In the Backyard #3

In the Backyard: The Glaza family

By Tom Loucks/Daily Tribune Chief Photographer tloucks@gannett.com

Miracles do happen. The Glaza family is living proof of that.
The Grand Rapids family was involved in a car crash April 4, 1993, which almost killed them. The vehicle they were driving was hit head-on by a drunken driver.
One could say they received a miracle, and now are a very close family, all leading normal, everyday lives.
Father Duane Glaza, 39, suffered the most severe injuries. He lost his spleen and ruptured his diaphragm, and his pelvis and femur were damaged as a result of the crash. Alissa, now 14, was 10 months old. She broke two ankles and had a “green stick” break of her femur. Brittany, now 17, was 3 years old and received acid burns. Mother Ronelle, 38, had head injuries along with a fever and other injuries.
“Thank God we all had seat belts and car seats,” Ronelle said.
The police officer remarked that if the family didn’t have seat belts, there would have been four funerals, she said.
After the accident, the family went through several hospital visits. Duane’s injuries were life-threatening and took more than a year to heal.
The parents also were very concerned about Alissa’s growth. Doctors said she might not walk correctly because the injuries were close to her growth plates. However, at 15 months she was walking, and by the age of 21⁄2, she was a healthy child, Ronelle said.
“It was a blessing when she walked at 15 months,” Ronelle said.
The crash never will be erased from their memories.
“You never get back to where you were,” Ronelle said.
Ronelle still has a hard time driving a night, according to Duane.
The family has strong opinions about drinking and driving.
“It makes me mad,” Brittany said. “That is a stupid thing to do. Put your life and others in danger. It is stupid when teenagers drink anyway.”
The driver who hit them already had a first offense for drunken driving.
Duane said she apologized and she knew what she did was wrong.
“Drunk drivers have no idea what they do to someone for the rest of their life by drinking and driving. I was almost widowed at 25 years old,” Ronelle said.
The family has learned to be very cautious when driving. They enjoy life together as a family. However, the date and memories of the accident don’t go away.
Duane still has a hard time passing cars.
“I have no desire to be in the left lane,” he said.
They all enjoy camping, playing board games, visiting parks and enjoying each other’s company.
“I am very appreciative of my family,” Alissa said.
Both girls and their brother, Tanner, 11, are involved with sports. Tanner was born after the crash.
It’s a blessing that Alissa can participate in dancing and cross-country, Ronelle said.
“All of our family is close, and Easter is a special time every year. Easter is always a reminder time,” Ronelle said.
“When the date is close, I know it’s there, and you don’t sleep well because it’s always back in your mind,” Duane said.

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