Chapter 1: The Accident

A Cheerleader Misses the Bus

November 17, 2022

It is Friday, October 14 and the Rams are headed to North Knox to face the Warriors. On the last day of Fall Break, the varsity cheer squad is waiting on the bus to leave for the game. The bus leaves at 4:30 p.m.

It is 4:35 p.m. and senior Nova Nichols is not on the bus. A call is made to her father and then her mother. No Nova.

Nova’s mom, Heather, gets in her car to travel the path her daughter would have driven.

Back on the bus the cheerleaders watch a fire truck pass the school and the phone rings with bad news. A helicopter passes over the bus headed to the scene of an accident. They know where Nova is. The accident took place half a mile from her house on a West County Road 150 South.

“I don’t remember most of what happened. I do remember that I was at the top of a hill and there was a car coming at me in the middle of the road, so I swerved to not hit it. I overcompensated and I don’t remember the rest,” said Nova.

While Nova’s memory is still foggy, her mother provided information.

Senior Nova Nichols’ car after the accident. (Courtesy Photo)

“When I arrived at the scene, the police said speed was definitely a factor in this accident. She left the road and went airborne. She hit the trees about 10 feet in the air. She was pinned in the vehicle on every side of her body. The first person on the scene got a piece of mail from a nearby mailbox to tell the emergency response where the accident occurred. Then he made a second call for the jaws of life team and a third call for the air evacuation team,” said Heather.

After successfully being removed from her vehicle, Nova was airlifted to U of L hospital in Louisville, Kentucky.

“The helicopter ride from Paoli to Louisville took about 20 minutes. The only people on board were the pilot, one medical personnel and Nova. The medical person on board was sending me updates throughout the flight,” said Heather.

Upon arriving at the hospital, she was admitted to the trauma center. There, they assessed her injuries and addressed the most life-threatening ones first. After leaving the trauma area, Nova was relocated to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Once she was in the ICU, doctors and nurses continued to monitor her injuries. She was hooked up to several machines and taken to surgery. The medical team had to perform two operations to repair her humerus bone and jaw. Medical professionals had to give Nova four pints of blood to make up for internal bleeding.

“She sustained lacerations on her spleen, kidney and liver. She shattered her humerus bone, jaw, sternum, clavicle and front neck bone. She had spiderweb fractures on five ribs on her left side and broke two others on her right side. She also broke her back in three places and her neck in two places,” said Heather.

After being moved out of the ICU, she was moved onto a floor devoted to victims of vehicle accidents.

“She was told that there was a football player next door that complained a lot more than she did, but he did not have nearly the injuries that she had. Once she moved out of the ICU, she wasn’t hooked up to as many machines,” said Heather.

Nova remained in the hospital for over a week to recover before she was allowed to head home to continue her recovery.

According to Heather, the ride back to Paoli was scary.

“She was given a lot of pain meds, but we were all nervous about putting her back in the vehicle. It was a relief as well to know that she was going to be returning home,” said Heather. 

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