Justeen Kolody has lived a full life since she was left stranded for more than five hours inside her crushed vehicle as a teenager.
Around midnight one summer evening in 2008, Kolody, then a high school student, was driving home on a gravel road when her pickup truck struck a rough patch.
“I overcorrected, flipped five or six times, and then landed in a ditch,” she said. “It wasn’t until I started hearing coyotes that I realized, ‘I probably am in a bad position,’ because I could tell I was covered in blood.”
Her legs were badly injured, and she’d lost her cell phone in the chaos. All she could do was wait and hope.
“It was weird,” she said. “One of the biggest fears in my life was being in a situation where you can’t call for help, and that happened.”
At 5:30 a.m., a passerby noticed the wreck, and firefighters soon came to her rescue.
“It was overwhelming relief that someone did find me.”
She was rushed to the nearest hospital, where staff quickly notified STARS.
“They saw that my injuries were way past what they could handle,” she said. “If STARS was not a thing, I probably wouldn’t be here at all. I would have died. I lost over a third of my blood. Time was of the essence. I would not have had an hour to get to the hospital.”
The next decade of her life was filled with numerous surgeries and major accomplishments.
She obtained a Business Administration college diploma, and then a Management degree at university. From there she became a red- and blue-seal journeyman electrician.
She also married a car fan and began drag-racing in a modified ’79 Chevy Malibu.
Not long after her recovery, she had a scar on her left leg covered up with a tattoo depicting a serene rural countryside.
“It just kind of signifies back home and what happened,” she said.
“Even though it was a very undesirable situation, sometimes good things came from it, because I would not be the person I am today if I haven’t gone through what I have gone through.”
She’s also a busy STARS advocate, volunteering at events and telling her story on camera.
“I just want people to know how much STARS means to me and the families of people that have needed it,” said Kolody. “If STARS wasn’t around, I wouldn’t be.”