JAMAICA BEACH, Texas (KTRK) -- Jamaica Beach police officer Kristin Ornelas was the guest of honor at a fundraiser, celebrating her survival, and raising money for her medical bills just 22-days after she was in the hospital in critical condition.
Ornelas was on duty Oct. 24, and was about to join in a high speed chase on the Blue Water Highway on Galveston Island. The fleeing suspect ran into her patrol car, and pushed it into another vehicle.
Speeds in the chase were noted as reaching up to 100 mph.
The chase began in Lake Jackson, when police tried to pull over 41-year-old John Allen Perkins, who was driving the wrong way.
Perkins was injured in the crash, and has been charged with aggravated injury to a public servant.
Officer Ornelas was in critical condition and left with neck injuries, fractured ribs and a fractured skull.
She is out of the hospital, but has to wear a neck brace.
"I can't drive right now because I can't turn my head," Ornelas said.
The fundraiser was organized by the Jamaica Beach police and fire departments.
First responders who attended were among the ones who came to her aid after the crash.
"I tell them to wear their vests," she said. "That's what protected me from worse internal injuries. "
A large crowd of first responders turned out for the fundraiser that included an auction of donated items, including artwork.
Food was also sold to raise money.
But, in the crowd, Ornelas recognized some faces with whom she had direct contact in the past.
"Everybody who knows me knows I'm a go-getter," she said. "I write a bunch of tickets and to have the same people turn out, knowing that's the kind of person I am. I don't do it to be the ticket-writer, but we have to keep everybody safe. And it's amazing to have this kind of turnout."
It was amazing for them to see the progress she's made. "At the time, I thought she could die, and there's no feeling like that," said police chief Brad Heiman.
Ornelas, who's been a police officer for eight years, said the support she is receiving is important to any first responder going through a challenging time. "We need to be there for each other," she said.
Her schedule date to return to work depends on what her doctors decide next month. However, she expects to eventually make a full recovery. "I'm ready to come back," she said.