MOREHEAD, Ky. — When Beth Price was walking onto the stage during Craft Academy’s 2019 graduation ceremony, she was having a thought most graduates have: “I was just thinking, like, please don’t trip,” Price said with a laugh.
Only two years before, when she was inducted into the Craft Academy, she couldn’t walk at all.
Beth and her father, Dr. Kent Price, associate professor of physics at Morehead State University, suffered serious injuries in a devastating car wreck in 2017.
After the wreck, Beth chose to enter the Craft Academy for Excellence in Science and Mathematics while rehabbing. They both remember the induction ceremony well.
“I remember being a little bit embarrassed, especially since they called my name and nobody came up,” Beth said.
Kent said: “At first, they’re wondering, where is this Elizabeth Price? Did she not show up? Because they called her name and nothing happened.”
Beth was sitting in an enclosed wheelchair lift being elevated to the stage. When she finally emerged after having some trouble with the door, she was in a wheelchair and neck brace, to the surprise of some in the audience.
Beth’s physical limitations were evident. What wasn’t were her academic abilities that got her to the Craft Academy in the first place or the resolve and determination that would bring her back two years later to walk across that stage and accept her diploma.
Price was homeschooled by her mother, Kim, for most of her childhood and adolescence. She tried public school for a year but it failed to challenge or engage her. At one point, Kent was brought in to teach her math and science because Beth was learning so quickly.
She remembers being extremely excited when she was accepted into the Craft Academy. She and her family soon started shopping for a bedspread and sheets for her room on the Morehead State campus.
On May 10, 2017, the Wednesday of finals week of her sophomore year of high school, the accident happened.
Beth and Kent were taking turns driving their minivan to Shelby Valley High School so Kent could give an early college physics presentation. Unexplainably, the vehicle lost control, rolling several times in the air before coming to a stop against a parked car carrier on the side of U.S. Highway 23.
“When I woke up, his (Kent’s) neck was in a very unnatural position on my shoulder,” Beth said. “He wasn’t breathing. There was blood on his face.”
“My neck was bent in a way that cut my airway off, so I wasn’t breathing,” Kent added.
As they lay in the wreckage, a former EMT happened to come across the accident and used Beth’s backpack to stabilize Kent’s neck so he could breathe (Beth still has that backpack and kept it in her room at Craft for both years). Beth and Kent were rushed to the emergency room.
Kent had a traumatic brain injury, blood on his brain and fractured discs in his back. He was in a coma for a week and spent another six weeks in the hospital.
Beth had seven broken ribs (one of which punctured her lung), a concussion, a crushed spleen that had to be removed and an ankle that needed to be surgically repaired with metal and screws. She also had a broken back, with fractures in the thoracic vertebrae.
She spent almost a month in the hospital before she left in a wheelchair and neck brace. Her father said he can’t remember the first five-and-a-half weeks he was in the hospital, but he remembers one of the first conversations he had was with Beth talking about whether she would attend Craft Academy in a few months.
“I said, ‘You know Beth, everybody says what a wonderful opportunity Craft is and how you might think people would be upset with you for turning that down, but you’ve had a hard summer. You almost died. I almost died. You’re in a wheelchair. You’re in a neck brace. If you said, ‘You know dad, I’ve had a hard summer. I want to go back to easy school.’ I’m OK with that. I’ll support you as your dad,’” Kent said. “And she said, ‘No, Dad. I’m going to do it.’ And she did.”
“I knew it was the best option,” Beth said. “Even if it was going to be hard, I knew it was going to be the best option.”
During the two years at the Craft Academy, Beth completed her coursework while recovering from both the physical and mental stress of her accident. She was out of the wheelchair by Thanksgiving of 2017 and went from using a walker to crutches to walking on her own. She found herself getting exhausted quickly, but she said the attentive staff at the Craft Academy made accommodations to allow her to sleep during required study time and miss 10 p.m. hall meetings. There was even one instance when the elevator was broken in her residence hall and the staff carried her and her wheelchair down so she could make it to class.
She is still dealing with the after-effects of the accident. She gets severe migraines from the concussion and is on medication for night terrors after she began waking up drenched in sweat and smelling smoke.
Juggling her responsibilities with Craft and having to make physical therapy appointments, along with the physical and mental exhaustion that took time away from her studies, caused Beth to receive a few Bs and Cs that she believes she wouldn’t have made under normal circumstances.
Even though her dad encouraged her to take a gap year from Craft to focus on herself and her recovery – she would have maintained her scholarships and academic standing – Beth pushed through. She even cut back her physical therapy appointments to focus on her schoolwork. She was determined to share the stage with her graduating class.
Now that she has graduated from the Craft Academy, Beth is taking her dad up on that gap year. She wants to be able to rest and not stress about class and get the necessary surgeries and therapy she had been putting off while she was in school. She’s looking forward to coming back 100 percent healthy to MSU, where she plans to pursue a double major in theatre education and elementary education with a minor in English. She one day hopes to become like the teachers that inspired her to come out of her shell.
“I really love theatre and really love kids, so I’m really happy I get to major in theatre education,” she said. “Kentucky really needs good teachers who care about the students and I want to be that.”
Beth’s Craft Academy graduation meant a lot more to her family than it would have before the accident. It meant a lot to her dad who shared in both the trauma of the accident and the triumph of seeing her walk across the stage she was unable to walk onto just a few years ago. It meant a lot to her mother, who went from thinking she could lose her husband and first-born child to watching her first-born child graduate with her husband by her side. It meant a lot to Beth’s youngest sister, Laura, who is looking forward to getting a bit more attention and fewer chores to do around the house.
Time and recovery has made the Prices look at the accident differently.
Kent: “I said one time that if I could push a button and make it to where the accident didn’t happen, I would push it. And she (Beth) said, ‘Oh, I wouldn’t.’ And I’m at that point now, where I wouldn’t push it now, but she was the first person in the family who said she wouldn’t push it. This has made us stronger. It has made us closer as a family.”
“I didn’t know I could do all of this,” Beth said. “I wouldn’t be the person that I was if it weren’t for the accident. I’m glad it happened. It changed me. It made me a better person.”