One of Our Own: Looking Back
At 8:10 Sunday morning September 15, 1996, Lauderdale-LaGrange Fire Department Rescue Squad and Crash Crew respond to a two car, head-on collision on Highway 12/67 in Wisconsin. Both drivers are trapped in their vehicles. The male driver of one vehicle appears to have only minor injuries (later found to have a fractured right ankle). The belted female driver of the other vehicle is more seriously injured.
She has an open penetrating wound of the forehead, probable bilateral lower extremity fractures and possible rib fractures. Her breathing is easy and unlabored, pulse regular and in normal range with no clinical signs of shock or neurological injury. She is alert, responsive and oriented three times, but complains of extreme pain in the lower extremities. During extrication, O2 is administered by mask and complete spinal immobilization is done. Flight For Life is put on standby through Aurora Lakeland Medical Center.
Am I dreaming?
I feel a slight bump and silence. Am I dreaming? Why is someone calling my name? Where is he?
I yell out to the man I can only hear, “What did I hit?” He tells me I hit another car head-on. I hear sirens approaching. “Are they all right?” Yes, the other driver is okay I am told. “Okay, can somebody get me out of this car?”
I hear more voices. Hey, I recognize those voices!!
In the past I have played the “patient” for countless rescue squad drills, but today it’s real.
I am the patient!
I am transported to Aurora Lakeland Medical Center and then flown by FFL-Waukesha to Froedtert Hospital. My colleagues, flight nurse Blake Reichgeld, flight physician Peter Parrino and pilot Lance Witt, are my flight team. Upon arrival at Froedtert, I am assessed by the trauma team and whisked off to the OR. I wake up staring at an unfamiliar ceiling after being asleep for what seemed like days. I am in the Trauma ICU and it is Monday, September 16th. I have already had one of the three surgeries during my 2-½ week hospital stay. I am the proud owner of a rod in my left femur, a plaster splint on my right arm for a dislocated wrist and a posterior mold on my right foot for a dislocated ankle and severely fractured heel. I also have a LeForte II and III fracture as well as an open frontal sinus fracture and numerous facial lacerations. These are repaired by a maxillofacial surgeon. I am lucky to have no rib fractures (though they certainly felt like it!) and no internal injuries or significant head injury.
18 years later
Time sure goes by quickly but my memory of that September day is just as clear now as it was then. I have always said that the crash aged me at least 5 years.
I do still believe that to be true and some days I can really feel it! I am still a flight nurse with Flight For Life. I left for a few years, moved a few times, enjoyed two different states but then came back home and back to the job that has been my most favorite of all during my 24 years of nursing. It is still just as challenging as the first day that I started. I am also employed as a Trauma Program Coordinator at a Level II Trauma Center which is just as challenging but in different ways. You could say that I am too busy and although I would agree with you, I would also tell you that I absolutely love what I do. It’s hard for me to say “no” but I am learning! They say that time heals, scars fade, and pain eases away. Well, sure, I could agree with that but significant events in your life will shape you from that day forward. That has been the most important lesson I have learned. There’s no trying to explain, defend, rationalize the WHY. It happened and I’d like to think I am a better person because of what happened to me 18 years ago. Life will continually throw things your way…. Some good… some bad… some things understood… some not. Make the most of it and enjoy the life you live!