Back in the Driver’s Seat

March 05, 2019
On the Road Again --  Amanda Flores gets in the driver's seat of her 2018 Sienna for the first time. DARCARS CEO John Darvish donated the fully modified Sienna to Flores. The mother of two survived two months in a coma after falling ill with septic shock. Doctors had to amputate her hands and legs to keep her alive. 

The first time you lay eyes on Amanda Flores, you immediately notice she has no arms or legs. 

But then you talk to her, and you realize she is full of heart.

In 2014, she was a young woman living in Washington, D.C., balancing a promising advertising career and her role as a mother to two little boys.

And then, she got a cold. Or so she thought.

“It was the holidays,” Flores explained. “And you know, mommies aren’t allowed to get sick around the holidays. But I started feeling really run down with what seemed like laryngitis. So, I got some medicine, and focused on getting ready for Christmas.”

Flores started to feel a little better, but her symptoms lingered. She went back to the doctor a few weeks later and was diagnosed with the flu. She took over-the-counter medications and waited to get better.  

But Flores didn’t have the flu. Her body was fighting a losing battle against sepsis – a life-threatening infection in the bloodstream.

“I went back to the doctor’s office,” she says. “They started taking my vitals. They started screaming to call 911. And that’s when I knew something was seriously wrong.”
A Harrowing Diagnosis -- Amanda Flores had felt sick for weeks, but doctors repeatedly told her it was just the flu. Actually, Flores was suffering from sepsis, a dangerous blood infection. She spent two months in a coma, and doctors amputated her legs and hands. 

When Everything Changed

That’s the last thing Flores remembers before waking up in a hospital room a few months later. She had been in a medically-induced coma.

“I was surrounded by family,” she says. “I was told I had been very sick. They saved my life. But they had to amputate my hands and legs to do it.”

Flores worked through grueling physical therapy and rehabilitation to prepare her for life without her limbs. But nothing could prepare her for the loss of independence that followed.

“How was I supposed to eat?” Flores asks. “How was I supposed to do basic things, like take a shower? And driving was one of the biggest hurdles. I couldn’t keep relying on other people to drive my children or me to our various appointments. So I made the decision to start driving again – without really knowing how I’d do it.”

Her Story Spreads
Taking Back Control -- When DARCARS CEO John Darvish heard Flores' story, he immediately wanted to help. He and his management team donated a mobility-adapted 2018 Sienna to Flores and her family.
Flores had a small but mighty network of loved ones who wanted to help. They launched a GoFundMe account in the hopes of raising enough money to buy Flores a modified, accessible van. They shared the campaign on social media and tagged a local Toyota dealership – DARCARS Toyota of Silver Spring.

“I scan through our social media sometimes, just to see what the public is posting about DARCARS,” John Darvish, DARCARS president and CEO, says. “I saw Amanda’s story, and I was intrigued. Here’s a single mother who has been through so much, and her biggest challenge is the everyday problem of not being able to drive. We sell cars every day, and we don’t think about just how much it impacts people’s personal lives.”

Darvish met with his management team to discuss how best to help Flores. Within days, they decided to give her a 2018 Sienna. They closed the showroom, loaded it with Siennas, and Flores was invited to pick her favorite. Afterwards, DARCARS also covered the cost of modifications that made the van accessible for Amanda.

She’s Unstoppable

“Throughout this journey, the phoenix has been an important symbol for me,” Flores explains. “Phoenix rises from the ashes and is reborn, and that’s how I feel about my new life. So, I picked the salsa red Sienna, because it’s a symbol of fire and sass.”

Darvish just wanted to help Flores regain her independence and mobility. But in the end, Flores gave him something, too.

“Amanda’s taught us some very valuable lessons about making a decision to win and making a decision to overcome challenges,” he says. “And also, the importance of mobility in our lives. After Amanda learned to drive, she regained so much confidence. Now, she’s unstoppable.”

By Kristen Orsborn

Editor's Note: Amanda Flores recently shared her Start Your Impossible story with team members at the North America Business Update meeting. Watch her Q&A with TMNA CEO Jim Lentz here.

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