Loyola fifth-year Jeff Krudys was enjoying the night walking his dog in his wheelchair near the Lincoln Park Conservatory Oct. 6. As he began to cross North Stockton Drive, he saw headlights approaching quickly. Before he knew it, a car had struck him and drove away.
Krudys, a Kansas native, was born with and suffers from Osteogenesis Imperfecta, also known as brittle bone disease. He had two broken arms and a broken rib when he was born. This congenital disease affects two in 1,000,000 people and is terminal.
“This disease is my life and it’s all that I have known, so I live with it the same way that you might deal with a mole on your leg or something,” Krudys said. “I am one of very few with my condition who is able to live independently, but I’m kind of just a normal dude.”
The Chicago Police Department (CPD) is still looking for the driver involved as of Oct. 22.
Krudys was crossing North Stockton Drive, headed west, when a small maroon vehicle driving south struck him and continued driving, police said. He was transported to Northwestern Memorial Hospital with abrasions, fractures in each of his legs and swelling to his right leg, according to CPD spokeswoman Kellie Bartoli.
“There was a neon green sign that said yield for walkers that the driver blew right through it,” Krudys said. “He didn’t even honk.”
Krudys said when he first got hit he was in a state of shock and couldn’t believe the driver didn’t stop.
“I just saw a flash of light when the car turned my chair,” Krudys said. “I just saw the rear of the car and I thought he was going to stop but he didn’t. I didn’t have the leash in my hand anymore and then I turned around to go see where my dog Riley was, but he wandered off after the accident so he went off into the park. I felt so stranded.”
The car slammed into the right side of his wheelchair causing it to spin out, but not tip over, according to Krudys, 25. He said both of his femurs were fractured, the right one twice, and his knee and foot were also crushed.
“I sustained two of the most painful fractures, ” Krudys said. “I have broken over 400 bones, but it’s not a big deal to me anymore. I break ribs while I sleep if I roll over wrong or cough and I’ve broken just about every bone in my body, but breaking a femur is worse than breaking every other bone.”
The bumper of the car that hit Krudys was left behind at the scene after falling off in the crash, Krudys said. Police said they’re trying to use evidence on the bumper to track down the driver.
His dog, named Riley, a ten-year-old 117-pound black lab, is safe now and sustained no injuries. He was not hit but ran off after the incident — now he’s staying with Krudys’ brother and sister, who flew into Chicago from Kansas City and Rhode Island to help him after the crash.
“After it happened, I was screaming for help and screaming for my dog,” Krudys said. “I was in a lot of pain when it happened.”
A couple near the scene heard the crash and Krudys yelling for help, he said. They were able to help him and wait with him until the ambulance came, according to Krudys.
“The wife came and assisted me and called my family members and called the police,” Krudys said. “She also took videos for evidence of the crosswalk and the bumper. The husband chased after my dog.”
Krudys’ professors have been very understanding of his situation. He has been doing school, physical therapy, searching for lawyers and trying to keep up with the police while trying to recover. He has also been talking to family because they want to stay up to date with his progress. Krudys said his spirits are up and he has been really focusing on his therapy.
Though Krudys is receiving treatment, he still has some worries about the future.
“I’m kind of worried because this was an unplanned incident and I have to pay to fix my wheelchair and pay for the hospital,” Krudys said. “I will likely go to a rehab facility after, which also costs a lot of money. I am worried about the cost of it all.”
Krudys said he’s hopeful CPD will be able to track down the driver soon.
“If I could say something to [the driver] I would ask what was going through his mind when they hit me,” Krudys said. “I would say that they shouldn’t have been scared to approach me or stop. Obviously I would expect them to do something about the situation, but if he or she did what was right, I could still forgive them.”