to the top of the page

  Home  »  Strategies »  Impaired Driving »  

Shayna Monson's Story

"I'm asking everyone to always drive sober or please find a sober ride."

At twenty-seven years old, Dickinson native Shayna Monson loves all the things you might expect: coffee, University of North Dakota hockey and Harry Potter. Shayna also loves to travel, having been to London, China and of course the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – twice.

Shayna’s greatest journey, however, hasn’t been a destination on a map, or a great city in the world. Shayna’s journey is one of survival that all started the night someone else chose to drive impaired.

As a 4.25 pre-med student at the University of North Dakota, Shayna dreamed of becoming an anesthesiologist.

Her plans, and the plans of the passengers in her vehicle, all changed at 1:24 a.m. on June 27, 2015, when Shayna’s vehicle was hit head on by an impaired driver who was going the wrong way on the Bismarck Expressway. The crash was so severe, Shayna’s passengers were killed instantly. Shayna was critically injured. At the hospital, she was given a 10% chance of survival. Doctors told Shayna’s family that if she lived through the first 48 hours after her crash, she would most likely live the rest of her life in a persistent vegetative state.
Shayna’s family was in shock and for the next week relied upon the strength and prayers of friends and family as they waited for some sign that Shayna would pull through. At the same time, families and friends said their good-byes to the two young ladies who were passengers in Shayna’s vehicle.

We attended two funerals for lives that were taken much too soon and so senselessly,” explains Shayna’s mom, Connie.

Somehow, Shayna continued to survive. Six days after the crash she opened her eyes. Ten days after the crash she was moved out of the intensive care unit and her family was told she was a potential candidate for Craig Hospital, a hospital in Denver, Colorado that specializes in neurorehabilitation, but first she’d have to move to Kindred Hospital in Denver, a long-term acute care facility, and she needed to go as soon as possible.

Nineteen days after her crash, Shayna was airlifted to Kindred Hospital to receive the physical and occupational therapies she’d need to be transferred to Craig Hospital.

Still unable to walk, talk, eat or swallow, Shayna began to respond to therapies at Kindred when she started swallowing liquid and blinking her eyes in response to wanting more water.

It was small sign that her brain was trying to wake up,” Connie recalls.
Thirty-two days after the crash, Shayna was moved to Craig Hospital. Aside from the eye blinks a few days earlier, there was no other communication from her before her arrival at Craig. Moving Shayna was done via a two-person sling lift and her position had to be changed every 20 minutes to avoid sores.

Shayna began intense therapies within her second day at Craig Hospital. Slowly, she started improving. At day 40 she was communicating with her finger. On day 49 she ate two teaspoons of pureed food inserted in her mouth. On day 81 Shayna had corrective surgery on her feet, and a day later Shayna initiated standing from a seated position for the first time since the crash.

On day 86 she read Harry Potter.
On day 88, Shayna delivered her first message since the crash on an I-Pad. 

Hello I’m alive. I like traveling. My favorite place is Washington state. I’m sore,” she wrote.

A few days later, on day 90, Shaya said “I love you” to her mom.

After 100 days at Craig, and 131 days after the crash, Shayna had improved enough to move to the next leg of her journey. She transitioned to Quality Living, Inc., a rehab facility that specializes in traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries in Omaha, Nebraska.

Shayna continued to defy the odds and improved daily. Literally stepping over obstacles put in front of her 187 days after the crash. She walked for the first time without assistance 221 days after the crash and on day 240 Shayna ran for the first time.
293 days after being given a small chance of survival, Shayna was able to make the 10-hour journey home to Dickinson.  
On day 2,252 – or more than six years later, Shayna is finally back on a journey she started prior to her crash, finishing her degree at UND. She’s also using her story to educate others on the dangers of driving impaired, through a Vision Zero campaign.

Shayna is a testament of strength and survival. But what happened to Shayna and her passengers can be avoided if everyone consistently makes the right choice.   

That’s why Shayna’s message to others is simple:

Always drive sober or please find a sober ride.

This story was adapted from Connie and Shayna’s presentation to the North Dakota Brain Injury Network and used with permission.