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‘I just wanted to live’

Steve Lynn
Vail Correspondent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado ” Angela Lujan fought to survive as her head was trapped underneath a sport utility vehicle on a median of Interstate 70 near Eagle.

Dirt filled her mouth and the 15-year-old could barely breathe. So she started digging with her hand, but it wasn’t working and she was quickly losing consciousness.

Then several people lifted up the car and pulled her from under the vehicle, she said.



“If they hadn’t stopped in the exact time that they did …” Lujan said. “I’m so grateful for them. I never even got to say thanks.”

A couple weeks after Lujan got out of the hospital ” where she had been in critical condition with a fractured skull and face ” she was driving on her learner’s permit.



That positive attitude has helped Lujan, now a senior at Red Canyon High School, recover relatively quickly from an accident last July when she was thrown out of a passenger window of a Ford Explorer after an old tire blew out.

“When you realize how valuable life is ” I don’t know I just wanted to live it,” she said. “So I just tried to get better as soon as I could.”

Lujan and her then-18-year-old brother, Mark Cadmus, and his friend, then-16-year-old Ryan Miller, were driving home from church around 12:45 p.m., July 22. Heading west on Interstate 70 four miles from Eagle, they heard a loud noise.

Time seemed to stop as the three looked at each other, Lujan said.

The vehicle slammed into a guard rail and rolled into the median. Lujan lost consciousness when she went through the window and the sport utility vehicle landed on her. Miller flew out of the back window, but he was treated and released that day. Neither Lujan nor Miller were wearing their seat belts.

Cadmus was wearing his seat belt and was OK.

Lujan recalls waking up and hearing her brother screaming so she started “freaking out” because she thought Miller had died, she said.

“Then I realized that he was screaming because he saw me under the car,” she said.

She thought she was going to die, but some people ” she doesn’t know who ” had stopped to help. They lifted up the vehicle and slid her into her brother’s lap as a doctor who had stopped at the scene made sure her spine was stabilized.

Lujan felt like someone was pouring blood on her head ” but it was hers. People were saying she had no pulse, but Lujan thought, “‘No I’m alive,'” she said. She couldn’t talk when she was asked to say her name, so she used her fingers to form letters instead.

In an ambulance to Vail Valley Medical Center, she concentrated only on trying to breathe.

“I’m glad I wasn’t there because I couldn’t have handled it,” said Lujan’s mother, Mia Cadmus. “I wasn’t handling it very good when I was at the hospital.”

At the hospital, Cadmus saw her daughter lying on a bed. She worried about the blood that was pouring out of Lujan’s ears; someone told her that at least it wasn’t trapped in her daughter’s head.

“I don’t think anybody should have to go through that,” Cadmus said.

Scores of people ” teachers and students from Red Canyon and friends ” visited Lujan. One of her friends stayed night and day with her the whole time and some friends got Lujan walking in hospital hallways within days.

“My brother came up to me and he’s like, ‘You have one hard head,'” she said.

About a week after the accident, Lujan left the hospital.

She cried when she drove past the site of the accident to her Eagle home. Only about two weeks later, she drove and stopped talking medication for pain. She even went snowboarding that winter, wearing a helmet on her doctor’s advice.

She attended school in fall, her face blackened from dirt stuck in her wounds. But people at the school supported her and didn’t make her feel like an outsider, she said.

Her recovery was fraught with challenges. She had nightmares about the vehicle lying on top of her. She went to physical therapy to improve her jolted spine, with which she’s expected to have problems later in life, she said.

Dirt had to be removed from the gashes on her face, which looks better now than before, when “I was missing half my face,” she said.

Even weeks after the accident, Lujan pulled shards of glass from her scalp the size of her thumbnail, she said. She was deaf in one of her ears for months after fluid had collected inside. Her doctor removed that, and her hearing is better now, she said.

Intelligent and articulate now, Lujan said she probably will become a “little slower” and will have post-traumatic stress disorder later in life, her doctor tells her.

Still, Lujan, who has since moved to Vail with her mother, considers life more precious now. She knows of plenty of young people who have died in car crashes, so she knows she’s lucky to be alive, she said.

“You realize how much you love people,” she said.


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