‘My whole body was burning’: DUI victim shares story of survival

Published: Sep. 21, 2023 at 5:13 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - A survivor of a car accident is sharing her story of survival after a man crashed into them while driving under the influence.

Sarah Italien was a freshman at Albany State University studying psychology. It was just her second semester as she looked to take on the next step in her life, but before that happened, her life changed in the blink of an eye.

“A drunk driver hit me and my friend from behind and that caused the car to catch on fire. 49% of my body was burned and all 10 of my fingers were amputated,” said Italien.

Her friend was the one driving the car that night. Italien considers herself the lucky one after her friend passed away.

“I remember people screaming and I was crying for my mom. And because the door was burnt shut and I was stuck in my seatbelt, they had to pull me out from the back seat. So I remember my whole body was burning and stuff,” said Italien.

Italien spent the next seven months in the hospital. She spent three of those months in the ICU fighting for her life.

“I couldn’t walk, talk, eat. And I was also in an induced coma. I’ve had over 25 surgeries,” said Italien.

Through all the challenges, Italien continues to push through the hardships that come with life after her accident.

“I feel like everyone should be encouraged to just keep moving forward and know that not every day is going to be rainbow and sunshine. You’re going to have your days, but you just need to push through,” said Italien.

She says she’s lucky to be alive and considers herself a miracle after barely being saved from the burning car.

“It just reminds me how you could be here one day and the next you could be gone. So just to cherish what you have around you and appreciate the little things,” said Italien.

Italien is still going through therapy three times a week as she looks to get back to a normal life, which includes trying to get back to school for classes.

The end goal for Italien is to get in touch with other burn survivors to help them push through to get back to what they call the new normal.