ELK MOUND – It’s difficult to convince teen drivers that texting while driving and inattentive driving can change lives forever. But the Colfax EMS Association has put together a truly impactful presentation that held students’ attention at Elk Mound High School at 1:45 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 12.
Jessica Erickson, EMT with Colfax EMS and senior physical therapist at St. Joseph’s Hospital, gave staggering statistics about inattentive driving, including texting while driving. The real emotion came when her former patient, Leann Elstran and her family took the stage. Elstran talked about her journey after an extremely severe traumatic brain injury sustained in a distracted driving accident 3 ½ years ago.
Leann Elstran’s story
Vickie Elstran will never forget the day her daughter’s body was crushed by the force of a semi-truck that barreled into the vehicle which Leann Elstran was a passenger in.
Leann, then just 19, had a fun night planned in Minneapolis on April 26, 2009. But that was taken away in a flash when the vehicle she was riding in was struck by a semi, Vickie said.
Leann’s prognosis was grim, but with the help of many health care professionals, including those at St. Joseph’s Hospital’s Physical Therapy, she is walking and talking less than three years after the crash.
Ten minutes after the accident Leann was laying on a gurney in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at Hennepin County Medical Center.
There was no normal brain wave activity. Leann had multiple fractures in her lower back and pelvis, including fractures at C1 and C2. She had a bruised lung, a bruised heart, a lacerated liver. Turning her head to avoid impact during the crash stretched and snapped neck ligaments.
After about a month in Hennepin County’s facility, Leann was transferred to Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul, Minn. – an acute long-term care facility.
“She was in a coma for five and a half months. They called it at times a semi-comatose (state),” Vickie recalled. “I didn’t know what she would be able to do.”
Vickie, who lives in rural Boyd, was at her daughter’s side day and night. It was easier for her to think about logistical things than to work through the emotions of nearly losing a child.
“I spent my time making sure everybody else was doing their job,” she said. “I worked as a nurse’s aide. I knew how things were supposed to get done. I was there to make sure it did get done.
“It was a rollercoaster of emotions. There were good days and bad days.”
While at Bethesda Hospital, nearly six months after the crash, Leann came out of her coma. But doctors were unsure if she’d be able to walk or even talk again.
That’s where St. Joseph’s Hospital came into play.
Leann was transferred to Sacred Heart Hospital until Dec. 1, 2009. She did home therapy through St. Joseph’s Hospital – where therapists travel to the home and work with patients – until April 2010. Then it was time for Leann to work with physical, occupational and speech therapists on the hospital’s campus.
“When she came home from Sacred Heart in 2009 … she could not lift her own legs or hold her own head up,” Vickie said.
“We got a lift chair and stood her up. We didn’t give her a choice I guess.”
The therapists at St. Joseph’s Hospital have been working with Leann for nearly 18 months and there is a marked improvement, Vickie said.
The Reformer, a new piece of equipment, is helping Leann with balance and core strengthening. Of course, she calls it the torture chamber, Vicki said. But both women credit the wonderful equipment, and hard work and dedication of the staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.
“She basically went from a power chair to a manual chair,” Vickie said. “She’s been walking, which she wasn’t expected to do.”
Vickie said the staff makes working hard fun for Leann. If it wasn’t fun, she would be less apt to do the exercises.
“OT (Occupational Therapy) has got her almost back to full range,” Vickie said. “She’s doing wonderful at St. Joe’s.”