For Lori Chesley, everything after the phone call is clear. For her daughter, Hunter, things are more spotty.

“I was already late coming home, so I knew I was going to be in trouble,” said Hunter, a 17-year-old junior at Lawrence High School. “So I was speeding a little bit. I wasn’t familiar with the roads. I came down a corner, and it had rained that day, so it was all wet.

“A cat ran out in front of me, and I just slammed on my brakes. I remember my front end come in front of me, and I remember hearing my tires squeal. I remember hitting a mailbox, and that’s about it.”

On that night in early September, Hunter had to be extricated from her vehicle and transported by LifeFlight to Eastern Maine Medical Center. She had been playing field hockey at Lawrence, as the Bulldogs are undefeated and the No. 1 seed in Eastern A. Today, it is a chore for Hunter just to leave her bed. In between her struggles, her parents are just thankful she’s alive.

“She’s just so lucky,” Lori said. “I saw the vehicle through a picture. My husband won’t even look at the picture. It’s just incredible that she came out of it with the extent of injuries that she has. Somebody was looking out for her, for sure.”

There was going to be a lot of talk about field hockey between Lori and Hunter this fall. New Lawrence coach Shawna Robinson had coached with Lori for six years at the junior high level, and Lori came on as the junior varsity coach. Lawrence had gone to last year’s Eastern A semifinals, and with most of the team back, the Bulldogs were expected to be among the top teams in the league. Hunter, who had been playing field hockey since second grade, was going to be a big part of that.


“She’s very versatile, willing to go anywhere on the field,” said Kapriece Dahms, a senior midfielder for Lawrence and a close friend of Hunter’s. “When we lost Alexis Chamberlain to a broken thumb, she went from playing forward to defense. She went no questions asked, no attitude.”

Moreover, this was the first season Hunter would go in fully healthy. She underwent spinal fusion to repair her back in November, and after nine months of recovery, was back to full strength just in time for field hockey season.

“She had worked really, really hard to get back in form for that to be ready for field hockey,” Lori said. “It was just August, really, she was 100 percent field hockey form, and then this happens. But we can do it again.”

Lawrence began the season with convincing wins over Mt. Blue and Lewiston. On the same day Greg Chesley — Hunter’s father and Lori’s husband — returned home from the hospital after having hip replacement surgery, Hunter was at a friend’s camp. When she tried to drive home, it was dark, and she got lost. She had righted herself with the GPS on her phone, and was on Libby Hill Road in Oakland when her car crashed.

“I got, of course, the phone call that every parent has nightmares about,” Lori said. “It was absolutely horrible, telling me that my daughter had been in a car accident, and to go to Inland Hospital, because that was the closest hospital. I asked on the phone if she was OK. The responder said they were trying to remove her from the car, so at that point I knew it was pretty bad.”

Hunter lost consciousness after the accident, but woke up again, and realized her legs were trapped and there was no one around. Hunter tried to lift the dashboard off her legs, but it wasn’t moving. She blacked out again, and woke up to emergency responders trying to remove her from her vehicle.


“I don’t remember the ambulance ride,” Hunter said. “I remember them jacking the dashboard, but them jacking the passenger side first, and it squished my legs even more, and I remember screaming. Then they came to my side and did it. I remember them lifting it off, and kind of pulling me out, but then I don’t remember anything.”

Still not fully sure what had happened, Lori drove to Inland Hospital and was there before the ambulance arrived with her daughter. By this time, word was getting out that Hunter had been in an accident.

“When I first found out, I wasn’t aware of her condition,” Dahms said. “For a while there, I didn’t know what to think. I was crying. I was really upset. It’s crazy to think all that, for an animal.”

“I can’t even explain to you all the feelings that were going through me,” Lori said. “Then the ambulance came, and we did get to see her for like 30 seconds. They weren’t sure of any internal injuries at that point, so they flew her to Eastern Maine Medical Center. All the responders were incredible. We owe them so much. We’re just very lucky. So lucky.”

Hunter was in the hospital for nearly a week, and her injuries were mainly to her legs. She had fractured her left ankle, and needed extensive surgery on her right leg. Even now, more than three weeks after the accident, she’s still at least a month and a half away from being able to put any weight on her left foot.

“The fracture’s supposed to be able to heal on its own,” Lori said. “She did have some nerve damage in her leg on both sides, so Dr. Thompson from Eastern Maine Medical Center repaired those last Tuesday. She had her ACL repaired. He was able to repair the meniscus, and not take that out. She has a broken fibia head. He wasn’t really able to do much with that, but he’s hoping with the scar tissue it will (attach) to the bone, but he did have to fix the LCL on that side, and that was the hardest repair. She was in surgery for over eight hours.”


Before her surgery, Hunter went to Lawrence’s home game against Messalonskee. Both teams were undefeated, and in what would be Lawrence’s biggest win in many years, the Bulldogs won 2-1 in double overtime. Hunter wanted to watch the game from the sidelines, but all the stress of the last few weeks hit her at once, and it wasn’t possible.

“I got there 15 minutes before it started,” she said. “I went over to the bench. A lot of girls came over. It really got to me. I have really bad anxiety as it is, and I just broke down, and I thought I was going to pass out. So they brought me back to the car. I laid down, and I was crying. I was just in a different world, it felt like.

“Then the four captains of the Messalonskee team came over, and they gave me a card. It was really nice. They came over and they hugged me, and that kind of helped me come back out. I didn’t go sit back over on the bench. I kind of sat in the gateway to the soccer field, and watched from there.”

Hunter’s room at home has that card and other signs of support people have given her. The soccer team made her a blanket, and the football team gave her a gift certificate to get her nails done. The Winslow field hockey boosters sent a gift card and a gas card.

“It’s really nice to see the surrounding communities come together,” Lori said. “It means a lot to us. It really makes a huge difference. We really try to stay positive, and that really helps.”

It wouldn’t be easy for anyone to stay positive through this, and it isn’t always easy for Hunter and her family. They’re staying at their staff cabin in Rome so Hunter won’t have to use the stairs. Hunter lays in bed, and tries to find ways to pass the time. When she goes to sleep, most of her nights are interrupted by nightmares about the accident.


“I have a concussion, so I’ve tried reading, but mainly I watch TV at night, and I sleep,” Hunter said. “That’s about it. It’s pretty boring, especially during the weekdays. All of my friends play sports, or do after-school activities. They get out of sports at 4 or 5, and then they have homework. But during the weekends, a lot of people come.”

“She really likes it when people come to visit her,” Dahms said. “She gets lonely sometimes, and she’s definitely gotten a lot weaker from the accident. But she’s making progress every day.”

The Lawrence field hockey boosters have organized a benefit spaghetti dinner and auction to help with the family medical and travel expenses. It will be held from 4 to 7 p.m., Friday, in the Lawrence Junior High School cafeteria, and the cost is $6 for adults and $5 for students and seniors.

Lori said Hunter has good days and not-so-good days, but they’re going to try to get Hunter to the benefit and have her stay for a short time. She’s already behind in school because of last year’s back problems, and Lori said Hunter will need tutors. Two teachers at Lawrence have offered to come to the family’s house to tutor Hunter.

Lori said the family hasn’t asked questions about the length of the recovery process. She and Hunter are hoping that she’ll be running around again next summer. Until then, there’s a process, but it’s a process with hope.

“Spirit week was last week, and that was really hard for me, because it’s the funnest week of the whole, entire school year,” Hunter said. “It was hard for me to miss it, and I just thought, ‘Wow, I could still be in the hospital right now. I could have punctured my lung, or something like that.’ And I didn’t.”


“We’ll do whatever we have to do,” Lori said. “She’s still here with us. We’ve had a lot of stuff that we’ve had to go through as a family, and we always get through it. So we’ll get through this.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

Twitter: @Matt_DiFilippo

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