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Original Issue

Niki Taylor, Model SI Swimsuit Issue, 1998

The last thing Niki Taylor remembers from the wee hours of April
29, 2001, is lying down in a patch of grass and feeling sick to
her stomach. She had been riding back to Atlanta after an
evening out dancing when her friend Chad Renegar, who was
driving, reached down to answer his cell phone and lost control
of the car, which skidded off the road and slammed into a
telephone pole. Taylor, who had recently curtailed her
globe-trotting modeling career to spend more time with her
seven-year-old twin sons, staggered out of the wreckage, then
curled up in a fetal position to wait for an ambulance. (Renegar
suffered only minor injuries in the accident, which police say
involved neither drugs nor alcohol.)

In an instant Taylor, now 27, went from being one of the world's
most visible women--she was featured in our Swimsuit Issue in
1997 and '98 and had appeared on more than 250 magazine covers
in her career--to fighting for her life. Her famous face and
willowy 5'11" frame were relatively unscathed by the accident,
but the internal injuries, including a severed liver and a
collapsed lung, that resulted from her wearing only her shoulder
strap without her lap belt were massive. She lost consciousness
in the ambulance and bled so profusely that doctors had to give
her transfusions on the day after the accident equal to 10 times
the volume of blood in her body.

When she finally regained consciousness, an intensive-care nurse
at Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital asked Taylor if she knew
how long she'd been there. "I said four or five days," Taylor
says. "She told me, 'Try a month and a half.'"

Taylor's recovery has involved more than 40 operations. All
told, she spent nearly 12 weeks in the hospital and at an
Atlanta rehab facility before returning to her Fort Lauderdale
home to continue physical therapy. "After lying there for so
long, I had to learn to move my arms and walk again," she says.
"I had to learn to be a human being again."

She's still bothered by back pain, a result of scoliosis and
vertebrae damage, but nine months after the accident she's
nearly back. Taylor is well enough to care for her sons, Jake
and Hunter, on her own again (she and their father divorced in
1996), and she has returned to a modified work schedule, posing
recently for spreads in British Glamour, Redbook and
Cosmopolitan. But the active life she used to enjoy is, for now,
a thing of the past. "I can't run after my kids or go ice
skating or Rollerblading with them," she says. "I'm basically
just buying time right now until I can do those things again. I
got a second chance at living, and I'm grateful." --Stephen