Stew Urska Jerala was seriously injured when she was hit by a car while riding a bicycle between a crew house and crew agencies on Nov. 20 in Ft. Lauderdale.
Jerala was comatose in intensive care for five days in a hospital and was injured on her face, chest and ankle with injuries and abrasions on several other parts of her body. She is recovering at Martha’s Crew House in Ft. Lauderdale. Jerala does not remember the accident.
“It feels as if it happened to someone else; I don’t remember the accident,” she said, sitting on a single bed in mid-December in a room in she shares with Stew Sharna Tuohy.
“You can’t imagine the state she was in at first; there was nothing in her eyes,” Tuohy said.
Tuohy arrived at the crew house after the accident, but has been helping Jerala recover.
“I was in a coma and came out of when they stopped with the morphine and drugs,” Jerala said.
“Then she was in and out of consciousness for five days in bed here,” Tuohy said while sitting on the room’s other single bed. “She doesn’t remember talking to us, she doesn’t remember saying, ‘I’m going to go to work tomorrow.’ She would set her alarm and kept saying she was going to work.”
Previously stew on the 26m M/Y Jurata and the 41m M/Y Bibich, Jerala had been in the United States about 10 days before the accident and just one day at the crew house. She rented a bike to make traveling around Ft. Lauderdale’s crew agencies easier. After her morning rounds that day, she was headed back to the crew house when she was struck at the corner of U.S. 1 and Southeast 17th Street. The driver stopped and emergency officials were called.
Since that morning, her world has changed considerably. For starters, she now looks different than the photo on her CV. Tuohy pointed to her friend’s wounds and explained why.
“She had a broken nose, about 30 stitches across her chest, about 15 on her nose, about 15 on her chin,” Tuohy said. “She had stitches on her ankle and abrasions all over. There were about five of us helping her.”
The 31-year-old from Slovenia, with bright eyes and long blond hair, held her smile as she explained her continuing recovery.
“I don’t feel my lips, food falls out like a baby,” Jerala said, pointing to her face.
The stitches have been removed, she has undergone five cosmetic surgeries and goes to physical therapy.
Jerala said she feels better each day, but the recovery is not easy.
“The sleeping pills are not working; I can’t sleep,” she said. “I have back pain and can’t move my neck.”
Yet she finds a positive side.
“I am surrounded by nice people,” she said.
Her crew house friends are raising money to help Jerala with her living expenses. With the investigation ongoing, it’s is unclear about coverage of her medical bills, but she still must have a place to sleep and food to eat.
“The bills keep coming,” Tuohy said. “She has the neurosurgeon, physical therapy and still needs to pay accommodations and food without the funds or ability to work. She is also very far from home.” She will also need facial reconstruction after the scars heal in about a year.
Despite the pain and scars, Jerala is persistent and positive. She is not able to work yet, but doesn’t let an opportunity pass her by.
“Tell her what we did yesterday,” Tuohy said.
“We went to an interview with an agent because she was here from the UK,” said Jerala, her smile widening. “I thought, I have nothing to lose, I want to work.”
She explained to the agent that she couldn’t wear makeup to hide the scars during recovery according to her doctor.
“Urska went on the interview anyway,” Tuohy said. “It’s a testament to her personality and strength.”
“I’m grateful I’m alive,” Jerala said. “And work is a reason to get up in the morning.”
Dorie Cox is associate editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friends are organizing fund-raising to help Jerala with medical bills. For information on her progress or to donate, visit the fundraising site here, or “Fundraise for Ursa” on Facebook (her nickname) or e-mail at email@example.com.
Anyone with information on the accident may contact the City of Ft. Lauderdale Police department.