By CAROL ROBIDOUX
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – It's been a week since Annette Joyce was thrown to the ground in her own yard by a drug-crazed attacker with such force that it fractured her hip. Seven days, two titanium plates, 20 floral arrangements, 600 phone calls, and an endless parade of visitors later, she is convalescing quietly at home.
Pain medication aside, her emotions are still running high. She finds herself fluctuating between tears of gratitude and tears of relief – gratitude to all those who have rallied around her, offering financial and tangible help with residual hospital bills and practical matters on the home front.
The relief is more complicated. When Casey Jesson, 31, jumped her fence and tried to force his way into her kitchen through a sliding door, Joyce tried to reason with him.
“As soon as I saw his face I knew he was higher than a space shuttle,” said Joyce.
“Still, after all I've been through, I feel sorry for the kid. He needs help, but I'm not sure what they can do to help him – he should have been helped a long time ago. I'm really angry at the system – when he assaulted someone else in March, they didn't do anything. He's an addict. They gave him a suspended sentence. Why didn't the judge send him for help?”
Joyce was referring to a March arrest in which Jesson was charged with assaulting his girlfriend. One assault charge was dropped. For the two remaining simple assault charges, Judge John Coughlin deferred a 12-month jail sentence on conditions of good behavior and attendance in a “Batterers Program,” according to court documents.
Joyce said that while she was not acquainted with Casey Jesson, she and her husband knew Jesson's parents years ago, and socialized together.
She has not spoken with them regarding her attack last week. “And it's better we don't,” said Joyce.
After Joyce went down and knew she wasn't getting up, her husband David managed to somehow tackle Jesson and pummel him with a series of punches, holding Jesson down until police arrived.
“I don't know what would've happened to me if Dave wasn't home. Maybe I'd be dead. If that kid had gotten his hands on the knife and the screwdriver that fell out of his pocket, that would've been it. I don't know why we're both still alive,” said Joyce, her voice getting lost in the emotion of it all. “All those people who came up from the beach, standing there, and no one did anything to help him. Dave is my hero.”
She and her “hero” have been through much together over the past 40 years, a love story that has always revolved around the Lee USA Speedway.
“When we first met, I was going to the races every weekend, and I told her if she wanted to come along, she could. Now she's the one who is always hurrying me to get ready. She can't wait to get there every week,” said her husband, who runs the family business, David's Race Cars and Components, from their garage.
Massachusetts racer Wayne Helliwell Jr., who prevailed during last week's Friday Night NASCAR race, dedicated the win to Joyce.
“I got two standing ovations last Friday,” said Joyce, again moved to tears, the words getting caught in her throat as she considered how supportive the racing community – and the community at large – has been through her ordeal.
“Everyone from Nicole who works for the town at Gallien's Beach, who stayed with me until the ambulance came, to my neighbor, who's a nurse, who's been coming over to take care of me, to the people at bingo, who took up a collection for me (Sunday) night – people have offered to cook meals for me, and help me out here. It's really overwhelming,” Joyce said.
Although she has no health insurance, she has already been reassured by her friend of 30 years, Sandra Patient, that there will be fundraisers organized on her behalf to help with expenses, already up to about $60,000.
“I've been friends with Annette since we were 14. She touched my life in a very special way, and I'm going to do whatever I can to help her now,” said Patient. She has set up the Joyce Family Fund through Sovereign Bank, and is firming up plans for a spaghetti dinner at the Hampstead VFW, for sometime in September.
“We'll pass the helmet at the race track on Friday nights, and I'm asking local businesses to place collection cans in their stores,” Patient said.
Doctors told Joyce her that she was fortunate for her strong bones – something she credits to keeping herself in shape. She is determined, once she heals, to step up her fitness regimen. She never wants to feel that vulnerable again.
“I had one bad night in the hospital. I saw something through the window and I swore it was him, coming after me. I screamed and a nurse came in and I told her there was someone on the roof. Turned out it was just the reflection in my window of someone walking by my hospital room door, but I'll tell you, just thinking about it,” says Joyce, composing herself one more time, and then mustering a smile.
“I am taking nothing for granted in this life, nothing. I am calling my 83-year-old mother twice a day. I'm going to take good care of myself. I'm going to keep doing what I've always done, which is try to be there for other people in need,” Joyce said. “First, though, I have to get back on my own two feet.”