Almost six years ago, STARS air ambulance helped save Three Hills-area resident Valina Pope after she was critically injured in a bizarre two-vehicle collision.
On Jan. 15, 2006, Pope was a southbound passenger in a vehicle on Hwy 2 that was struck by a northbound vehicle that had lost control and spun around, crossing the highway at an emergency turn-round between the divided road.
“They happened to cross without going into the ditch and hit us head-on. They didn’t lose speed,” said Pope, 23, who spoke at the launch of the 19th Annual STARS Lottery, held at the lottery prize home in Sylvan Lake on Thursday.
Pope ended up with two collapsed lungs, multiple broken ribs, a broken neck and cracked skull, and she was struck in the face with the gear shift. Her internal injuries included damage to her heart, a ruptured spleen and liver lacerations.
She spent a week in ICU and a month in hospital. It took six months for her to walk again.
Her injuries left her with brain injury and chronic pain.
On the night of the collision, Pope was heading home after going to a movie and doing some shopping with her sister and a friend in Red Deer.
The roads were clear when they arrived in the city, but a thick blanket of snow had fallen by the time they left.
Snow and ice made it hard for ambulances on the road that responded to the crash just north of the Innisfail overpass.
“The snow that night was dreadful. They could take me to Innisfail Hospital, but that was a far as they could take me by road.”
That’s when STARS came into her life.
Pope doesn’t have visual memories of the collision’s aftermath. All she remembers is feeling afraid. But onboard the STARS helicopter she felt like her mother was there beside her. It turned out to be a STARS flight nurse who laid a hand on Pope’s arm to comfort the then-teen.
“They saved my life. There’s no two ways about it. If they had not airlifted me that night, I would be dead,” Pope said.
“I’m never going to move out of Alberta because if I move somewhere else, there won’t be a STARS if I need them.”
STARS Lottery is the largest fundraiser for the air ambulance, which flies an average of four missions a day. In 2011, STARS flew more than 1,500 missions.
STARS Lottery 2012 has 3,200 prizes worth more than $5.2 million, including homes, vehicles, vacations, electronics, cash, furniture, jewelry, luggage and more.
The five grand prizes worth $3.7 million are a truck and fifth wheel, and four furnished show homes — one each in Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge and a three-bedroom home worth $905,100 located at 1 Rosewood Rise in Sylvan Lake.
Early bird prizes include $100,000 in cash, a 2012 Mercedes Benz ML350, and a Las Vegas vacation.
The lottery raises $10 million annually to help pay wages, maintenance, fuel, communications, training, insurance and facility rent for the non-profit charitable organization.
Forty-five per cent of 2012 lottery tickets have already been sold.
The early bird draw is March 15, with ticket sales cut off at midnight on Feb. 29. The final draw is April 12 with sales cut off at midnight on March 21.
If tickets sell out early, the final draw will be March 15, pending permission from Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission.
Tickets are $25 each, three for $60, six for $100 and 18 for $250.
Tickets are available at www.starslottery.ca or by calling 1-888-880-0992.