CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – When asked what would be one word to describe the past 12 years, the first word that came to Stephanie Watson’s mind, was “never-ending.”
“It’s just never-ending, and it’s all because of a drunk driver, because of one man’s decision to get behind the wheel drunk that we have to plan every day out for the rest of our lives just to live a normal life,” Watson said.
If you looked at a photo of Emily Mills, you would see a happy, smiling, young girl. However, you would never know what she has been through until you saw the wheelchair she sits in.
Watson easily gets emotional when News 2 spoke to her about her daughter.
“Emily is my entire […] she is my whole world, my reason for being. She’s just the best person, makes me a better person. I could go on and on and talk about how beautiful, amazing…she’s just a blessing to be here,” Watson described.
Oftentimes, Watson thinks about how lucky she is to have her daughter, since there was a period when she thought she would lose her.
At the time of the crash, Emily was given a 2% chance to walk again, but Watson smiled as she thought back to how those odds have never stopped her from accomplishing her goals. Emily graduated back in May. At 18 years old, she is ready to go to Austin Peay State University.
“Like most teenage kids, parents would worry about making sure their child was home on time before or on time for curfew,” Watson said. “Emily, if she wanted to hang out with friends, we had to, you know, see if the bathrooms were big enough for her in a wheelchair. If her friend’s home had stairs, we get her into the home? We constantly have doctors’ appointments, physical therapy appointments.”
It was Feb. 17, 2011, and Emily was just five years old at the time.
“I get a phone call from my sister’s phone and a gentleman was on the other line and it was an officer with the Clarksville Police Department saying, ‘Your sister and daughter were just in a wreck,'” Watson remembered. “He said that they had been in a wreck, and it was a possible DUI.”
From the scene, Emily was flown to Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
When Watson arrived at the hospital, she was pulled aside and told to give doctors about 15 minutes to perform a couple of X-rays to make sure everything was okay.
Emily started to complain about not being able to breathe.
“She kept screaming she can’t feel her legs. She just couldn’t feel her legs,” Watson recalled. “They were able to see that she had a small tear in her trachea. The air from the trachea was going out into her body, and it is only by the grace of God that she is still here.”
The crash report would detail what happened that night on Warfield Boulevard. Behind the wheel was Kristopher Colbert, who was 24 years old at the time. It was his first DUI charge and he was also charged with two counts of vehicular assault. He was sentenced to eight years, but Watson explained how he was let out for good behavior after serving five and a half years.
Two years after he was released, Colbert would go on to be arrested again, this time in Todd County, Kentucky. Court records show deputies found multiple open beer bottles in the car.
“When I found out he got his second DUI, it almost felt like it was happening all over again. I can’t explain how,” Watson said in frustration.
| READ MORE | Latest headlines from Clarksville and Montgomery County
It’s been a journey she could never prepare for, but she often thinks about how far Emily has come, and how the journey is far from over.
“I think it does bother her that he was given a second chance at life and is still out doing the same thing, and she is in a wheelchair,” Watson said.
Although Emily is bound to a chair, she is not tied to her circumstance. Her mother will be quick to tell you the wheels don’t come close to defining Emily’s identity.