Katie Arrington faces months of painful recovery after she was critically injured in a head-on collision two weeks ago, but on Friday the South Carolina Republican congressional candidate finally got to go home.
She left her hospital room at Charleston’s Medical University of South Carolina at 2 p.m. just ahead of speaking publicly for the first time since the June 22 crash on Highway 17 South near Adams Run.
With casts on both of her legs, the wheelchair-bound Arrington smiled and waved as her husband, Rob, pushed her into the conference room set up with a table and microphones.
Despite her pain, Arrington laughed. She called her neurosurgeon, "Dr. Dreamy," while Dr. Avery Buchholz called her "motivated and determined."
She will still have a month or so of limited mobility while her internal injuries heal, he said, but is expected to make a full recovery.
"For anybody who knows Katie, they’re going to know she’s going to test those limits," he said, chuckling.
Arrington promised to follow her doctors’ orders but affirmed her desire to resume campaigning in the state’s coastal 1st Congressional District.
"This campaign has never stopped for me," Arrington said. "This is hard work and perseverance to get to Washington to represent this community, this district and this nation, and it hasn't stopped."
Her campaign manager Michael Mule said afterward that even while Arrington was still recovering in the hospital’s intensive care unit she had told him to turn on C-SPAN.
When Arrington recalled the accident that critically injured herself and her friend, Jaqueline Goff, 59, Arrington’s voice trembled through tears.
The 47-year-old Summerville state representative said she never lost consciousness and remembers everything that happened, including the moments before the crash.
"When we braced for impact, we braced holding onto each other," Arrington said. "I owe Jackie Goff my life. I don’t for a moment discount that. God and Jackie are my saviors."
Arrington's injuries from the wreck were extensive: a fracture in her left ankle, two broken ribs, a colon injury, two small bowel injuries and injuries to her iliac artery.
She also suffered bleeding from her abdominal wall and spinal injuries that included a fracture to her second vertebrae. Doctors later found another fracture in her right foot.
The driver of the other vehicle, Helen White, 69, died at the scene. She had been driving the wrong way, northbound on the south bound lane, authorities said. Arrington said her thoughts were with White's family Friday.
As a Catholic, Arrington also thanked God repeatedly.
"No facial trauma, no neurological damage and there is no reason why other than God," she said, adding, "It's good not to have tubes in me anymore."
Her first stop on the way back to Summerville was to see her mother, Lucille Ann Stolark, who is in hospice.
Arrington upset incumbent U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford last month in the Republican primary for the 1st Congressional District. She faces Democrat Joe Cunningham in November.
State GOP Chairman Drew McKissick said since Arrington’s accident he has "heard from folks from the White House on down." He said the party pledged to do whatever it could on her behalf while she recuperates.
"We will do absolutely whatever they need us to do," McKissick said. "We won’t leave anything on the table."
Cunningham had suspended his campaign for about a week while Arrington recovered. He issued a message Friday saying he was looking forward to resuming the race as well.
"Amanda and I are thrilled to hear that Katie is leaving the hospital and we continue to pray for a full recovery," he said in a statement to The Post and Courier.
"In the weeks and months to come, voters will hear two very different visions for the Lowcountry and we look forward to a spirited debate on the issues."