CANAAN — Friends of Laura Leifert, a physical therapist who was badly injured in a car crash earlier this month, have raised nearly $15,000 for her to get by until she can get back to work.
Leifert, a single mother with three grown children, has run a physical therapy practice out of her home for more than 30 years, and has gained a following of patients who say she’s the best at what she does. One of them is Sonja Zinke of Norfolk, who started a GoFundMe fundraiser for her friend.
“Laura is one of the most lovely people I’ve ever met,” Zinke said. “She’s helped so many people. She’s done physical therapy on my dad, my husband’s dad, and everyone I know who needs physical therapy goes to her.
“She’s a single mom living paycheck to paycheck, and she works six days a week,” she said. “She’s a kind, loving soul and she needs help.”
Leifert was released from Hartford Hospital after having two surgeries to repair her injuries, primarily to her foot, which is now full of hardware, she said.
“I was traveling on Route 63 to visit my son in Woodbury, and it was a nice day, so I drove my 30-year-old Toyota Celica convertible,” she said. “I saw a white car behind me, going really fast, so I tried to move out of the way. ... I went off the road and hit a tree. He took off.”
According to the state police report, Leifert was driving south on Route 63 in Lakeville, while a car driven by Jason Wass, 23, of Middletown, was behind her. Police said Wass was speeding and rear-ended Leifert, then left the scene.
“Based on (Leifert’s) statements and physical evidence at the scene, (Wass) was found to be at fault and taken into police custody by Troop B,” according to the police report. Wass is charged with reckless driving, following too closely, evading responsibility and interfering with an investigation. His bond was set at $5,000 and he was scheduled to appear Nov. 3 in Superior Court in Litchfield, according to the report.
After emergency responders arrived and got her out of the car, Leifert was taken to Sharon Hospital, where the medical staff determined she needed to go to Hartford Hospital, and she was transported there by LifeStar. Her right foot was crushed and much of the skin was torn from her foot, she said.
“Oh, it hurt,” she said, adding that she also has a broken rib, a broken vertebrae and cuts and bruises.
Leifert considers herself lucky to be alive, and gave her vintage Celica a lot of the credit.
“Considering I was in a 30-year-old car, I’m very lucky,” she said. “I just put money into it for the first time this year. I’ve had it all this time, and I took such good care of it. It was totaled, but it saved my life.”
Leifert will have to recuperate and stay off her foot for six to eight weeks. She lives with her daughters, 17 and 22, who both work. But one will always be home to help care for her, she said.
“The doctors told me as long as my hardware (in my foot) doesn’t fail, and there’s no infection, I should heal OK,” she said.
The physical therapy practice Leifert founded in 1989 is small, and she only sees one patient at a time in her home. “It’s an unusual practice that way, but people like it,” she said.
“I was working 12-hour days before this, but it’ll probably be a couple of months before I can walk,” she said. “Thankfully, the guy who hit me had insurance, and hopefully it will cover some of the medical bills.
“If I can coach people from a wheelchair, I will,” Leifert said. “Some of my patients are left without care, and it’s been bothering me.”
The Go Fund Me effort made Leifert very grateful.
“I can’t believe the generosity of people,” she said. “Patients I had 10 years ago, who I didn’t think would remember me, have reached out. It’s just amazing. ... Just the fact that people think of you. I’ve lived in East Canaan for 30 years, and because I work out of my house, I probably have a closer relationship with people.”
To make a donation, go to gofundme.com and search Laura Leifert.