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HIT-AND-RUN VICTIM IS GRATEFUL

From The Bennington Banner - February 24, 2007

By Mark E. Rondeau

Hit-and-run accident victim Michael Ketchum faces a long period of recovery, but he is clearly on the mend and is thankful for all the support he has received from people in his hometown.

And he says it's good to be back in Bennington, after several weeks at the Albany (N.Y.) Medical Center. "My main thing was to come back, knowing I have a lot of support here, which they say is a key to recovery," he said. "It's just nice to know that people are there for me, and starting to show up already, which is a help, a lot of support."

Ketchum , 41, arrived at Crescent Manor Nursing Home in Bennington on Thursday. On Friday, he called the Banner, wanting above all to thank everyone who has helped him.

This includes those who responded to the Jan. 27 accident at the intersection of South and Elm streets, in which police estimate Ketchum was thrown 50 feet by the force of being struck by a vehicle that did not stop. As a result of the accident, his left leg has been amputated and he suffered severe injuries to his left arm.

Ketchum, in an interview in his room, thanked the Bennington Rescue Squad, the Bennington Rural Fire Department and the Bennington Police Department. He also thanked nurse Brenda Mattison, who works at Crescent Manor and was one of the first people on the scene of the accident.

"Hey, Brenda, can you come here a minute?" he called out. "I was just telling him that you were one of the first people who found me on the scene, and I would like to thank you also for helping."

She stepped into his room. "I'm glad you're OK, Mike," she said.

Ketchum also wanted to thank Bennington Police Office Robert Zink, who called him at Albany Medical Center to tell him that a suspect in the accident had been caught. "They never gave up on the incident," he said of the police. "It makes me feel very good to know that my town didn't give up on me, that my town has been asking — each and everybody has been asking about me."

Brenda Shores, Ketchum 's sister, said, "Everybody's been great, everybody's been concerned and just wants to see everything taken care of, making sure he's OK."

Despite the severity of his injuries, Ketchum said, "I've got a lot of support around me, so I'm not giving up on anything."

Still, he knows he has a long period of recovery ahead. Before the accident he walked and rode a bike and is used to being an independent person. "I live upstairs, so now it's going to take me awhile before I can even do that, if I can even do that," he said. "If not, I'll have to look for another place to live. Basically, now I have to start everything all over, and learn how to walk all over again, also."

Ketchum is already quite familiar with the process it takes to be fitted with a prosthesis for his leg. "I've got a few ideas of what I want to pick out. But it's just going to depend on what the doctors think. Because for right now looks aren't going to matter to me ... as long as I can walk."

He said doctors expect a 50-percent recovery for his left arm. "They said it's definitely not going to be able to be the same as before. I'm not going to be able to fully extend my arm out, be able to do things like I did before because I've got plates holding my arm together."

All the same, he has come a long way in just a few weeks. He said that people he met at Albany Medical Center "could not believe two and a half weeks later that I was actually sitting up and talking to everybody. Even though I've lost my limb (and) my arm is basically ruined ... I cannot believe that I can actually sit up and talk."

Asked about his feelings toward the alleged hit-and-run driver, Ketchum said, "It really disgusted me quite a bit because this person ... knowing that he hit somebody, knowing that he hit me ... just kept going anyway. And to leave somebody, just to sit there and know that this person might die and to keep going, and then to hide your vehicle, kind of really disgusts me."

Jeffrey D. Legacy, 24, of Bennington, has been charged in Bennington District Court with gross negligent operation leading to serious bodily injury, driving under the influence leading to serious bodily injury, leaving the scene of an accident, and providing false information to a law enforcement officer. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

At the end of the interview, Ketchum came back to thankfulness. In addition to thanks for the police and emergency personnel, his family and friends, he also thanked a higher power for being there for him: "Just knowing that God is right there — obviously he's got something planned for me," he said.

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