“We braced to hold on to each other.” State Rep. Katie Arrington recalls fatal car wreck
South Carolina Republican congressional candidate Katie Arrington thanked God and her friend and driver Jacqueline Goff for saving her life.
"When we braced for impact, we braced to hold onto each other," Arrington said through tears. "I owe Jackie Goff my life, and I don't for a moment discount that God and Jackie are my saviors."
The 47-year-old state lawmaker spoke with reporters for the first time since she was severely injured in a car wreck last month, before heading home with her family.
"If any of you do not believe in God, look at the woman sitting before you," Arrington said at a news conference Friday at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. "MUSC is a gem, not only to South Carolina but the Southeast. ... Every day this hospital is creating and doing miracles. I'm no different."
Arrington sustained a fracture in her back and several broken ribs, and underwent several major surgeries, including the removal of a portion of her small intestine and a portion of her colon. She sat in a wheelchair with one leg in a cast.
MUSC neurosurgeon Dr. Avery Buchholz said "there is no easy path through this. Externally she looks great, but internally she is still healing." But he anticipates Arrington will make a full recovery.
"She is recovery well, but the reality is there is recovery to go," Buchholz said. "And, realistically, it’s going to be another month or so of her taking it easy and limiting physical activity. For anyone who knows Katie knows she’s going to test those limits.
"She’s very motivated and determined, and that’s going to help her in this process."
Arrington said she wants to return to the campaign soon but plans to heed doctors' advice and take it easy.
"This campaign has never stopped for me," she said. "Like nothing else, I am a determined woman, and this has made me stronger."
Arrington was severely injured in a head-on collision by a driver driving the wrong way on a Charleston County highway on June 22. Goff, who was driving Arrington, was also critically injured and remains in the hospital. The other driver, 69-year-old Helen White, was killed.
Arrington offered her "deepest and profound condolences" to White's family.
The first-term state representative from Summerville was injured a little more than a week after having ousted U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford in South Carolina's June 12 GOP primary. Arrington received the backing of President Donald Trump just hours before polls closed.
Democratic nominee Joe Cunningham suspended campaign activities for a few days following the crash and wished Arrington a full recovery, as did Sanford.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is preparing to make crucial investments in the district, according to a spokesperson for the party’s official fundraising arm for House candidates.
South Carolina's junior U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, who previously held the coastal 1st District congressional seat, will stand in as a surrogate for Arrington at upcoming campaign events.
Asked how much she’s been thinking about the campaign, Arrington said she was still hooked to ventilators when she mouthed “I love you” to her husband, and then began writing in the air with her hand “C-A-M.”
"And my husband, Rob, what was I saying?" she said during the news conference.
“You were saying 'campaign,' ” her husband said.
"This is hard work (and) perseverance to get to Washington (D.C.) to represent this community, this district and this nation, and it hasn't stopped," Arrington said Friday.
She thanked people for the outpouring of support she's received while recovering in the hospital, including prayer vigils, prayer shawls and rosaries.
"To everybody watching and to everybody in this room, I'm just like you," she said. "And I'm really just a nobody. And the fact that you opened your hearts and your prayers to me, I'm just somebody who wants to serve. I don't deserve it. ... I thank you for picking me."
S.C. GOP Chairman Drew McKissick says the party has heard from "everyone from the White House right on down" since Arrington's accident.
He said GOP leaders across the state are committed to making sure the district remains in Republican hands.
"We are going to be working tightly with the campaign in terms of whatever they think they need," McKissick said. "Everyone from the senator on down has offered to do whatever the campaign needs. ... The one thing I think you can say for certain is this has done nothing to diminish the drive she has a person and as a candidate. And, if anything, it's just emphasized it."