RACINE — A Racine mother of four children under the age of 6 is scheduled to come home from the hospital as soon as today after losing part of her left arm in a rollover accident.
Crystal Gonzalez, 24, was driving back to Walmart on her lunch break on Aug. 30 with a coworker when she was in a crash at 12th and Racine streets.
“The other car didn’t see me,” Gonzalez recalled. “I didn’t expect to get hit.”
Her decision to keep her hand out the window changed her life forever.
“I lost my arm, two inches below the elbow,” Gonzalez said.
It was crushed by the ground as the van rolled. She credits her seatbelt with saving her life, as she believes she would have been pulled through the window. But the danger was not over.
“I was thinking I could possibly bleed to death. I looked to the sky and said, ‘God spare my life. I need to live for my kids,’ “ Gonzalez said.
She thought of her sons Xavier, 6, and Jadiel, 2; daughter Briannys, 1; and 3-month-old son Xanyel, now in the care of their grandmother.
With the van on its side, she could only stand and look out the other window; escape seemed difficult in her condition. She wrapped her arm with a T-shirt she grabbed from a passer-by until paramedics could arrive.
“People just looked at me like I was crazy and turned away. I said ‘Help me,’ “ Gonzalez said.
Some good Samaritans came to her aid and smashed out her windshield with a Racine police officer so she could get out of her overturned van.
“The paramedics asked who tied my arm up and I told them I did it,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez had four surgeries at Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa to recover.
She continues to inspire her sister, Monica Guerrero, who has opened an account to help pay for her sister’s medical bills and raise her children. Gonzalez had no insurance.
“Crystal is an amazing and strong woman,” Guerrero said. “She would help anyone who needed it. She is the type of person who would give the shirt off her back if she needed to.”
Racine police told The Journal Times at the scene of the accident that Gonzalez’s van was traveling south on Racine Street when she was struck by a vehicle that ran the stop sign on 12th Street. Police were unable to provide information Tuesday regarding citations issued after the crash.
Guerrero said Gonzalez recently moved to Racine to get away from what she called “the brutal streets of Chicago” only to have a debilitating injury in the crash.
“She is the breadwinner for her little family. She worked hard for her babies, three boys and a girl, and goes above and beyond for them as much as she can,” Guerrero said.
Help at home
Gonzalez wonders how she can complete simple tasks like changing a diaper with the new challenge, but she’s determined to get home to her children who need her.
“I know life is going to be a harder because I only have one hand. It’s depressing. I can’t say it’s not,” Gonzalez said. “I’m trying to stay positive.”
Her children recently visited her in the hospital. Her 6-year-old asked about her arm and all she could do is reassure him.
“He tells me he’s going to help me the best he can and that he’ll be (my) left arm,” Gonzalez said. “I still want him to have a childhood. I don’t want him to grow up too fast.”
The family has set up a crowdfunding account “You Caring” to accept donations and messages from well wishers: www.youcaring.com/crystalgonzalez-931287.