ST. GEORGE – Two years ago, Marva Cutler was airlifted by Life Flight to University Medical Center in Las Vegas in critical condition after being hit by a car during a morning jog on Little Valley Road in St. George. Due to the extent of her injuries, paramedics at the scene and, later, doctors at UMC didn’t expect her to survive.
Two years have since proven them wrong.
“I’m blessed to be alive,” Marva Cutler said.
Marva Cutler’s name made news on June 21, 2011, when she was identified as the victim in a pedestrian versus vehicle collision that occurred near 3100 South Little Valley Road. The collision happened when a vehicle traveling northbound apparently went across the center of traffic and struck her while jogging northbound on the opposite side of the road. The vehicle also impacted an embankment of earth on that side of the road before driving away.
She sustained severe injuries that included fractures to her head, spine, legs and much of her body.
Marva Cutler said she has no memory of the collision; one moment she was jogging down the road, and sometime later she woke up at UMC.
Miracle at UMC
“It’s a miracle to be alive,” Marva Cutler said. Her husband, Steve Cutler, agrees.
Steve Cutler said doctors in Las Vegas had given up on his wife and told the family to enter her room for a final goodbye. Instead of being the subject of grief-stricken farewells, the unconscious and unresponsive woman opened her eyes a few minutes after her family entered the room.
She credits her return to consciousness, as well as her subsequent and ongoing recovery, to the faith and prayers of family and friends.
“(The doctors) said I wouldn’t have a functioning mind, that I’d be a vegetable,” Marva Cutler said. Once again, the medical professionals were proven wrong.
That is not to say recovery would be a simple matter – far from it. Although she is able to walk on her own again, Marva Cutler said she’s not the person she used to be.
Before the collision and ongoing recovery
“I was a hyperactive person,” she said, “a multi-tasker; check-it-off-the-list, very healthy runner and bicycler. I could do flips on the trampoline. I was very healthy, and now I’m none of these.”
Steve Cutler said his wife was an easy-going person before the incident. Now she experiences bouts of anxiety.
“I get emotional,” Marva Cutler said. “I didn’t used to be an emotional person.”
Though the physical damage to her body was extensive, she said her memory has suffered as well.
“The mind is the final frontier,” she said. “I have to relearn and relearn and relearn.”
Before the accident she loved to cook. Afterward it’s become a trait she’s relearning as she goes.
“We’re not trying to state that as a negative thing,” Steve Cutler said. “She’s doing better than we could have ever expected.”
Physically, parts of Marva Cutler’s body had to be reconstructed after the accident, like her pelvis, shoulder, leg and jaw. Metal plates and pins had to be placed into her body, and for several months she had to wear a metal frame on her right leg.
She said her right leg and foot are a still a bit stiff, causing her to walk with an unstable limp – still, she can walk. “I’m grateful to be walking,” she said.
Altogether, Marva Cutler spent 23 days at UMC, 19 days at Kolob Care and Rehabilitation Center and 21 days at Dixie Regional Medical Center after having to undergo an emergency surgery arising from the original incident. She then spent another five-plus months back at Kolob recovering and undergoing rehab therapy.
She has also undergone 13 surgeries, to which she said, “I’ve kind of lost count.”
Support of medical professionals and the community
The Cutlers have lived in St. George for 35 years. Steve Cutler remarked on the outpouring of compassion from friends and neighbors in the wake of his wife’s accident.
“The people of St. George have been so loving, supportive and encouraging,” he said.
Due to the extensive medical costs, he said the accident has bankrupted the family. Along the way people have held fundraisers for the Cutlers to help. One instance Steve Cutler shared was of a little girl who gave him what she called her “life savings.” He said she gave him $28, and said, “This is for Marva.”
The Cutlers also have high praise for those in the various medical professions who have helped Marva Cutler during her recovery.
“I’ve had the best doctors, nurses, therapists,” Marva Cutler said, and added they have pushed her hard during rehabilitation so she could be at the point she is now.
“We’ve had the best the whole way,” Steve Cutler said.
Marva Cutler continues to attend physical therapy sessions twice a week.
Sharing with youth
Marva Cutler has been sharing her story with the youth of her church. “I talk to youth sometimes,” she said. “I tell them never to give up.”
Since the accident, she said she has learned: “Quitting isn’t a part of my vocabulary.”
“There are two people who were injured (in the accident),” Steven Cutler said, speaking of his wife, as well as the driver involved.
The driver was identified as Marilu Angel of St. George. She has been charged by the Washington County Attorney’s Office with failure to remain at the scene of an accident involving a serious injury – a third-degree felony – and failure to stay in one lane of traffic – a class C misdemeanor.
Jason Velez, Angel’s defense attorney, said Angel passed out just before the accident due to a medical condition, and wasn’t entirely coherent of factors connected with the crash at the time it occurred.
According to the St. George Police Department, Angel was at the scene of the crash after emergency crews responded and tended to Marva Cutler, yet she didn’t disclose her identity as the driver to police until later.
Angel had her first court appearance on Jan. 3, 2012. A jury trial had been scheduled for early June, but was cancelled as a possible resolution may be in the works. “A resolution’s close,” Velez said; though nothing official has been announced yet.
Angel’s next court appearance is scheduled for June 25 at 9 a.m., at the Fifth District Courthouse in St. George.
The Cutlers said they have not been heavily involved in the court proceedings.
While Marva Cutler said she has her doubts about Angel’s blacking out during the accident – and moreover said she shouldn’t be driving at all if a medical condition truly was behind the incident – she nonetheless said she would tell Angel: “I don’t hate you, and I pray for you every day.”
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