Barbara (Sandy) Lee, an Oxon Hill firefighter, lost a leg and nearly lost her life after being run over by a fire truck more than two years ago. Last week she returned to a full-time job with the Prince George's County Fire Department, teaching fire education and safety.
Lee, 28, is wheelchair-bound, but she is satisfied that the years of surgery and intensive therapy that followed her accident are over.
She started her new job, in which she delivers fire safety lectures to residents, on Wednesday. Lee said she also plans to continue a series of evening talks to fellow firefighters in which she stresses the importance of safety around fire vehicles.
In September 1982, Lee fell from a slowly moving 17-ton fire truck and was dragged under its rear wheels, which crushed her pelvis. She said later that she felt like "an egg exploding."
Lee underwent more than 50 operations at the University of Maryland's shock trauma center in Baltimore before she moved to the Montebello Hospital in Baltimore for rehabilitation.
"I'm doing great," she said last week from her Oxon Hill home. She is especially happy about the effect her fire-safety talks have had on fire department policy.
Eight of the nine Prince George's firefighters who died in the line of duty from 1970 until the time of Lee's accident were fatally injured in vehicle-related accidents, she said.
Now, thanks to a new department policy stating that firefighters must be fully dressed and wearing seat belts before moving off in their trucks, there have been no more such accidents, she said.
"It's really taken hold," she said. "I can really see results."
Lee said she hopes similar safety precautions will soon be taken outside of Prince George's. Toward that end, she has traveled to Boston and to Detroit to give her safety lectures and plans to go to Annapolis this winter to testify on behalf of legislation that would create firefighters' safety laws throughout Maryland.
While she is not on the safety campaign trail, she said, she will turn her attention back to her favorite hobby -- horses. Although she cannot ride, she said she plans to do some teaching.
In November, she received an Outstanding Young Marylander award for her fire-safety work from the Prince George's County chapter of the Maryland Jaycees.