By STEELE HAUGEN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
17-year-old Noelle Saunders was only allowed visits from family after she was hospitalized for a car crash.
She was finally able to see her boyfriend 24 days after the accident because of COVID-19 restrictions.
“It’s very faint memories,” Saunders said about the crash. “Like, I hardly remember it at all. I thought it was all a dream until my mom and dad told me what happened.”
Her car collided with a pickup last month, killing her best friend, 19-year-old Alisa Miller.
“Alisa was probably one of the nicest people I have ever met,” Saunders said. “She was just like, I haven’t connected with a girl like that in a really long time. She was just one of those people, you were always happy around her. She just always made you happy and her smile would make you smile.”
After the head-on collision, which is still under investigation by Oregon State Police, Saunders was rushed to St. Charles in Bend.
COVID-19 restrictions meant only family could see Saunders.
Her first visit with her boyfriend Nico was caught in an emotional photo posted by the Bend Ronald McDonald House last week.
“I didn’t know what to say,” Nico Navarro said. “I was just happy to see her. I don’t know, nothing really came to my head. I was just glad to see her.”
It was the first time they were able to hold hands in almost a month.
“We kind of just hung out,” Saunders said. “It felt nice to be there.”
Until that moment, Navarro said he felt helpless.
“There was nothing I could do about it,” Navarro said. “I couldn’t visit her in the hospital because of the whole restrictions and everything. All I could do was wait. I guess that is what I did. I wanted to do more but I couldn’t.”
For Saunders’ mom, it was a welcomed sense of normalcy.
“She’s broken every limb, so she cannot come home until she can mobilize herself somewhat,” Veronica Williams, Noelle’s mom, said.
Saunders will eventually be transferred to St. Charles in Madras to be closer to home.