“I could have died.”
Those four words spoken by Dillion Parker were enough to get and keep the undivided attention of Tarboro High School's driver’s education class Thursday. The 23-year-old former Tarboro High School graduate shared his near-death experience when he was in a horrific car accident on Aug. 4, 2010 in Johnston County. Parkers’ message showed the soon-to-be new drivers the reality of what could happen if they do not abide by driving laws.
Parker and his friends had been drinking that night when they decided to go to Johnston County. Somewhere along I-95, while traveling an estimated 85 mph and texting, he lost control on a curve and crashed into a tree on the driver’s side of the vehicle.
"Drinking and driving is not good. Texting and driving is not good. Speeding is not good. I was doing all three," Parker told the class.
"I don't remember (to this day) whether I was driving or not. I heard them on them on the 911 tape saying, 'It looks like he is dying."
Parker suffered a broken neck, broken ribs, broken tailbone, fractured back and a ruptured bladder. Even the doctors thought he would not survive until the next day.
"They told my parents that I had no chance of survival."
Two state troopers delivered the news of Parkers' accident to his mother, Melanie Bearden. It was one of the most horrifying messages she said she had ever received. Bearden also attended the class.
"We had to drive one hour not knowing whether Dillion was alive or was he going to make it," Bearden said. "Once we got there, the first person we saw was the chaplain. You know that wasn't good news.
"The doctors told us that it was a 95 percent chance he would not make it to the next day. He made it."
Parker defied the odds of surviving, but the doctors' diagnosis still wasn't favorable. They told his family that if he survived, he would be a quadriplegic and would use a breathing tube the remainder of his life.
After hearing the bad news, hundreds of Parker's friends gathered at the hospital and prayed for their comrade.
Parker said he doesn't remember too much of anything that happened that night. He spent 23 days in ICU. When he began gaining his senses back, "I thought it was a bad dream he said." His mother told him the circumstances surrounding the accident.
As days went by, he began piece his memory together and his feeble body began to heal.
Today, Parker is using his horrific experience to tell whomever will listen he importance of obeying laws on the roadway.
"I'm telling you, don't drink and drive and don't text and drive," he told the class. "I promise you, that text can wait. It's not worth it. I'm blessed to be alive. and not only alive, (but) not to be paralyzed."
With the exception of a scar on the back of his neck, Parker appears to be the picture of good health, although he doesn't the mobility to turn his head and he is deaf in one ear.
The students were in awe when Parker completed telling his story.
Graft Wilson, 16, said, "It is incredible to meet someone who has been through something like that and he is using it to tell others about it, so that they will not be caught up doing the same things. He was given a second chance and he is not wasting it."
Daniel Lucas, 14, said "This has changed me. I will never drink and drive."
Jaylen Pettway said, "It scared me so bad that I don't know whether I want to drive or not. It will definitely make me think twice."