Lake of the Ozarks is a popular vacation destination and second home haven in central Missouri, a beautiful lake that draws people from all over the country to its leafy shores for camping, hiking, fishing, boating, and many other water activities.
It was a warm evening in May of 2018, and Ashley Lamb’s family had gathered at their lake house to celebrate the Memorial Day weekend. At 21 years old, she had just completed her junior year at Kansas State as a marketing major, and she and her dearest childhood friend, Hailey, were making plans for a fun-filled weekend that included dinner at a restaurant that night with a few boys she knew from high school in Olathe, Kansas.
Ashley and her friends arrived at the restaurant by boat that evening and after dinner, they went back down to the dock to head home. The churning water was as black as squid ink, a brisk chop whipping up the surface of the water from the insistent wind that carried the incoming stormy weather on its back. The moon was hidden, her pale beams too thin to be of any use in navigation, rain had started to fall, and dark clouds tumbled in an ominous sky. So it was this kind of night when the five friends, experienced boaters and no strangers to activity on open water, stepped off that dock and into the boat. They took note of the weather, but their experience led them to believe that the conditions were manageable. They believed there was nothing to fear. They could not have been more mistaken.
Stepping into that speed boat is one of the last memories Ashley would have for a very long time. Ashley and Hailey were riding in the boat along with three boys, headed for Ashley's house. Cell phone records and other investigative evidence pieced together in the aftermath indicated that the boat was traveling at full speed and in the opposite direction of their intended destination when it smashed head first into a sheer-faced rock wall on the remote side of the lake. There were no witnesses.
There were only two survivors of this horrific accident, Ashley and the owner of the boat. The boat was not operational after the crash. Of the five passengers on this fateful ride, two of the passengers were found by divers near the crash site the next day. A third victim was found dead from traumatic injuries and was in the boat with Ashley when help finally arrived.
The Will to Live
One of the people that discovered the grim scene in the boat was an EMT who was a guest at the home near where the battered boat finally came to rest at a dock. His discovery was both horrific and miraculous; he found one victim deceased, but Ashley was still breathing. Despite the traumatic injuries to her face and a host of broken bones and other injuries, and aside from the fact that she was losing blood at an unsustainable rate and lapsing in and out of consciousness, she was alive. This was an early indication that Ashley’s will to live was a force to be reckoned with, and it would be a determining factor in her arduous recovery over the coming months.
Fight and Flight for Life
Ashley was airlifted to a Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Missouri, and was immediately put into an induced coma. Rather than using “Jane Doe,” the hospital had a practice of naming people admitted without identification after automobile brands, so Ashley became known as “Bentley'' by her doctors and the attending staff. As the story of the devastating accident started to make news the following day, clues surfaced about what had happened and who was involved, and finally, Ashley's family was contacted. Her mom, Kim, said the journey to the hospital was the longest 4-hour drive of her life; she had no idea what condition her daughter would be in. Unlimited love and support were on the way, but in the meantime, a medical team was trying to save Ashley’s life. Dr. Loven, a neurologist assigned to Ashley’s case felt an immediate draw to her — a beautiful, young woman with so much unfilled potential, such grievous injuries, and her identity unknown. It was the beginning of a meaningful doctor-patient bond, and Ashley says that living in gratitude is an important part of what now defines her 2LIV4; she is looking forward to a trip back home for a visit to Dr. Loven’s office to reunite with her and express her heartfelt thanks.
Series of Serious Surgeries
Ashley’s first surgery was a craniotomy to address complications from her fractured skull and traumatic brain injury. She also received emergency treatment for a fractured orbital eye socket, broken cheek and jawbones, a fractured pelvis, and broken ribs. When she finally regained consciousness, she also had significant problems with short-term memory loss. Fortunately, Ashley’s mother had specific insurance industry career knowledge regarding catastrophic claims and so was well-positioned to make sure Ashley was receiving top-notch care. She was also able to arrange for her daughter to be moved to an alternate Trauma One hospital in Kansas City to be closer to home. It was time to begin the uphill process of facial reconstruction and intense physical therapy. After several weeks of various reconstructive procedures such as having metal mesh and rods installed under the skin of her face, she was finally ready to be discharged from full-time care, but the long-term work was just beginning.
After her discharge, Ashley’s focus was on the grueling therapy that would aid in her eventual recovery. She went to rehab every single day from 9 am to 4 pm for a full month, relearning most basic functions such as walking and talking from a team of specialized neurologists, orthopedic doctors, and physical therapists. Her twin sister, Lexi, was a dedicated source of support throughout the recovery process, putting her own busy schedule on pause to help, taking her to and from therapy appointments, and encouraging Ashley on days when her energy was low and her preferred activity was sleep. Lexi is currently studying to be a nurse; caring for her sister helped her realize she had a skill for healing others.
The tragic loss of Ashley’s best friend, Hailey, was as devastating emotionally as the physical injuries were to her face and body, but her grief was tended to as well. Over time, Ashley began to piece herself back together and despite her heavy load of therapy and doctor appointments, she was able to return to Kansas State and finish her degree in marketing on time, yet another demonstration of the grit, guts, and determination that define Ashley’s character.
To put distance between herself and the trauma of the accident, Ashley opted for a change of scenery and moved to Austin, Texas, and while there, she had the good luck of meeting her boyfriend, Zack. She has since relocated to Denver, Colorado, to be with him, and they live together with her faithful dog, Snickers. Ashley is busy getting her Colorado real estate license, but she is also on a path that is dedicated to being in service to others. She is currently a volunteer marketing advisor for 2LIV4.
Gratitude and Grace
Three years have passed since that fateful night. Ashley describes herself as “the walking wounded” — there will always be reminders of her traumatic physical and emotional injuries. She still fiercely misses Hailey and always will, she still deals with pain in her pelvis, her eye turns black when the barometric pressure is high, her olfactory nerve was destroyed in the accident and caused permanent loss of smell, and she still has appointments to manage with the plastic surgeon and other health professionals.
But the telling of Ashley’s story and all her hard work to recover from such difficult injuries is incomplete without noting how deeply she appreciates the full weight of her miraculous survival. She feels strongly that her second chance at life comes with a responsibility to hone her 2LIV4, and she is on a path to help others that have experienced traumatic injuries. It is this drive and her resilient, life-affirming generosity of spirit that has guided and enabled her amazing recovery. Ashley continues to define her 2LIV4 of being in service to others, and we are lucky to have her talent and experience on the 2LIV4 team. We look forward to seeing all that she has yet to achieve, and we rest assured that whatever path she chooses, the people she serves will benefit from her life experience and will return in kind the gratitude that propels Ashley forward on her 2LIV4 journey.