Amador grad paralyzed in accident

'I just unbuckled my seatbelt for a second'

A life can change in an instant.

That was the case for Katie Sharify. While on her way to Los Angeles on Nov. 2, the 2006 graduate from Amador Valley High took her seatbelt off and her eyes from the road for just a few moments. She wound up ejected from her car, hospitalized and paralyzed.

Sharify said her mother had left fruit and energy drinks on the floor of the passenger seat, and the noise from them rolling around had begun to bother her.

On Interstate 5 with the cruise control set to 70, she leaned over to move the cans, a decision that would change her life forever.

"I just unbuckled my seatbelt for a second. I looked down for two whole seconds -- I looked up and my car was veering to the left," she said.

She tried to swerve right but couldn't bring the car back under control.

"I ended up just going off road and crashing into the little hills," Sharify said. "The impact ended up sending me through the back window. I was ejected and when they found me I was 20 feet away from the car. The last thing I remember is the air bag opening. ... The car was just flipping and flipping. I don't remember any of this, it was just what I was told."

"Next thing I remember was being put into the helicopter," she continued. "I was airlifted to Doctors Medical Center in Modesto."

There, she received blood transfusions and had spinal surgery. The accident left her with head injuries, broken ribs, a broken spine and a bruised spinal cord, along with the bruising and swelling one would get in any accident. The most serious was the damage to Sharify's spine.

"My injury is what they call t3/t4. Those were the vertebrae that were bent," she said. "My whole torso is still numb. I'm very lucky to have my hands."

Sharify said 80 percent of people with such injuries end up with little chance for full recovery.

"The others get better, little by little, but hardly any walk," she said.

She is holding onto hope that new treatments will help her.

"There's stem cell research that's going on. My kind of injury is what they're looking for in the research," she said. "I've been trying to qualify. Basically what they'd do is open me up, putting the stem cells in and hope for the best."

She added that she hoped the stem cell research done on her can ultimately help others with similar injuries.

Sharify remains upbeat, although she realizes that walking again may be unlikely.

"I'm hoping my attitude will speed up my recovery, taking it day by day and not thinking about the future," Sharify said. "I'm hoping the surgery and the stem cells will help me."

She said the therapy she's going through, learning to do simple tasks in new ways, makes her feel like a newborn again, and not in a good way.

"We take a lot of things for granted," Sharify said.

Perhaps part of the reason Sharify is so upbeat is because of the support she's been getting from her family and her network of friends.

Her sister Julie visits at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, where Sharify been going through rehabilitation. Realizing that her best friend had no insurance led Ghadeer Sayij to set up a website to bring in money to help pay for medical bills.

"I felt really helpless," Sayij said. "I just wanted to show her that I was there for her and the only thing I could think of was to try to ease the medical expenses. That's been going surprisingly well. I thought I'd get maybe $500 together, but we could definitely use a lot more so I'm going to keep it going as long as possible."

She's raised $3,000 so far, mainly through appeals to Facebook friends of hers and Sharify's. An account,, has been set up to take credit card donations through PayPal. Friends and well-wishers are welcome to send cards to her at 751 S. Bascom Ave., San Jose CA 95128.

Sharify said she's a living example of how badly things can go wrong in seconds. Had she been wearing a seatbelt, she said, she might have had some broken bones but nothing more serious.

"I'm the kind of person who's very cautious," she said. "This is a freak accident and there's no one to blame, but just for a second I took my seatbelt off and I want to reinforce how important that is."


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Posted by To Katie
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2011 at 10:23 am


Please read this:

Web Link

There is this guy who also suffered a spinal cord injury and doctors gave him a not so good prognosis. He is walking again and opened a place (SCI-FIT). I saw one of those facilities by Valley and Stanley, it is by the Little Caesar's pizza on Bernal (Valley turns into Bernal when you pass Stanley)

Good luck, and please do not give up. Doctors don't know everything. I have lived with Multiple Sclerosis for 20 years and I am still walking, driving and everything despite the grim prognosis most neurologists gave me. People do not believe that I have MS and yet neurologists told me from day one that it was just a matter of time before... 20 years later I am living proof that doctors do not know everything and that alternative medicine/treatment can be better than the traditional approach.

Combine the good of the traditional treatment with what you can find that helps you of alternative medicine. But do not let the traditional doctors tell you there is no hope. If a doctor has a negative attitude, switch to one with a more positive one.

I have never been to SCI-FIT (I think they may have a new name now), and I am not affiliated with them (I am not promoting them here) - I just rememember reading the article. You may want to check them out, it can't hurt.

Good luck, I am confident that you will get better!

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Posted by PhysicsTeacher
a resident of Downtown
on Nov 21, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Sorry to hear of her ordeal.

This comment is not directed at her but I am making a general observation. I have a HS going kid too so this is from what I talked to her.

One of the things kids don't learn is basic science -- the one's that deal with basic forces and motion. How many seniors at HS know the 3 laws of motion?

I studied abroad and we learned the 3 laws while in 8th grade. Here Physics is an option.

I believe every kid even if they don't take math/engineering in college should go thru the basic things early.

Would love to hear feedback.

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Posted by Sam
a resident of Oak Hill
on Nov 21, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Sorry to hear about this story and how one seemingly minor mistake could result in such injuries. Yes, taking your eyes off the road to deal with something in the back seat is never a good idea. Not good in a residential neighborhood, and not safe to do on a freeway, either. A speed of 70 mph corresponds to a bit over 100 feet per second. Two seconds at that speed is 200 feet, or about 2/3's the distance across a 100-yard football field. That's quite a distance for a car to be traveling with no one watching the road.

If, while no one is watching, the steering wheel is misaligned even slightly so that the wheels are pointed just 1-degree off from the proper direction of the freeway, then the 70 mph car will drift sideways by about 3.5 feet in those 2 seconds. That will take the car mostly into the adjacent lane - or off the freeway if the car is in a far lane.

Bottom line: If you need to take care of something in the back seat on the freeway, pull over at the next reststop or exit and deal with it there.

Like this comment
Posted by Becky
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2011 at 4:12 pm

I pray that your positive attitude helps you through this difficult time. Only you can determine how this unfortunate event will affect the rest of your life. Stay positive no matter how hard it gets.

Hugs from P-Town!

Like this comment
Posted by Raccoon
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Nov 21, 2011 at 11:20 pm

SCI-Fit is a great place. They only have one location, on Burnal. Dan, the owner, is a C-5 (meaning he damaged his fifth cervical vertebrae) incomplete, I believe. He walks with two canes.

The name means "Spinal Cord Injury – Functional Integrated Therapy." They work with people with both spinal cord injuries and neurological injuries.

Unfortunately, like you, I'm also an SCI. Because of that, I am affiliated with them.

With a good attitude, and a lot of work, there is a possibility of increased ability. Be ready for it.

Like this comment
Posted by Sarah's Friend
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 22, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Please take the time to read this young woman's story. Very inspiring.

Web Link

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Posted by Ashley
a resident of San Ramon
on Nov 22, 2011 at 8:46 pm

There are some things completely out of our control but if you remain positive good things can come out of it... this I know with every fiber of my being. I was paralyzed in a car accident when I was 14 traveling with my family. Life is a beautiful thing, the good and "bad." If you keep living amazing things happen.

Like this comment
Posted by Lisa
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 23, 2011 at 12:03 am

We are sending love and prayers to you!

Like this comment
Posted by Jim Thomas
a resident of Downtown
on Nov 24, 2011 at 8:25 am

Katie, Prayers and hope for a recovery.

Physics Teacher, kids are no longer taught many of the basics thanks to No Child Left Behind. We do nothing but teach to the state test and no longer take enough time to teach kids what they need to succeed in life.

Like this comment
Posted by A Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Nov 24, 2011 at 9:31 am

To Katie's family, I wish you strength and love to get you thru this sickening, scary time. I know this leaves you deeply scarred. No matter what led to this, you and Katie are in my prayers starting today. Life will get better...hang in there!

Like this comment
Posted by Katie
a resident of Stoneridge
on Nov 28, 2011 at 7:19 am

Thank you everyone for your kind comments. Thank you especially for the link to the other Pleasanton Weekly article of the gentleman who went to intensive rehab in San Diego. I had been considering going to Project Walk and after reading Dan Dumas' inspiring article, I am now even more interested. Thanks for all the love and support. It means a lot to me at this difficult time.

Like this comment
Posted by Lisa
a resident of Del Prado
on Nov 29, 2011 at 10:00 pm


We are thinking of you and praying for your recovery. My daughter graduated with you and asks how you are everytime I speak to her. You are being thought of and loved and so many healing prayers and thoughts of goodness and blessings are being sent to you.

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