Ocala, Florida — On Sunday, September 20, 2015, the sun was just going down when John Chiguina, and his then-girlfriend, Jennifer “Shelley” Turner, decided to go for a ride on Chiguina’s black 2014 Kawasaki Vulcan motorcycle.
Little did the couple know that their lives would change shortly after they began their joy ride.
Ocala police said that Cheryl Johnson, then 46, who was driving a white 1999 Mitsubishi Galant was traveling westbound on Northwest 35th Street.
At the same time, John was traveling eastbound on Northwest 35th Street, passing through the intersection of Northwest 2nd Avenue.
As John was passing through the intersection, Johnson made a left hand turn onto Northwest 2nd Avenue headed southbound. It was at that time that the Galant violated the right-of-way of the Vulcan and slammed into the left side of the motorcycle.
Both John and Shelley were ejected from the bike and thrown over a fence into a yard.
The impact crushed both John’s and Shelley’s left leg. The couple was on the ground for approximately 25 minutes before an ambulance arrived.
Shelley was able to secure her femur and tie it in place until help arrived. Meanwhile, John was losing a lot of blood.
They were both rushed to Ocala Regional Medical Center with severe injuries.
Initially, Johnson refused medical treatment. However, a short time later, she stated that she needed to go to the hospital because of her “hypertension.”
After hearing that Johnson would also be transported to the hospital, Officer Drue Hunley performed a computer check on her and discovered that Johnson did not have a valid driver’s license.
According to records, Johnson was and still is considered a habitual offender.
With that, Officer Hunley immediately drove to the hospital and confronted Johnson. During the conversation, she admitted that she had not had a driver’s license for three years because she failed to carry auto insurance. Additionally, the vehicle she was driving belonged to her daughter.
“I never drive, but I needed something from the store so I drove my daughter’s car to get it. The next thing I knew, I was in a crash,” Johnson said. She went on to say, “I was blinded by the sun setting.”
Johnson was arrested and transported to the Marion County Jail and charged with Driving While License Suspended-Habitual Offender (F). She was later released on a $2,000 bond.
After she was released, authorities said she went right back to illegally driving a vehicle.
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Unfortunately, John’s left leg could not be saved, and it had to be amputated from the knee down. He underwent multiple surgeries.
Shelley’s left leg was broken in several places, and she, too, has had to have multiple surgeries to repair the damage to her leg — 18 surgeries over five years to be exact. She has also had a knee replacement. Additionally, Shelley’s toe was ripped off during the accident.
Astonishingly, for having endured a very life-changing traumatic experience, the two have stayed strong, relied on each other for support, and have been in good spirits throughout the ordeal. Often times, the two made jokes and used humor to get through the hard times.
On September 24, 2015, for the first time since the accident, Shelley, with some help from hospital staff, was able to get out of bed. However, at that time, she was unable to maneuver without a walker.
Shelley said the hospital had been very accommodating, and at times, allowed her and John to stay in the same room together.
In addition to the accommodating hospital staff, during their hospital stay, Shelley’s and John’s Facebook pages were literally filled with hundreds of get well messages.
On the night Shelley was able to get out of bed for the first time, she wrote, “As the saying goes ‘what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger’ this man is my rock and my soul mate. Our bond is unbreakable. With every new obstacle, he faces he amazes me. The man above made him especially for me. I love you with everything I am. Nothing will ever change that!”
John, wrote, “I survived, I will get to bother my Shells (his nickname for Shelley) for many more years.”
The couple faced a long road to recovery, but they had a large support system behind them.
On September 29, 2015, the two were cleared and discharge from the hospital. They returned to the comfort of their own home to begin the long road of recovery.
At that time, Ocala Post asked John how he was doing considering the circumstances, to which he replied, “I can’t seem to get a leg up.”
Even after the dust settled and the nightmare set in as reality, John maintained his sense of humor.
John, who had been employed by the City of Ocala for nearly 19 years at the time of the accident, said that the city had been great to him.
“I’ve always felt in my almost 19 years of service that everyone was more than coworkers and friends, we’ve been more family than anything,” John said.
Following the accident, Shelley’s medical team wanted to amputate her leg as well. Her surgeon who led the team, however, had other plans. The surgeon had heard Shelley tell the medical team that she wanted to immediately leave the hospital and return to nursing school. When the surgeon heard [that], he said he knew that Shelley was strong enough to get through the surgeries.
Prior to the accident, Shelley had been attending nursing school in Tampa.
Now, let’s fast forward a little.
On April 16, 2016, John and Shelley returned to the scene of the crash…but not to cry and sulk in misery. No, instead, the two returned to the scene and tied the knot. That’s right, they got married. They returned to the crash site to celebrate the fact that they had not let that tragic day beat them.
Then, following more surgeries, 120 hours of anesthesia, and everyday trials that life can throw at a family, Shelley reentered nursing school on January 5, 2019, at Rasmussen College.
Shelley had followed her dream, and would you know it…2020 happened, and COVID-19 was thrown into the mix. Along with her everyday hurdles, she was forced out of the classroom and into at-home learning.
Shelley said that attending lectures and labs from home was in no way easy but she was up for the challenge. In fact, Shelley said that it turned out to be a great learning experience for her entire family…especially she and John’s son and daughter who often listened in on the lectures.
In an interview, Shelley told Rasmussen that she appreciated the care that her instructors showed. She also appreciated the fact that, despite her limp and other challenges, the instructors did not treat her like she was handicapped or coddle her.
Shelley landed her dream job and was hired on the very trauma floor where she spent many nights following her accident. She now gets to work with the very people who assisted in saving her and her husband’s life.
On September 19, 2020, Shelley graduated from nursing school, at last fulfilling her dream.
On September 20, 2020, on the fifth year anniversary of the accident, John and Shelley returned to the scene of the crash to once again, prove that they had not been beaten. They overcame tragedy as a family. They had ups and downs along the way as a family, and it was not easy, but they did it.
John and Shelley learned from one another, leaned on one another, and said they had an amazing support system of family and friends.
John said he was very proud of his wife and happy she fulfilled her dream of being a nurse.
Shelley told Ocala Post that it all (meaning graduation) seemed surreal, and that, there was a lot that had happened on her journey that was still a blur.
Shelley said that she feels like the seriousness of the accident and the recovery that followed will make her a much better nurse.