My Toddler Survived Airborne Car Crash but I Almost Died: How I Fought for My Life Through 30 Surgeries (Exclusive)

I want to do as much as I can for my family

<p>Sarah Zimmerman Photography</p> Bethany LeVrier (left) and son Brayden

Sarah Zimmerman Photography

Bethany LeVrier (left) and son Brayden

Bethany LeVrier and her toddler were driving home from a 2021 dinner at her parents' house outside Houston when they were involved in a terrifying, near fatal car crash. Another driver crossed the double yellow line, went airborne and landed on top of their SUV.

LeVrier’s then 1-year-old son, Brayden, walked away with only bruises thanks to his car seat. 

But LeVrier, a 37-year-old mom living in Conroe, Texas, barely survived. The crash broke nearly every bone below her waist and she spent almost three weeks in a coma and another two months in intensive care. She needed more than 30 surgical procedures for what one of her doctors, Timothy Hodges, called “devastating” injuries. "There’s a multitude of patients that get down, despondent, give up — that wasn’t Bethany. She grinded it through," Hodges says.

She learned how to walk again over the last three years and grew strong enough to hold her son and play with him.

Here LeVrier shares her story, as told to PEOPLE’s Wendy Grossman Kantor, of nearly losing her life and learning to get it back one step at a time.

I have no memory of the accident. I have no memory of the day of the accident and a couple of days before, so I'm going off of what I was told.

Life was good. It was busy because my husband was working. I was working. My husband, Bradley, he's a first responder — he’s a firefighter who works shift work. Things were on the go. I would try to get all of our errands done on days my husband was at work, so when he was off he could just relax, be at home, enjoy family time and not have to worry about being on the go even more so than we already were.

A week before, we had just taken a vacation. We went to Moab, Utah, and did some hiking and some off-road driving. It was wonderful. That's the last memory I have before everything changed.

When my husband was working, either my mom or my husband's mom would watch our son, Brayden, [who] had just turned 14 months at the time.

On Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021, I dropped Brayden off at my mom and dad's house that morning and I went to my office, I worked as a paralegal at an estate planning firm. After work, I went to my parents' house, we ate dinner and then I left — it was around 7 o'clock. It wasn’t super late.

My parents live 20 minutes away from me. The crash happened around 7:30 p.m. It was November so it was dark out, I was five minutes from my house in Conroe [in Texas] when the guy who hit me crossed a double yellow line, he hit a couple cars, went airborne, landed on top of my car. Every airbag in my Toyota 4Runner deployed. The car did its job.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

<p>LeVrier Family</p> Bethany LeVrier's SUV after her 2021 crash

LeVrier Family

Bethany LeVrier's SUV after her 2021 crash

My son was not hurt, because he was in a properly restrained car seat. He had bruises on his legs from his harness and that was it.

We were both transported to Memorial Hermann in the Woodlands. My husband found out later that if my son had been more severely injured, they would've taken him to Texas Children's [hospital] in downtown Houston. My vitals started to tank in transport — and I don't think I would've made it downtown. So I'm really grateful that he wasn't seriously injured and that we made it to Memorial Hermann.

The ER doctor that was there that night told my husband, "Look, she basically broke everything from the waist down.”

I had multiple fractures in my pelvis. I had bilateral open femur fractures, so I have scars everywhere. One of my open femur fractures was mid-thigh down to the knee and over the top of the knee. Both of my kneecaps were fractured in multiple places. I had femur-head fractures, a broken rib, a shattered elbow and tissue damage. I had lost a lot of blood.

All in all, I've had over 30 surgical procedures. I have hardware everywhere. I've got rods in my legs. I've got a plate in my pelvis. I’ve got screws in my hips. I've got at least one screw in one of my ankles.

I was in a medically induced coma for nearly three weeks. I eventually needed a tracheotomy. I almost lost a foot. I needed a muscle graft and some skin grafts. My husband was there every day. Every single day. We've known each other since we were 12. We grew up in the same church youth group. We got married in January 2018. We celebrated our five-year wedding anniversary in the hospital.

I never left the ICU — I stayed there until mid-January [2022], when I went directly to inpatient rehab at TIRR Memorial Hermann, which was in the same building. I got out of inpatient rehab right before Valentine's Day.

<p>LeVrier Family</p> Bethany LeVrier in the hospital after her 2021 crash

LeVrier Family

Bethany LeVrier in the hospital after her 2021 crash

When I left inpatient rehab, I could not walk. I was terrified of being in small vehicles. I had to relearn a lot.

The most walking I had done before I left inpatient rehab was assisted — I walked while strapped in a harness. I have no idea what the name of this machine was, but I was harnessed into it. It's a really humbling thing to suddenly need all of these things and tools to help you move and function when you used to be perfectly fine moving on your own.

I remember the very first time I walked in rehab, a year after the crash, in February 2022. I'll never forget it because I cried. I took four steps and I cried, and I'm still crying about it. By the time I left rehab I could barely stand up long enough to maneuver into a vehicle.

I still can't go directly from a seated position to the floor like a normal person would when you get on the floor. I can't do that. I can get down on the floor now, on my knees, but only if I have a cushion. Getting down on my knees on a hard floor — no way. No way. It's very uncomfortable even still.

As a mom, it was really hard to accept my limitations and to have to rely on other people to comfort my child when that's all I want to do. He got used to it, but he shouldn't have had to. We all made adaptations and sacrifices. This is obviously not what I wanted my life to look like as a new mom dealing with a running 15 month old.

It was really, really hard. A lot of my focus in my recovery was because of my son. I don't want him to look back on his childhood and remember that all mama did was sit. That's not fair to him. And that's not fair to me as a mom either. This was just devastating to have to deal with and go through.  But I wouldn't let those moments dictate my mood. It was like, okay, you got 30 seconds. Get it out of your system. Have a good cry in the shower while no one can see you.

<p>LeVrier Family</p> Bethany LeVrier (right) during rehab after her 2021 crash

LeVrier Family

Bethany LeVrier (right) during rehab after her 2021 crash

I tried really hard to not let my son see when I was having a moment like that because I didn't want him to remember it. I really tried to focus on being present for my son and for my husband, for our life. I couldn’t stay stationary. This is life now, so I need to do what I can, all I can.

I go to strength training every week to help exercise and just focus on getting stronger because I want to do as much as I can for my family. I still get really tired really easily. My endurance is awful — so doing normal tasks and things at home is sometimes a workout in itself. Laundry, dishes and a little housework is a workout now. But it also helps move me forward and progress. And it's just like, okay, let me do more than I did the day before.

The first time I picked my son up while standing, without anyone just handing him to me, was almost a year after the accident. He was running in the house and bumped into a wall and he came to me needing comfort, wanting me to check his boo boo. I picked him up and I walked over to a rocking chair and it took a lot in me to physically get there and not burst into tears over my milestone, because he was already upset. I didn't want him to think I was crying about him. But I remember that moment because of what it means for me. It means progress, it means strength.

Brayden turns 4 at the end of August. He starts school this fall — I'm excited. We’re all excited.

<p>LeVrier Family</p> Bethany LeVrier (left) with husband Bradley (right) and their son, Brayden

LeVrier Family

Bethany LeVrier (left) with husband Bradley (right) and their son, Brayden

I find I accomplish more when I'm coming from a place of gratitude. I could have lost my foot, I could have lost my legs, I could have lost my life. I try really hard to think, “I'm still here.” I'm whole.

There are so many people who helped me and are a part of my story. Family, friends, doctors, nurses, physical therapists, etc. I remember them and everything they have done for me. I know it’s a job for most, but it’s so much more to me. Those doctors and nurses and therapists saved my life. They are angels in scrubs for what they do, and I am forever grateful to them. My family was there, providing and caring for my son when I couldn’t be. So let's make the most of it. Let's live in the now and do the best I can.

I still go to outpatient therapy, to a strength training program. I go every week to exercise because I want to do as much as I can for my family.

I started walking unassisted in public, not just at home, in January of this year, which was a really big deal. That means I'm strong enough and I'm stable enough on my feet to walk longer distances — which is just another step forward.

I'm one step closer to being as normal as I can be.

For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on People.