Beyond the Legal Limit

surviving a collision with a drunk driver

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A searingly honest memoir of a mother and daughter who survived a head-on collision with a drunk driver and their determination to rebuild a meaningful life.

On a sunny Sunday afternoon in June 2013, performer and singer Pat Henman, was driving home on the highway with her 19-year-old daughter, Maia, when they were struck head-on by a drunk driver. Pat and Maia’s injuries were too complicated and life-threatening for the small hospital in Cranbrook, and they were flown to Calgary. Pat was revived four times, and her family was told to prepare for the worst. Maia had multiple breaks of all four limbs and the doctors had to induce her into a coma for more than a week. Both women spent months in the hospital recovering and undergoing major surgery. Pat had nineteen surgeries in the first week alone and Maia, a first-year university student, was left permanently disabled. This was the beginning of a long and painful struggle for their entire family.

But as Pat and Maia were rehabilitating and trying to adapt to new routines, the family’s life became engulfed in the confusing world of insurance settlements, a criminal trial against the impaired driver, and a broken legal system. Pat writes candidly about the accident and their family’s ongoing struggle in a powerful memoir demanding justice not just for her family, but for all victims.

Among the grief and anguish is a story of resilience, and recovery. Pat, whose vocal cords were damaged from the breathing tubes and was left with a permanent broken shoulder, was told she was unlikely to ever perform again. But with determination and retraining in her late fifties, she has slowly returned to her passion—the stage. Beyond the Legal Limit is the story of how love, community support and the compassion of many, including strangers, can be the path to survival.

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Reviews

“Beyond the Legal Limit is a skillfully told account of a life-altering car crash and its harrowing aftermath. The reader is given a bedside seat for a vivid and relentless journey through the medical system before witnessing the legal aftermath that threatened to re-victimize both Pat and her daughter Maia. A raw and personal account, this memoir poses important questions about how we do justice and should be required reading for every medical and legal professional."

—Katy Hutchison, author of Walking After Midnight: One Woman’s Journey Through Murder, Justice and Forgiveness

“Beyond the Legal Limit is one of the most honest, gripping, heartbreaking—and yet life-affirming—books you’ll read this year. Pat is an accomplished Canadian actor and director with a wicked sense of humour. One sunny day in June of 2013, she and her daughter Maia were driving home to Nelson, B.C., and were hit head-on by a serial drunk driver.

The accident was catastrophic. The fact that they lived through it is extraordinary.

Pat tells her story with grace and humour and unfailing humanity. Her road to recovery was brutal and miraculous. I defy anyone to read this book and not fall in love with Pat and her family — or to read this book without raging at what she and Maia endured in their recovery and in the court system.

Beyond the Legal Limit is a page-turner, and should be required reading for anyone who’s ever gotten behind the wheel after drinking.”

—Barbra Leslie, author of Cracked

“When Pat Henman and her daughter Maia were struck by a drunk driver their injuries were cataclysmic. Pat wasn’t expected to survive. Instead—incredibly—she lived. Beyond the Legal Limit is the story of how that happened and it’s compelling—the out of body experience of near death, and then the shock and agony of returning to a body vastly traumatized. It’s the story of how a person who suddenly can’t move, or eat, or read retains her selfhood and identity. It’s a psychological journey through immense change and anger. It’s about being the victim of a vile crime and reconciling that reality with justice. It’s a journey toward acceptance. And ultimately it’s an astonishing story of recovery and family and love.”

—Brent Bambury, host of CBC Day 6

“Pat Henman provides an unflinching and brutally honest account of the impact that impaired driving can have on the human body. But the deeper story here is the strength of the human spirit; Pat didn’t just survive her catastrophic injuries, she is living in spite of them. She is inspirational to so many people as she also holds her experience up as a stark warning about the human cost of impaired driving. The harsh reality is that Pat’s experience is sadly far too common. Impaired driving remains one of the leading causes of criminal death in Canada and injures tens of thousands of people every year. Maybe if every driver in Canada read Beyond the Legal Limit, we could eliminate impaired driving completely.”

—Steve Sullivan, Director of Victim Services, MADD Canada

“What does the bottom line resemble when your life has been shattered by an act of violence? Pat draws the reader into a journey nothing could have prepared her for. Every day, on average, 4 Canadians are killed and 175 are injured in impaired-related crashes. Not every victim or survivor has the opportunity or the strength to tell their story.

For victims of crime, justice is elusive as they battle with systems and institutions whose priorities are balanced against their interests. Pat’s story is a grueling account of how victims and survivors blindly enter an arena of competing systematic priorities hoping for the scales to be balanced, needing to have their voices heard, and having their sense of justice shattered.

Pat offers a moving account of loss and grief, determination, and resiliency as we are drawn into an experience you have no control over.”

—Celine Lee, survivor of violent crime and Chairperson of the Pacific Region Victim Advisory Council

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Kirkus Review

To read the entire review click here

The author tells her story in straightforward, matter-of-fact language and with great honesty, as when she tells of weeping tears of joy the first time she’s able to shower, and even some humor, as when she calls recurrent abscesses “little bastards.” She’s also thoughtful and empathetic about her struggles to come to terms with the crash and its consequences.