A serious car accident on the way to her daughter’s wedding rehearsal put Brenda Gump in a coma for six weeks and left her with no short-term memory.
Four years later, Gump, 56, of Finleyville in Washington County plays cards, board games and crossword puzzles. Although she needs around-the-clock supervision, she’s able to walk with a cane and visits a brain injury recovery group and personal trainer once a week.
Her recovery earned her the Western Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association 2014 Comeback Award, which she’ll receive Thursday at the Grand Concourse restaurant in Station Square. The association will donate $1,000 to The Brain Recovery Crew, a Bethel Park nonprofit, in her honor.
“Just the fact that she’s alive is amazing,” said Anthony Mengine, Gump’s lawyer. Last month, she won a $15.8 million verdict against the Connecticut construction company that a civil jury found partially responsible for the accident. “She’s come way back.”
Gump does not remember the June 11, 2010, accident along Route 51 in Pleasant Hills. She doesn’t remember that her four children are married and don’t live with her anymore. And she doesn’t know her grandchildren, all of whom were born after the accident.
“With such a significant brain injury, she’s brought back to an almost childlike state,” said her daughter, Dana Gump, 31, of Finleyville, who eventually got married a year after the accident and is now a mother. “It’s hard for her to express herself the way she would want to, and from minute to minute, day to day, she’ll call me — sometimes 10 times a day — because she doesn’t remember.
“That’s the biggest deficit. That’s the biggest challenge.”
Gump underwent surgery to remove part of her brain after the accident. Doctors told her family that she never would be able to walk, talk, feed or bathe herself again.
Dana Gump, an executive recruiter at Princeton One on the North Shore, said that was not acceptable to her family or her mother.
“She put up a tremendous fight, and she still does to this day,” she said.
The collision occurred as Gump’s son, Daniel, tried to turn left from Route 51 to Primanti Bros. restaurant, where Dana Gump’s rehearsal dinner was scheduled. A driver in the left lane allowed him to turn, but did not see a pickup approaching.
“Even as I saw the crash, I couldn’t let myself believe it was happening,” Dana Gump said. “You go from the highest point — getting married in a few hours — to thinking your mother may have passed away.”
Dana Gump said her family sued Lane Construction Corp., PennDOT and the driver of the other vehicle because mounting medical bills became too expensive for the family to handle.
When PennDOT and the other driver settled with the family before trial, Lane became responsible for all $15.8 million.
The company has not paid, and the case remains on appeal, Mengine said. A Lane official did not return calls for comment.
Dana Gump said her mother’s injuries have made life difficult.
Brenda Gump once did everything for her kids; now they’re the ones who must be responsible for her, she said. It has brought the family closer than ever.
“You see things in a different light now. Every kiss she gets from her grandkids, every little thing,” she said. “Unfortunately, until something is taken from you, you don’t always appreciate it to the fullest.”
Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or [email protected].