The worst day of Brandi Kaufman's life was also the day she met her future husband. Firefighter Dustin Blair not only saved Brandi's life after a fatal accident, but he gave her a reason to live again. Grab some tissues because their incredible love story is sure to bring tears to your eyes.
Photo Credit: Brandi Kaufman on Instagram
On March 29, 2012, Brandi Kaufman, her 18-year old younger sister Stephanie, and her sister's friend Savanah Pierce decided to go for pizza a few miles from home. Brandi was worried that the used car that their mother had recently purchased was unsafe but Stephanie assured her it was fine and insisted on driving. Just minutes later, their car slammed into an embankment and slid 15 feet off of the road. Savanah was killed on impact and Stephanie was left unconscious and covered in blood.
When firefighter Dustin Blair arrived on the scene, he ran to rescue the girl who was still trapped in the car. Every time Dustin and the paramedics moved Brandi, she would scream and resist their rescue efforts. "It was clear she was in terrible pain — she was whimpering, Dustin told Cosmopolitan, and then when I touched her, she started cursing at me. It took time, but I finally managed to place a plastic C collar on her neck to stabilize her spine and head. I had no idea where her injuries were and knew I had to protect her spine in order to prevent further injury. Once she was secure, the other guys pried the door open. That felt like forever."
After the accident, Dustin couldn't forget about the girl he had pulled from the car and decided to go visit her in the hospital. She was still unconsious at the time but he spoke to her mom. She told him that the other girl at the scene of the accident was her sister and she had died at the hospital.
The next thing that Brandi remembered was waking up in the hospital with no recollection of the accident. "The doctors told me my body was like a bag of puzzle pieces," Brandi said. She had bleeding on her brain so the doctors had to keep her unconscious. Her right arm from her shoulder to her wrist was shattered, she fractured both hips in 13 places, and her sternum moved down five inches. Her mom couldn't tell her her younger sister had passed away for fear the news would kill her.
When Brandi finally asked where Stephanie was her mom couldn't hold back her tears. "I knew then that my baby sister was gone. My grief at that moment was bigger than the pain from my broken bones. I went back to sleep hoping I'd never wake back up. I wanted to be with Stephanie." Her grief-stricken wish almost came true. During one of the times she flatlined, she had a vivid dream of her sister and deceased grandfather telling her she had to wake up because her mom needed her.
Brandi spent a month in rehab, learning how to walk again and do everything with her left hand since her right was rendered useless after the accident. After rehab, she was still unable to walk and do things on her own so she was sent to a nursing home to continue her recovery process. Being 50 years younger than everyone there made it even harder because she had no one she could really talk to. "My survivor's guilt was more painful than any physical healing. And then there were days where my physical pain was so intense that I was thankful that Stephanie did not have to suffer. She was in a better place."
Brandi's mom came to visit often and they started talking about Dustin. She said she wanted to meet him and all the other guys who responded to the call that fateful day. Five months after the accident, her mom set up a meeting between all of them as an important part of Brandi's healing.
When Dustin saw Brandi again he said his heart stopped for a moment. He could not believe it was the same girl he had seen in the hospital months earlier. He approached Brandi, and her mom suggested they take a picture together. Dustin, who had a girlfriend at the time, said, "We posed by the fire truck and I had a feeling this was the start of something big." Brandi felt something similar and she described it as electrifying. She posted the photo on Facebook later that night and wrote, "If it were not for the man in the picture, I would not be here."
Photo Credit: Brandi Kaufman on Instagram
Four months later (less than a year after the accident), Brandi's cousin convinced her to go on a double date with her new boyfriend and his friend. To her surprise, Dustin was that date and from that day on they were inseparable. When Brandi's mom bought and planted a tree as a memorial for Stephanie, Dustin drove three hours to be there even though the couple had only been on two dates at the time. He also brought Jordynn, his four year old daughter. "I was so glad that he wanted to introduce me to her. I knew it was serious and I thought he must agree. I also knew that this man saved me in more ways than one. He made me want to live again," said Brandi.
On April Fools' Day, Brandi posted on Facebook that she and Dustin were engaged as a joke. It was only two weeks after they officially met, and she thought her mom would think she was crazy. Instead, she wrote on her wall: "I wish it were true."
A year later, after asking her mom for permission, Dustin popped the question while the pair were away for Brandi's best friend's wedding. Inside Brandi was screaming yes, but her thoughts were still on Stephanie. "How could I move forward with a happy life knowing she's not here? I thought of all the nights following the accident where I would just lose it — I'd curl up in a little ball and weep. I'd say over and over, 'Why her? Why not me?' And every time, Dustin would wrap his arms around me and say, 'There is a reason for everything.' I soon realized that the reason was him."
Brandi thought back to a conversation between her and Stephanie just days before her death. She had just broken up with her then boyfriend and was very upset. Stephanie quoted Marilyn Monroe saying, "Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together." Since then those words became Brandi's mantra, "I said yes to Dustin and to living a life that would make my little sister proud."
"Brandi thinks I gave her a reason to live again, but she also gave me one. Watching her heal, seeing her resilience, made me realize the strength of the human spirit. It made me excited about the future," the heroic groom-to-be said.
The adorable couple plans to tie the knot on May 15, 2015. Best wishes to the future Mr. and Mrs Blair!
— Mary Gillen