DeKalb County Police Officer Chase Trammell grinned when asked what lessons he has learned in the 360 days after an off-duty car accident nearly killed him.
Trammell fell asleep at the wheel while on the 75-minute drive from the North DeKalb precinct where he works to his home in White County.
“The biggest thing that I’ve learned is to always, always, whenever you have the opportunity to help somebody out, do it—whether you have the money or not, whether you have the means or not—because you never know when it’s going to be you in that situation,” Trammell said.
“You never know when the good Lord is going to say, ‘I’m going to put you through this trial and I’m going to test your faith,’” Trammell said.
Another lesson he learned is “definitely don’t sleep and drive.”
“That day I broke the routine,” Trammell said. “I’m definitely not going to let that happen again.”
After working a standard 12-hour shift on June 19, 2011, Trammell skipped his routine nap before driving home. It was Father’s Day and he wanted to spend time with his dad.
Driving on Long Branch Road in Dahlonega, Trammell fell asleep at the wheel and veered off the road.
Quickly waking up, Trammell struggled to regain control of his vehicle, but his vehicle went into a deep embankment, hit a tree, which fell across the car.
“Contrary to popular belief, no matter how hard you blow the horn at trees, they don’t move out of the way,” Trammell said. “They just don’t care. They just let you hit them.”
From the accident, Trammell received two broken femurs, four cracked vertebrae, a broken clavicle, a puncture to his left lung and seven broken ribs. He remained hospitalized for approximately two months.
A year and 13 surgeries later, Trammell returned June 12 to the job he loves.
“I just generally like helping people out,” Trammell said. “I handle every call as if [this] was my mom or dad.
“At the end of every ticket I write, my goal is to have people thank me,” Trammell said. “You kill people with kindness.”
Although the accident and subsequent medical care nearly caused him to be evicted, Trammell said he kept a positive attitude.
“No matter what happens I’m always going to be taken care of by the man upstairs,” Trammell said. “You can’t just give up your faith because you’re going through something bad.”
Trammell said his fiancée Britny Vanderstelt supported him throughout the ordeal.
“She’s been a trooper,” Trammell said. The couple are planning to get married in September at the R Ranch in Dahlonega in an outdoor wedding.
Trammell said his troubles made him “more and more grateful every day.”
“You never know when your number is going to be called,” Trammell said.