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Touching Story
Married to a Stranger Part 1

Married to a Stranger Part 1 | 2

 

In wedding portraits on the walls of their Las Vegas, New Mexico, living room, Kim and Krickitt Carpenter look like any young newlyweds deeply in love and filled with hope for their new life together. But Krickitt admits it causes her some pain now to look at the pictures or to see herself in the wedding video, walking down the aisle in her lacy white gown.
"I would almost rather not watch it," she says.
"It makes me miss the girl in the picture more."

In a sense, that Krickitt is gone; lost forever. Less than ten weeks after the September 1993 ceremony, the Carpenters were in a nightmarish auto accident that injured both of them badly and left Krickitt comatose. Even though the doctors initially doubted she would survive, she rallied, regaining consciousness and eventually, most of her physical abilities. However, the trauma to her brain caused retrograde amnesia, erasing virtually her entire memory of the previous eighteen months including any recollection of the man she had fallen in love with and married.
"The last two years have been based on a story I'm told," says Krickitt, twenty-six.
"Because I don't remember any of it."

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Krickitt Pappas was a sales representative for an Anaheim, California, sportswear company when Kim, then baseball coach and assistant athletic director at New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, phoned in September 1992 to order some team jackets. While chatting, they discovered mutual interests. Both were devout Christians and Krickitt's father had also coached baseball.
One call led to another and by January, Kim, now thirty, recalls, "We were probably talking five hours a week."

The following April, he invited her to visit New Mexico for a weekend.
"I'll never forget the moment she got off the plane." he says.
"It was like I'd always known her."
Over the next few months, they spent nearly every weekend together. In June, he showed up unannounced at her apartment with flowers and a ring.
"I asked if she’d become my lifetime buddy," he says.

They seemed a good fit. Kim, who had played college baseball and golf at Highlands, was one of three sons of Danny Carpenter, a retired printing firm owner, and his wife Maureen. Krickitt (born Kristian and nicknamed as a baby by an aunt) was a two-time Academic Ail-American gymnast at California State, Fullerton. She grew up in Phoenix, the daughter of Gus and Mary Pappas, former schoolteachers and coaches who also have a son, Jamey. Krickitt and Kim married that fall and moved into an apartment in Las Vegas (128 miles northeast of Albuquerque), where Krickitt found work as a hospital fitness instructor.

They were just settling into married life when they set out on November 24th to visit her parents in Phoenix. Krickitt was driving west on Interstate 40 with Kim lying in the backseat and a friend in the passenger seat. She had to swerve to avoid hitting a slow-moving truck. A pickup following them smashed into the Carpenters' car. Their Ford Escort flipped over on its roof and went into a sickening skid.

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"I can remember every split second of that wreck," says Kim.
"I screamed and screamed and screamed for Krickitt and got no answer."
Kim suffered a punctured lung, a bruise on his heart, a concussion and a broken hand. Milan Rasic, the friend, had a separated shoulder. But worst off was Krickitt, who had suffered a terrible skull fracture when the roof of the car caved in around her head.

Unconscious and fastened by a seat belt, she hung upside down for thirty minutes before rescuers arrived. It was a further forty more minutes before they could free her.
Emergency medic D. J. Combs recalls that her pupils were fixed in a rightward gaze, "She had what we call 'doll's eyes.'"

"It was pretty bleak initially," says emergency-room doctor Alan Beamsley, who was at the Gallup, New Mexico, hospital where Krickitt arrived nearly ninety minutes after the accident.
"We were scared for her."
A doctor brought Kim an envelope containing Krickitt's rings and watch.
"He said, I'm very sorry, Mr. Carpenter,'" Kim recalls.
"I thought she'd died."

Despite doctors' advice, he refused treatment for himself to stay by his wife's side.
"I didn't recognize her, she was so messed up," he says.
"I grabbed her hand and said, 'We're gonna get through this.'"

When a helicopter arrived to take Krickitt to the University of New Mexico hospital in Albuquerque 140 miles away, there was no room for Kim.

Married to a Stranger Part 1 | 2

 

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