Last injured bus rider leaves hospital

  • Article by: JEFF SHELMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 22, 2007 - 10:58 PM

Her wedding had to be postponed, but the youth worker from the yellow school bus is just happy to be alive.

Julie Graves
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Julie Graves and fiance Brandon Kelly talked a week after she was hurt.

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

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Despite breaking two bones in her back, an ankle and both of her feet, Waite House youth coordinator Julie Graves didn't lose her sense of humor when the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed three weeks ago.

As Graves -- the last of the hospitalized school-bus passengers -- prepared to leave the Hennepin County Medical Center Wednesday afternoon, she had just one request for the television cameras surrounding her.

"Just try not to get my hairy legs in the shot," she joked. "I can't shave yet."

The 29-year-old Graves feels fortunate that shaving is a concern. She knows things could have turned out very differently. Graves was sitting in the front passenger seat of the now-famous school bus when the bridge collapsed on Aug. 1. As the bridge fell, Graves flew over the seat and into the bus' stairwell.

Despite being covered with debris and having blood pooling by her feet, Graves was able to turn off the bus's ignition. In the minutes that followed, she said about eight different people helped carry her. All of the dozens of kids on board got off safely.

"Every day I think about how fortunate I am to be alive," said Graves, who lives in Minneapolis and will recuperate at her parents' home in Minnetonka.

"I can't wait to see all those kids and get back to the Waite House" in south Minneapolis.

While it will probably be at least a couple of months before she is able to walk again, Graves has made significant progress.

Her right arm -- which was severely gouged and required more than 40 stitches -- is no longer in a cast and she again has some range of motion.

In about a month she hopes to free herself of the brace on her left foot and be able to move around on crutches, giving her a little bit of independence.

Her Saturday wedding to Brandon Kelly, however, has been postponed until next spring (all of the vendors for the 250-person shindig have been accommodating). By then, Graves hopes to be out of her back brace and able to dance.

"I need to wear my wedding dress," Graves said. "Not an Adidas track jacket."

Jeff Shelman • 612-673-7478

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Julie Graves