(Lorri Sughroue/McCook Daily Gazette)
Sitting in a wheelchair on stage at the McCook High School auditorium, the pretty and vibrant 22-year-old featured speaker didn't mince words at the "Think and Drive Stay Alive" program Thursday.
As the result of deciding to drink and drive, "I am living with the consequences for the rest of my life," she told students. "It doesn't matter how many times you've gotten away with it, you are not invincible. Don't become a statistic like me."
Hudson described how she was straight-A student and involved in sports and other activities, before she began partying at 15.
Then, her thinking changed. "I let what other people thought of me and what my friends were doing, become more important than my own judgement," she said.
After drinking one January night in 2008, she rolled her car three times and remained trapped a ditch, upside down for six hours in freezing temperatures, before an EMT on his way to work found her.
She suffered spinal cord injuries and doctors weren't sure if she would be be able to breathe on her own. With intensive therapy, she slowly started her life over, learning one skill at a time.
"I had to re-learn everything," she said."It was like being a baby all over."
Today, she is a quadraplegic, but has movement in her head and arms. She said the hardest thing she's had to learn since her accident was realizing she had no control over what she did.
"I've had to let go, and accept that I needed help," she told the crowd.
Diane Almer of the Madonna Rehabilitation Center in Lincoln, who worked with Hudson during her recovery, also spoke to students on thinking before acting, Many spinal cord injuries in ages 15 to 24 are preventable, she said, and come as a result of a bad choice, such as not wearing a seatbelt or talking on a cell phone while driving.
But all it takes is a three-second decision to wear that seatbelt, or not get into a car with a driver who's been drinking, to avoid the potentially life altering consequences, she added.
Almer had nothing but admiration for Hudson, who earned her GED while recovering from her injuries and now attends McCook Community College.
"She was so strong and worked so hard," Almer said. "She had the will to turn her life around and made a horrible situation into a new opportunity."
The "Think and Drive Stay Alive" program was presented by High Plains Radio and a host of sponsors. Bryan Loker of High Plains said similar events are presented every year to high school students before prom and graduation.