The 19-year-old nursing student was thought to be dead following a six-car collision in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

By Rose Minutaglio
June 18, 2015 12:50 PM
Amber Hucks

One month after being mistaken as deceased by local reporters and highway patrol, Grayson Hucks is starting to feel alive again.

On May 20, the 19-year-old nursing student was thought to be dead by those on the scene following a six-car collision in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

But today, Hucks is on a miraculous road to recovery with support from her family, friends and community.

When reporters at the scene saw paramedics cutting the teen’s trapped, unconscious body out of her car, they misreported her death in the accident.

“A local reporter actually reached out to me on Facebook after the accident and apologized for the mistake,” Hucks tells PEOPLE. “It went out on the news that the crash was fatal, and everyone assumed I was the fatality. They later went back and updated that statement. But I was so very near death, that original claim really wasn’t far off.”

It was raining on the day of the accident, and Hucks was headed home from her job as a medical assistant at a local urgent care clinic to meet her mother to see a cousin’s gymnastic performance.

The multiple-vehicle pileup shut down Highway 17 Bypass in Myrtle Beach for hours – photos from the crash show littered wreckage, crunched vehicles and cars flipped on their sides.

Car crash on Highway 17 Bypass in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

“I called my mom around 3 p.m. just to check in. We probably hung up around 3:10 p.m., and the accident occurred at 3:30 p.m.,” Hucks says. “It’s crazy how your entire life can change in just a matter of minutes. It’s scary.”

The South Carolina Highway Patrol reported a fatality in the Bypass 17 accident, but Horry County Chief Deputy Coroner Tamara Willard confirmed to WBTW News that no one had actually died in the crash.

“It’s been a realization for me that life can be taken from you in an instant,” Hucks, who studies nursing at Francis Marion University, says. “You’ll never expect it when it comes. I was thought to be dead, yet here I still am!”

Although she doesn’t remember anything from the day of the accident, or much in the days that followed, Hucks says she wasn’t scared when she gained consciousness, describing it as an “out-of-body experience.”

The teen was treated at Grand Strand Regional Medical Center in Myrtle Beach for a broken ulna, broken knee, broken tibia and fractured sacrum. She also suffered a moderate brain injury, and after two weeks she was taken to Shepherd Center, a spinal cord and brain injury rehabilitation center in Atlanta.

Dr. Ford Vox of Shepherd Center tells PEOPLE that Hucks made a rather miraculous recovery while at the facility, and a lot of it had to do with her bright outlook on life.

“She was only here for five days, which is really record time,” he says. “Her personality has been critical to her recovery. Some injuries change people, but she is very well motivated. You get out of it what you put into it, and she’s giving it her all.”

Since being released from the center, Hucks feels lucky to be alive. She is getting back into a regular routine, and back to her former bubbly self. Her mother chalks up her fast recovery time to familial support and her commitment to maintaining a positive attitude through her struggles.

“She has not one time said, ‘Why me?’ or even cried,” her mother, Amber Hucks, tells PEOPLE. “Grayson is so ready to get back to life and she won’t stop until she does. That’s just who she is.”

As she works toward a full recovery, Hucks will take off the fall semester of her junior year at Francis Marion University to focus on her various physical and mental therapies while taking classes at Horry Georgetown Technical College in Conway, South Carolina.

“I just can’t wait to get better, I have things to do!” Hucks says. “I feel a lot more determined to go out in my life and become a nurse. I know how they impacted me in the hospital, and I want to be able to do that for people.”