Dodging Death: Crushing accident doesn't crush man's spirit

Dodging Death: Crushing accident doesn't crush man's spirit

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - There are a lot of things 19-year-old Dejon Mullen shouldn't be doing these days.

"Like right now, they don't want me bending it," Mullen said, looking at his leg. "They really don't want me moving around as much, but I have to. I have to."

He shouldn't be moving, he shouldn't be walking - he could be dead.

To find out why, we need to go back to the morning of March 20, when Mullen was speeding on I-10 on his way to pick up some cleaning supplies from his brother in Mid-City. Then - seemingly from out of nowhere - a premonition.

"And I was like, let me slow down," Mullen said. "It just felt like something bad was gonna happen."

But the trouble wasn't on the interstate. Trouble arrived when he parked on the street at Carrollton Avenue and Belfast Street.

"So I get out the door, walk in front of my car, and by the time I get in front of the car, the man came from behind," Mullen said. "Hit me and smashed me in between the two cars.

A black Ford F-150 barreled into the back of Mullen's car at 45 mph, according to the police report. Mullen said he jumped out of sheer instinct, but the impact caught his lower leg in between two bumpers.

"Actually, when he hit, he never pressed on the brakes," Mullen said. "He kept pushing the gas, so I actually had to pull myself from out of there."

The damage to his car was devastating; the damage to his leg - even worse.

"So I got up and tried to walk, but then when I looked down at my leg, half of it was hanging this way, and half of it was hanging that way," Mullen said.

Onlookers gathered and jaws dropped when people took in the scene. No one could believe that a person crushed between two cars was alive.

"I thought I was gone," Mullen said. "I thought I was gone."

On the ambulance ride to the hospital with his mom seated beside him, Mullen said reality set in.

"[I said] 'momma it's alright, you don't have to cry.' Because I thought I was - I really don't feel like I'm supposed to be here right now. But I'm here for a reason," Mullen said.

The reason the driver of the F-150 veered off the road isn't clear. The police report lists 22-year-old John Lagarde as being "distracted by a cell phone." A breathalyzer administered shortly after the accident showed Lagarde had some alcohol in system, but it was less than the legal limit.

Police issued Lagarde three citations: for reckless driving, improper lane use, and driving with a suspended license. But even after learning that Lagarde shouldn't have been behind the wheel that day, Mullen refuses to let bitterness take hold.

"Well, even though he had hit me, I still asked the police if he was alright," Mullen said. "You know, because at the end of the day, he was still in a wreck. So I was just making sure that he was good."

Maybe that attitude explains why he was spared. After six surgeries to repair his injured leg and skin grafts to restore the appearance of his calf,

doctors say - amazingly - with rehab and continued improvement, Mullen should be able to walk within a year to 18 months.

"See there was like a big ol' gash, but it finally healed," Mullen said.

The hardest part, in the meantime, is accepting help and staying still.

"My mom and my sister had to carry me down the stairs and carry me up the stairs," Mullen said. "It was just hard because, you know, as a person you're used to getting around on your own. And when somebody helps you, it just don't feel right.

With plans to go to June basic training for the National Guard on hold, Mullen spends his days taking online classes. He hopes to become an actuary. His mind is on his studies and not on his scars.

"That's why most of the time, I just wear pants so I don't have to look at it," Mullen said.

Outside looking in, Dejon Mullen is incredibly lucky.

"If I never would have had the strength to pull myself out of there, and that truck would have went on top of me, I wouldn't be here," Mullen said.

Instead, he dodged death – and overcame.

As Mullen continues to recover, Lagarde is scheduled to appear in court June 24 to answer reckless driving charges.

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