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Why We Walk


Erin Rollins

Crash Anniversary: November 9, 2014
Hometown: Willowbrook, IL

November 8th started out like any other fall day for Erin Rollins (Massey at the time). She got up, took her Pomeranian/Pekingese mix named Gizmo for a walk, and did some chores around the house. She connected with a friend in the evening and decided to meet another one for a movie. She drove northbound on I55 to a movie theatre in Chicago - the same expressway she had driven for 13 years after first earning her driver's license at 16. 

The movie ended a little later than planned, and Erin called her mother, who had left a voicemail inquiring about her safety. Erin called her back while leaving the parking garage and said, "I'm fine mom. I'll be home in 20 minutes. Go back to bed. Love you. Bye."

Only, Erin never made it home.

At 1:30 in the morning on Sunday, November 9th 2014, a drunk driver traveling the wrong way down the expressway (northbound in the southbound lanes) hit Erin Rollins head-on. Erin immediately sustained life threatening abdominal injuries, several broken bones, a severe concussion, and a traumatic spinal cord injury - paralyzing her from the waist down. The surgeons weren't sure if she'd make it through the night or ever walk again. Erin initially underwent three life-saving, and one reconstructive surgery. She spent a month in two different hospitals and a month and a half in inpatient rehab learning how to walk again, catheterize herself and care for her colostomy. Ten days after the crash, the first surgery to repair holes in her organs failed, she became septic and almost died. The surgeons needed to give her a colostomy to save her life.

Since that fateful night, Erin has had thirteen more surgeries, with three more planned this year, to literally put her back together, and help her achieve as much recovery as possible.

After nine years of hundreds of hours of physical and occupational therapy, and the aforementioned surgeries, Erin is walking without assistance, but she requires catheters to urinate. She has also had a successful reversal of her colostomy a year ago in 2023 after being told it was not possible for eight long years. Throughout Erin's recovery, she relied on her faith, her support system consisting of family and friends, and staff from MADD. Her victim advocate, Karen, connected her with "Victim's Compensation" to help cover expenses while she was unable to work, and Karen attended every criminal court date, along with Erin's friends and family for the length of the criminal case which took two years. Karen has become a good friend of Erin's over the years and they are still in touch.

Karen and Kristi, another MADD victim advocate who Erin has gotten close to, both encouraged Erin to participate in the yearly Walk like MADD events. Erin's first walk took place during the summer of 2016 before the second anniversary of her crash. She walked with a cane and two ankle foot orthotics. During her last walk, she was able to attend assistive device-free.

Walk like MADD has been something Erin looks forward to participating in each year. Building a team and walking alongside other victims and victims' families has been life changing and helps give her a purpose, as well as, helps to raise money to educate others and help put a stop to drunk driving for good. It's a completely preventable crime.

This year, Erin has been honored to be chosen as one of MADD's National Ambassadors and travel the country with MADD staff to advocate against the negative consequences of drunk driving and share her story. Erin believes if choosing to share and relive the sing most traumatic night of her life saves one person, it is worth it.