Government & Politics

‘I’m not done’: Lee’s Summit lawmaker who broke 18 bones vows recovery, re-election

State Rep. Rebecca Roeber’s announcement on Facebook, declaring her run for reelection.
State Rep. Rebecca Roeber’s announcement on Facebook, declaring her run for reelection.

A Lee’s Summit state representative who broke 18 bones in a March car crash announced her candidacy for re-election Wednesday from her bed in a long-term rehabilitation center.

State Rep. Rebecca Roeber, R-Lee’s Summit, made the announcement through a Facebook post that included a photo of her grotesquely mangled car.

“It’s no accident ... Rebecca Roeber will continue to work for the 34th District!” the post said

Speaking from Wilshire Place at Lakewood, a rehab facility in Lee’s Summit, Roeber, 61, said she had legislative priorities she wanted to pursue back in Jefferson City.

“I want to let people know I’m going work hard,” Roeber said.

“I’m not done.”

A 17-year educator in the Raytown School District, Roeber has pushed for school choice and charter school expansion since she was elected in 2014. As chair of the House Education Committee, Roeber said she would continue to champion education reform.

She also said has “new ideas” about foster care reform, after witnessing her daughter’s experience in trying to adopt three foster children.

“I am the education chair and that’s a big responsibility,” Roeber said. “I owe it to my constituents to go back and finish in January.”

Roeber’s legislative session was cut short around noon on March 25. She was driving to Jefferson City when she fell asleep at the wheel, crossed the center line of a two-lane road in Morgan County and crashed into another car. The driver of the other car had minor injuries.

Roeber broke 18 bones including her pelvis, femur, both ankles, an elbow and six ribs. She said she didn’t remember hitting the other car, but was conscious for the aftermath. She was saved by a woman who stayed by her side and called 911. After a man asked, Roeber recited her husband’s phone number.

“I told my husband, ‘Please come quick. I can’t breathe,’” Roeber said.

Firefighters pried Roeber from her car, using hydraulic rescue tools, known as the ‘jaws of life.’ She was rushed to University Hospital in Columbia.

“The amazing thing about the human body - I didn’t feel any pain,” Roeber said. “I was in shock obviously. And I was scared.”

Later, Roeber found out she had undiagnosed sleep apnea. The disorder causes the person asleep to stop breathing and wake up periodically.

Roeber said it had been suggested to her before the accident that she undergo a sleep study, but put it off.

Her message after the accident: don’t wait.

“It’s a horrible price to pay,” Roeber said.

Roeber has endured multiple surgeries. Her final procedure Monday removed stabilizer plates from her wrist.

The hardest part of her recovery was the tube inserted in her throat to help her breathe, making it hard to talk. Another tube in her nose helped her to eat.

However, she said, the experience made her aware of the generosity of friends and family. When pain medications caused hallucinations, a family member or friend stayed over every night for six weeks. Lawmakers, including Gov. Mike Parson, have broken up the tedium of a hospital stay with visits.

“I don’t know how this going to change me for sure, but I know that something like this, you don’t experience it without changing something,” Roeber said. “I’ve always been a ‘pull myself up by bootstraps’ person and I’ve had to rely on people totally for three months, and that’s been good for me to learn how to trust people more.”

“I’ve been amazed the kindness of others and I want to give that back.”

Before Roeber can knock on doors, there will be weeks filled with physical therapy as she re-learns how to walk. The first attempt was unsuccessful, but she’s highly motivated.

“I have not been home since March 23,” Roeber said. “You can imagine how badly I want that.”