Posted on August 31, 2011 · Posted in TBI Voices
This entry is part 3 of 24 in the series Nancy

Severe Brain Injured Child: Nancy Part Three

In our last story, DJ’s air flight to a Level One Trauma center was delayed because of the weather. See In Nancy’s case, a severe brain injured child, not only was the weather a problem, but of all things, a pediatric neurosurgery convention in Hawaii.

“That weekend it just happened to be the pediatric neurosurgeon’s brain injury conference or something like that in Hawaii.  So the whole state was pretty much emptied out of pediatric surgeons.”



So they have prepared you for the fact that your 9‑year‑old daughter has got some really serious injuries, she could be a  severe brain injured child and that she has to be air flighted.  Where were they talking about air flighting her as a severe brain injured child?

They couldn’t find a place to air flight her and they couldn’t use the helicopter because the weather was too bad.

No Place to Take a Severe Brain Injured Child

Where would be the closest big hospital be in Eau Claire or Minneapolis?

The closest hospital with neurosurgeons, traumatic brain injury surgeons or neurosurgeons would have been – our options were, Duluth, Minnesota, Marshfield, Wisconsin, Madison, St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital down in Milwaukee.

That weekend it just happened to be the pediatric neurosurgeon’s brain injury conference or something like that in Hawaii.  So the whole state was pretty much emptied out of pediatric surgeons.  The physician came up to me, she says “I’m pulling every string I can. “ She says they do not have a pediatric neurosurgeon on staff (to handle a severe brain injured child) but there’s two, three, three year interns and a, adult traumatic Neurosurgeon on staff down at Madison that are willing to take your case as soon as she can get down.

And at that time also I had heard that my husband was on his way coming in on the next transport ambulance and we had called all the family in and I called my sister up.  I had called Laura, I can remember just telling her that I don’t think she’s going to make it.  You need to get here now if you want to see her.  I said I think that’s the way it’s going to happen so.

Not Only Dealing With a Severe Brain Injured Child, Husband Injured Too

Alright you just made a slight reference to your husband.  That’s the first time you’ve mentioned your husband.  What do you mean your husband’s coming in on the next transport?

Well, she was the most emergent case at the time and my husband had been in and out of consciousness and talking, and out again.  But he was trapped in the vehicle.  He couldn’t get out.  So they needed a different rescue system to get him out of that side of the, out of that side of the truck.  And it took him, it seemed like forever to get in to the hospital where they were going to assess his injuries and figure out if they had to move him as well.

You are how far from the hospital when you get the phone call?

I am 17 minutes from the hospital.

She gets there before you but not much?


She’s actually in the ER when you walk in, where the pile of clothes was?

Right.  I probably wasn’t at the hospital more than two minutes before I was able to see her. They wanted me in the room.  That’s why that friend of mine was able to bring me in because he checked with the ER staff and they said to bring her in.

When did you find out that your husband was hurt too?

Well, I actually knew about it but the gentleman who was in the vehicle with them didn’t mention much about his injuries just because he was coherent and in and out and, so I don’t think he felt like he was hurt as bad as he was.

The story of her husband Otto will be a separate, albeit shorter story, so most of the details of his injury will be handled there.  To summarize, he suffered a mild brain injury with loss of consciousness, in addition to breaking a leg and other physical injuries

It was foggy enough that that the helicopters weren’t flying?

Correct.  The policy is that they don’t tell the helicopter pilots what type of transport is coming (how serious the injuries) because they would risk their lives to take anybody, you know.  So they pretty much don’t tell them what the case is.  Just tell them where they need to fly and if conditions are favorable and they said no.

So you’re still at the hospital.  They’re trying to figure out where to take your daughter and your husband does come in by land transport?


I go to his room and check on him and he’s, he’s telling me over and over again, you know, how is she?  What is she doing?  How is she? I wouldn’t say he is incoherent but very upset and, you know, tears rolling out of his eyes and then he rolled towards me to talk to me a little bit.

And I had said are you okay?  Does that hurt you?  And he said no.  And all he was rambling on and on about Nancy.  What are we going to do and how is she? I told him I’d be right back.  I had to find out what the pediatric ER physician had found out and she had said that UW Madison is willing to take her and they need to leave now.  “You need, the ambulance needs to leave now. “

And I went back to his room and I said: “Do you want to see her?  This might be the last time you get to see her. “ And he said: “No.  It’ll waste too much time.  She needs to get attention immediately.” And that was the last I saw of him for quite awhile.

Next in Part Four –High Speed Fishtailing Pickup With Trailer Caused Severe Brain Injury

By Attorney Gordon Johnson


About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447