The woman struck and injured by a pickup truck while crossing in a crosswalk on Jan. 24 is finally home on the Island, but her long road of recovery continues, according to her mother.
Gayle Touchstone was crossing Beach Street at 9:30 pm, and was halfway across the Five Corners intersection when the pickup truck driven by Jao Vitor Goncalves de Oliveira, 22, turned left from Lagoon Pond Road and struck her.
“She’s actually doing better than we thought,” Martha Mezger, Gayle’s mother, told The Times. “She’s walking with a walker, and she has a 24-hour caregiver.”
Touchstone broke many of her ribs, fractured a vertebra in her back, and had a brain bleed. “She’s sort of up and down emotionally. It’s a real hard thing to cope with, having people tell you what to do when you’re 58 years old.”
Mezger can’t say enough about the Tisbury Police officers and first responders who responded to the scene and revived her daughter. She also praised the emergency department at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.
Touchstone is now at home in Vineyard Haven, but she spent more than four weeks at Boston Medical Center, another two weeks at a rehab hospital in Braintree, and then was at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital’s transitional care for two weeks. Mezger told a great story about her daughter’s return to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, and the team that worked to stabilize her showing up at her room. “That afternoon they were up at her bed saying, Welcome back,” Mezger said. “Where does that happen? Where does that happen? Martha’s Vineyard. It was incredible.”
Mezger declined to comment on de Oliveira, who was issued two civil citations — impeded operation of a motor vehicle, and failure to stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk. While the driver’s insurance is paying for most of the medical expenses, there are other expenses that come up that are not covered, she said.
A GoFundMe page, “Help Gayle with Medical Expenses,” has been set up to provide funds for Touchstone. Mezger said her church community has also helped with her daughter’s expenses.
A video of the accident has been circulated on social media. Mezger said she happened upon it, but has not watched the moment her daughter was struck. She has watched the parts where first responders provide care for her daughter, and is grateful for their efforts.
“They were very thorough in getting her stable. I was thinking, ‘Why is it taking so long to put her in the ambulance and take her away?’ They had to save her life first,” Mezger said.
Mezger believes the dim lighting of Five Corners played a role in the crash. Her daughter was wearing an orange, reflective coat. As for how the accident happened, she only knows what she’s read about the driver, who police say was distracted by a bag of popcorn he had just purchased at Cumberland Farms and dropped as he was driving.
“It was really one of these things you don’t think it’s ever going to happen. No one ever plans for something like this,” Mezger said. “He spilled something and was reaching down to pick it up.”
Touchstone was airlifted off-Island, but because of wind, the helicopter had to stop at Joint Base Cape Cod, where it met up with an ambulance to bring her to Boston.
In Boston, it would be several anguishing days for the family, because Touchstone required surgery to drain the blood from her brain. “It was five or six days before she even registered that she was there,” Mezger said. “We didn’t know she would live, and it was frightening.”
From Boston Medical Center, she went to the first rehab hospital, where she had to learn to climb 17 steps before they would release her, because she has 17 steps into her apartment. Touchstone had to be able to navigate the steps to care for her small dog, Aragon.
“She doesn’t remember the incident at all,” Mezger said of her daughter.