SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. - Two days after she came out of an induced coma, April Krouskoupf was thirsty.
Tubes stuck in her nose and arms not only provided her nourishment, but also kept the 22-year-old South Lake Tahoe preschool teacher fed and hydrated.
For 25 days, she had been purposely kept unconscious, hooked to machines that kept her collapsed lungs moving. A breathing tube had been inserted into her windpipe. Any amount of water to her throat would put April at risk of pneumonia.
In a frustrating fit of cotton mouth, April pulled the tubes out of her nose. She wanted to talk. She wanted a drink of water.
"I was angry," April recalls. "You don't realize how much you appreciate water until you don't have it."
Nurses put the intravenous feeding tubes back into body. Her father dabbed her lips with a moist sponge. April took the sponge with her lips and sucked on it.
April doesn't remember much about the early morning of Saturday, Sept. 22, other than she had been bowling and drinking the night before with her roommate, 24-year-old Patrick Curtis.
She remembers four pitchers of beer were ordered among several people at the bowling alley. She remembers going to a bar with Curtis, having a shot with him and a cocktail before playing a game of pool. She said she remembers a girlfriend of Curtis' showing up at the bar.
That's where it gets hazy. The last thing April remembers was wanting to walk home.
It was after 1 a.m. when police arrived at 10th Avenue and Julie Street. There, they found the black 1971 Chevy Nova that Curtis had been driving, smashed into a telephone pole.
The passenger side, where April sat, took the most damage, according to police. She was not wearing a seat belt.
April was taken to Barton Memorial Hospital, then flown to Renown Medical Center. Curtis, who didn't receive major injuries, told officers that he and April had been drinking, according to police.
Curtis had a previous misdemeanor driving under the influence conviction in 2004, according to a police report that was provided to April. He told officers that his driving privileges were suspended at the time of the crash because he had not completed his DUI classes from the earlier offense.
Curtis' blood alcohol level was 0.16, the report stated; April's, drawn at the hospital, was 0.17.
Jay Krouskoupf and April's mother, Lisa, were by their daughter's bedside that night and for the weeks ahead. Family and friends also visited. April suffered two punctured lungs, liver damage, fractured ribs, broken teeth and a partially bit-off tongue that was reattached.
With April's trauma care doctor John Watson giving the OK to take her off life support because her lungs had gained enough strength to work on their own, the induced coma April had been in for 25 days was lifted Oct. 16.
Out of the 37 days she was hospitalized, 25 of those being in the coma, the final six days were in recovery outside of the intensive care unit. April returned home Oct. 28.
Alive and on the path of recovery, April hopes to be back to work in the summer as a preschool teacher at Kindertown in South Lake Tahoe. She remains weak, she says, but each day gets better, gaining strength in her lungs and in her confidence.
"Seeing the kids has really helped," she said of her recent visit to the preschool.
Arraigned in El Dorado County Superior Court on Nov. 7, Patrick Curtis faces 16 months to three years in prison if convicted of the charge of felony drunken driving causing injury.
Curtis could receive an additional six months if convicted of the charge of driving on a suspended license. Judge Jerald Lasarow scheduled a pre-preliminary hearing in the case Dec. 10.
However, Curtis' attorney, Paul Palant, said he plans to ask for a continuance because of a prior commitment.
Cautious when describing her thoughts about Curtis, April said she was too intoxicated to make a sound judgment that night and regrets getting into the car with him. In the past, she has called her mother for a ride whenever she's been with someone who has had too much to drink.
As for her own experience and the emotional weight of it for herself, her family and Curtis and his family, April wants people to re-evaluate their lives and lifestyles, especially in Tahoe, known as a drinking and partying town.
"People just need to make better decisions and think twice about the amount of alcohol they consume," she said. "I don't feel like a different person, but I feel like I got a second chance."