Victories and Setbacks: Miss Chesterfield County Fair fights back after traumatic accident

She was crowned 2011 Miss Chesterfield County Fair in August of last year. Jessica Fee remembers how excited she was to win the pageant.  “I thought it was the biggest thrill,” she beamed about her experience with the county fair pageant.

Fee said she had greatly anticipated all of the community activities that go along with the reign as Miss Chesterfield County Fair and had begun many of them.

Then her reign was tragically cut short.

In a dreadful car accident in mid-December, someone drove Fee and her brother Taylor off the road and into a tree  leaving Taylor with a head trauma and Jessica bound to a wheelchair for the foreseeable future.

Her injuries include fractures to Fee’s sternum, fractures to her wrists and tendons, a broken arm, broken ribs and a rod in her leg, among others.  Fee is confined to her wheelchair for the next six to eight months with daily visits from therapists, nurses and occupational and physical therapists to keep her body conditioned. Fees parents, Michael and Suzanne, have a family motto - Make the best of it - and the family has done their best to keep spirits up, while their two eldest children heal, and pick up their lives again.

When Fee woke up in the hospital she remembers asking, “Can I still do my pageant?” referring to the Ms. Virginia Association of Fairs that she was to compete in during January 2012. While very fragile and unable to do some the modeling, Fee did participate in the national pageant. Fee shared, “I still wanted to compete so badly.” With the help of her family, she travelled to the pageant and competed. She said that from her wheelchair she “participated in arm movements in the dance routine.” Ever optimistic, Fee said, “It was just such an honor to be included.”

Fee placed in the top 10 at the pageant this month. When asked what keeps her going as she endures tremendous pain and strenuous therapies for months on end, Fee was quick to share, “I want others to understand that you shouldn’t stop, just because you are in an accident and a wheelchair.”

She regrets that her year-long reign will be gone by the time she is healed. Fee is proud of her community involvement — cutting the ribbons at the new McDonald’s in Chester, the father-daughter dance for the Girl Scouts, speaking to honors students at Beth Davis Middle School, where her brother Corey attends, among other things. She is sorry that she may not get to finish her community commitments; if she recovers in time, she hopes to do some of the ones that were originally planned.

Fee laments all the things she was looking forward to as she sits idle in her wheelchair, unable to do anything but wait for therapies and doctor visits. “This is just a speed bump,” Fee said.

Both Fee children were in college, Jessica at Richard Bland and Taylor at Radford, and both have had to put their studies on hold while they heal from the life-threatening accident.  Fee’s mother Suzanne shared the biggest lesson the family has learned, “Chester is a great place to live.”

Teacher, Jennifer Williams of Chester organized meals for the family that residents have delivered almost every night since the kids came home; people have sent numerous cards and performed services to help the family through this difficult time.

The Fee family is so grateful.  “I want to send a shout out, a thank you to all the people of the Chester community for everything they’ve done,” said Fee. “The people here in this village have been so supportive — it’s unbelievable!”

One of the most incredible acts of comfort and support came at the accident scene when the two Fee children weren’t sure if they were going to live. The first people to stop, a young lady — Morgan Porter —held Fee’s hand until EMS arrived. A man, who was never identified, held her head and helped at the scene until Chesterfield EMS arrived.

“He was an angel, I’m sure,” Fee gushed of the stranger.

What she said she’s learned is simple really — those first few minutes after an accident are crucial. She hopes she can someday speak in schools and the community with the message, “Always stop at the scene of the accident, those first two to three minutes can make all the difference.”

The title 2011 Miss Chesterfield County Fair will pass on to another contestant in time, Fee will hopefully return to her classes at Richard Bland next semester and life will be good again. For now, Fee has gained so much gratitude for those who saved her and her brother’s lives - everyone from the stranger angel, the young girl who held her hand, the Chesterfield EMS who reacted so quickly. “Every minute counts,” Fee added. “Chester sure came together.”

She laughs through the pain and shares what she hopes comes from all of this. “I want to be an inspiration,” she shared. “Thank you to everyone here in Chester who helped us.” 

A true attitude of gratitude! 

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