|Born||December 20, 1978
|Known for||Survived a drunk driving accident|
Jacqueline "Jacqui" Saburido (born December 20, 1978) is a burn victim who works tirelessly to raise awareness of drunk driving.
The only child of Rosalia and Amadeo Saburido, she lived in Caracas, Venezuela for all of her childhood. Living with her father after her parents divorced, she began studying engineering in the hope of taking over the family air conditioning business. In 1999, Saburido was struggling in college and decided to take a break. She took a trip to Texas to study the English language.
On September 19, 1999, Saburido attended a birthday party near Austin, Texas. She and her friends decided to head home after a few hours. Saburido and her friends, Laura Guerrero, Johan Daal and Johanna Gil, accepted a ride home from a classmate, Natalia Chpytchak Bennett. Reginald Stephey, a 17-year-old high school student, was on his way home after drinking beer with his friends at a party. On the outskirts of Austin, Stephey's 1996 GMC Yukon veered into Bennett's 1990 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency. Bennett's car was carrying Saburido and the others.
Guerrero and Bennett were killed instantly. Gil and Daal were injured but not seriously. Saburido's feet were trapped under the seat and she could not get out. The car caught fire. Two paramedics, John McIntosh and Bryan Fitzpatrick, happened to be driving past when Stephey flagged them down. The flames were leaping several feet up into the air as they arrived. McIntosh put out the fire with his extinguisher and the two men set about removing everyone from the vehicle.
Saburido was trapped, and the fire returned. McIntosh and Fitzpatrick were forced back, and Saburido was left to burn for around 45 seconds as the flames engulfed the vehicle. A fire truck arrived and put out the fire, Saburido was cut from the car and airlifted to the burns unit in Galveston.
Saburido suffered second and third degree burns to over 60 percent of her body. She survived, reportedly despite the expectations of her doctors. All of her fingers had to be amputated, but there was enough bone left on her thumb to construct an opposable thumb. She lost her hair, ears, nose, lips, left eyelid and much of her vision. She has undergone more than 40 operations since the crash, including cornea transplants, which have restored her left eye, and she has many more to go.
Saburido allowed graphic post-accident photographs of herself to be used in the media (posters, TV-commercials, and internet chain mail) to illustrate a possible outcome of drunk driving. She is most well known for a commercial in which she holds a pre-accident photo of herself in front of the camera, which she lowers to reveal her disfigured face and says, "This is me, after being hit by a drunk driver." When asked why she appeared in the campaign, Saburido stated "I feel very good to do it because I know people can understand a little more what happened to me -- why my life changed completely. So I think for me, for everybody, it's a good opportunity."
In order to ensure the material involving Saburido that was used in an ad campaign by the Texas Department of Transportation in schools, the videos and photos taken of her involved the use of soft lighting to improve her appearance and consultation with child psychologists to ensure the material, although graphic, would not frighten children.
Regarding her life after the accident, Saburido stated that she has never given up: "If a person stumbles, he must pick himself up and keep going. I believe this is very important; if not, life would not have much sense."
Saburido appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show on November 17, 2003. She was also interviewed on the Australian 60 Minutes on March 14, 2004 and was featured in a Discovery Health documentary on face transplants. She continues to educate people on drunk driving. Oprah Winfrey has called Saburido the one person she had met who defined "inner beauty" and that she is "a woman who defines survival."
Saburido's story was featured in the motivational presentation Inside Out by Motivational Productions.
Saburido and Stephey met for the first time after his trial and conviction in 2001. Saburido has stated that Stephey "destroyed my life. Completely" but forgave him. Regarding the meeting, Stephey later stated that "What sticks out in my mind is, 'Reggie, I don't hate you.' It's really touching someone can look you in the eyes and have that much compassion after all that I have caused."
Stephey's served his full sentence, having an appeal denied in 2005. He was released from the Huntsville Unit in Texas on June 24, 2008. Saburido stated: "I don't hate him, I don't feel bad because he's out, he can reconstruct his life again.".
In a video posted on Metacafe.com, Stephey describes his life since he was incarcerated while Saburido describes her life after the accident.
Saburido is among the 20 disfigured people who have approached surgeons at a London hospital to carry out Britain's first face transplant operation.. She is also looking into other possibilities for a face transplant in other nations and hospitals.