m., would lead to a period of hardships and recovery that she will never forget, but it has also helped her learn to savor life and find new passions.
“Before the crash, I was at dinner with my mom, my dad, and my brother because I had a pretty rough day. That morning, we had put my dog down. Then, I had my first day of classes here at Brookdale for the semester,” she said. “I was on my way to go see the girl that I thought was my best friend at her apartment.”
“We have no idea what caused the accident. I have no memory of the crash at all. The last thing that I remember was somebody cutting me off in a Prius-type car,” the now 23-year-old Eatontown resident said.
Reynolds’ car, a 2011 Jeep Wrangler Sport, was destroyed. “I was flown by helicopter to Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick. My parents had to figure out how to drive there without using Route 18 because it was shut down, since my car took out a part of the overpass (at the Tennent Road exit.)”
“My entire forehead was open. I had a tib-fib fracture of my right ankle, and a fracture-dislocation of my left ulna,” she said. “Most of the doctors thought that I was going to die at first.”
“The morning after my accident, they flew me to Penn Presbyterian, and the head of neurosurgery and orthopedic surgery was on shift that morning. He became my doctor.”
Reynolds was in a coma for roughly three months, during which time her face was also rebuilt. She also suffered other long-term injuries, such as blindness in one eye, loss of peripheral vision in the other eye, and balance issues.
“I don’t remember anything for one month after the coma, since I was still comatose. However, I was still laughing and smiling, and also responding to people,” Reynolds said. “I was recovering slow and steady, but I was burning about 5,000 calories a day, and my brain was slowly healing.”
She is still recovering to this day and knows she will never fully recover.
“My physical, occupational, and speech therapists were all incredible. They brought me back to who I was again, and who I am now. My doctors are the reason that I’m still here,” she said. “Recovery was hard. I did eye exercises, I did balance exercises, I had to walk around the gym doing scavenger hunts. For speech, I had to read sentences out loud in different tones, and I had to tell stories from my past.”
“I didn’t really feel like me again until I was back underwater diving, which happened in August of this year,” she said.
“I got incredible support from my family and friends, even (Olympian) Lindsey Vonn sent her support,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds still faces many long-lasting challenges today. She describes, “I am facing returning to school full-time, not being able to drive myself, and the blindness… I only have partial vision out of one eye,” noting that she may never be able to drive again.
When Reynolds returned to school, things were a bit different. She is currently enrolled at Rutgers through Brookdale’s program, where she will finish her bachelor’s degree. “Thank goodness my classes are all in person again!” she exclaims. Also, she now has alternative methods of transportation.
“My parents normally drive me, and once in a while, my brother gives me a ride. If none of them are available, then I have many extended family members who offer to drive me,” she explains.
This is not the only compromise her accident has caused her to make. “I was hoping to be a cop or an FBI agent one day, and now I will never be able to do so due to my blindness,” she said.
Still, her future looks bright. “I would love to work in the international government, maybe having to do with the U.N.” Reynolds said of her new goals.
Reynolds urges fellow students to “Cherish every moment on this Earth. I have learned to, for sure.” However, she also cautioned students to “try to pay attention and be responsible while driving.”