‘It Gave Me Goosebumps': After Terrible Crash, Santa Cruz Woman Makes Amazing Discovery About Device That Saved Her Life

Sonja Brunner is back doing the things she loves and is loving every moment of it.

With the help of friends, the Santa Cruz resident recently got on a paddleboard, in the roller rink, and out onto a dance floor. Brunner is beyond thrilled to be any of those places because of where she was just four months earlier: pinned behind the driver's seat of her car after a drunk driver crossed the center line and slammed into her.

"Oh, my Goodness, this is it," Brunner recalled thinking that night in June. "Is this the end of my life?"

Douglas Gingrave

Brunner later learned her diaphragm had been ruptured, her lung collapsed, and her pelvis and spine had been fractured. She said she was stuck, in pain, and struggling to breathe for what seemed, to her, like an eternity until firefighters were able to free her from the crushed car using the jaws of life, a hydraulic tool used to pry apart wreckage.

Recovery has not been easy but Brunner's Santa Cruz community has her back. The paddleboarding, rollerskating, and dancing were all part of day-long fundraiser friends held to help Brunner pay for expenses she has incurred because of the crash.

It is payback, it would seem, for all the good Brunner has done over the years in her community, like the time her son joined the Boy Scouts.

Brunner threw herself into the role as a Den Leader, chairing just about every committee and helping out with every event. Every year, Brunner and her son would volunteer for the local firefighters' pancake breakfast fundraiser.

"You know, put on our uniforms and go out and bus tables and serve people pancakes," Brunner said.

Which explains why, a few days after the crash, when Brunner saw a Felton Fire Protection District Facebook post detailing her rescue she had trouble breathing again. This time, though, it was for a good reason.

"When I saw the blurb, I literally had goosebumps," Brunner said.

Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

It was in that post that Brunner learned the jaws of life used to save her life had been purchased with money raised from the very same pancake breakfasts where she and her son volunteered.

"Who knew back then when I was volunteering and helping and participating that it would come back in that way," Brunner said.

So, among the long list of people Brunner wants to thanks for where she is today, she has got to include herself.

"I fully believe that what you put in into your life, your community, the people around you it totally comes back 10 fold," Brunner said. She now considers herself living proof of it.

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