My name is Kansas Romportl, I am 20 years old, I’m going to be a junior in college at UW-Eau Claire, and I’m recovering from car accident that happened about 3 years ago on June 14th, 2004.
In my accident, I suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and was in a coma for a month with a score of 3 on the Glasgow Coma Scale (which ranges from 3-15 – ***I’ll go into more detail about that later on in the talk)
(***note: I don’t remember much of the day of the accident, I’m going to tell you bits and pieces of what I remember personally. However, my friends and family have told me things that have sparked memory of that day, but a lot of it is still foggy in my memory… also, all of the events (and more) that I talk about are on my website under the journal history. I still update – and even though my site isn’t visited nearly as much as it first was (the day the site was up and running, there were hundreds of messages from family, friends, and those in the RL community) I still update and have been even when I’ve been away at college. The address to my website is: www.caringbridge.org/wi/kansas
*How my car accident happened:
I was out the night before, and didn’t get much sleep. I went home the next morning to do some chores around the house (that morning my dad had called and questioned about my being out so late – he said I needed to come home and get some things done around the house, so I said I’d come home and do them. I only had gotten about 2-3 hours of sleep (my parents didn’t know that though).
Later that day my friends called me at about noon to go wakeboarding. I hurriedly finished everything I had to do around the house, so I asked my parents if I could go on the lake with my friends.
I got the ok from my parents, and then left in a rush to go hang out (keep in mind this is with very little sleep), and failed to put my lap belt on, but did have my automatic shoulder belt (which probably kept me in the car).
I live right by hwy 53 where it intersects with 26th Avenue. I pulled out of my driveway and headed west towards 53. I stopped at the stop sign, then crossed into the median to wait for traffic, and sped through the other lane (not seeing the van that was in the southbound lane). I was struck on the passenger side of my vehicle, which then flew through the air and spun around to land in the ditch on the east side.
In the accident, my right ear had gotten sliced where it was just hanging on by a thread (it got caught in my hair). My front teeth hit the steering wheel, and were knocked out of socket (there is some discrepancy as to if the steering wheel caused the damage or if the tracheotomy (trache) did).
I was unconscious from the moment I was hit, and was rushed via ambulance to the Rice Lake hospital, where I was airlifted to Luther Hospital in Eau Claire. (I stopped breathing for a few minutes in the helicopter, that’s why they inserted the trache, and also just so I could rest better).
I was in a coma for about a month (or 28 days, with a score of 3), and was given a very bleak prognosis. I have been told that if I was an elderly woman, I would not have survived; but because I was athletic and healthy, my survival rate was better than most in my situation.
When I did wake up from my coma (officially on July 9th, 2004), it was gradual; and I made considerably rapid improvements for the extent of the brain injury I had. About a week after I was declared out of my coma (on July 9th 2004), I attended my sister Chelsea (Romportl) Becker’s wedding on a four hour pass (on July 24th 2004). I could not walk fluidly on my own yet, so I went to the wedding in a wheelchair.
I still was not able to talk at this point, but was communicating with my hands. (I do not remember much of the wedding, as I was still in the ‘waking up’ stage, however, I did smile for the first time since my accident on July 8th, 2004).
Back at the hospital, I continued to make rapid improvements (considering my prognosis), which surprised all the doctors that were taking care of me.
A nurse had told my family to go ahead with the wedding as planned thinking I would not be able to be there. However, I exceeded her expectations and many others and I know God played a major role in helping me do that!!
I KNOW that the power of prayer had a great deal of influence in my recovery. (For example), the second I was in the accident, my dad had heard the crash and came and found my car in the ditch (any father’s worst nightmare).
He proceeded to call my soon to be brother-in-law Josh and told him to start praying and letting others know so they could pray too.
Hundreds of people began to lift me up in prayer, and for that I am eternally grateful. Yes, I did have wonderful doctors; but there’s nothing better than the Divine Healer working on your side! Those prayers helped me more than I will ever know, (I still meet people that knew of my accident and prayed for me!). There was so much prayer for me.
After my accident, a prayer meeting was held at Red Cedar Community Church, and many people were there to sign a journal that was later given to me that I still have. My sister Chelsea’s father-in-law, Marty Becker, posted “God Heals! Pray for Kansas Romportl!” on the sign at the end of the driveway to his dealership.
Immediately following my accident, someone called WWIB and prayers were instantly sent heavenward on my behalf. All the people that wrote on my website said they were praying for me too – I was in the prayers of a lot of people, some who did not know me, but I believe that their prayers made the difference!
On July 27th2004, I was able to walk about 50-60 feet with the help of a walker and a therapist (but I still primarily used a wheelchair to get around). On July 28th 2004, I whispered my first words! (Up until this point I had been using hand signals and a letter/spelling board to communicate).
I was able to go home for an overnight visit (to see how things would go) on August 7th, 2004. Then I went back to the hospital in Eau Claire for about one more week of intense therapy. I was able to go home for good on August 20th, 2004, after over 90 days since my accident.
That fall, I continued to go to therapy 3 days a week, and also school. I started my senior year of HS the fall of 2004, with my one and only class being Spanish 5 (where I had the help of an aide to take notes for me, etc). (A highlight was that I was crowned homecoming queen that fall, and at the time, couldn’t fully walk on my own yet, so all the girls on court held my hands and walked out with me).
The following semester I took Spanish again, and third semester took two different courses. Fourth semester I took 3 classes, and was able to graduate with my class the spring of 2005 (only because my junior year I had taken some advanced courses in hopes to graduate early, but the extra credits I had allowed me to take my senior year slowly).
I graduated on time with my class in June 2005, and re-took my drivers test with Dr. Loftsgaarden’s orders (I passed!) just days before I walked the stage.
I had applied to college in the spring of 2005, and wanted to go to UW-Eau Claire, but my parents wanted me close to home at UW-Barron County. That was a battle, but in the end I won J. Luckily, I had taken my ACT’s just days before my accident, so I was good to go there. I started my freshman year of college at UWEC in the fall of 2005. I have been going there ever since.
I just completed my sophomore year at UWEC, and am a Social Work major and Spanish minor. I am looking forward to next year at college, where I will be a junior, and living off campus with two really good friends.
I am also looking forward to going to Mexico again this spring- I have gone to MX the past two years on mission trips, and have really enjoyed being able to use the Spanish I know and have learned (I’ve taken two semesters now of college Spanish courses).
At college, I continued outpatient physical therapy, first at Luther hospital, and then at Sacred Heart hospital (after my insurance changed). I regained the ability to run this past winter (06-07) in therapy, and have since regained more mobility…
Now, over 3 years post-accident, I am still recovering, and continue to go to physical therapy here in Rice Lake. I will be discontinuing that at the end of next month, as my therapist thinks that I can continue rehab on my own now.
Ever since the accident, my social life and friends have changed quite a bit. For the first couple of months when I was home, all my friends were always calling and wanting to hang out. However, as time went on, I began to see that a lot of them were just hanging around me for the attention.
The winter of 2004 was a very hard one for me relationally, as almost all of my friends abandoned me. Only about 4-5 friends that I had known before the accident remained loyal, and they all happened to be away at college (I had made friends with kids above my grade level as well as below).
One thing that the accident did was it showed my so-called ‘friends’ true colors. The friends that left me were more superficial while the ones that stuck by me were lifelong friends that I can trust and depend on whatever happens. Only problem was, that they were all away at college, and I was still in high school.
So, I made new friends, and they are friends that I still talk to now. I don’t see them all a lot, as we are all very busy – but two of them invited me to their weddings, others called me to go boating with them, and I have visited one friend in the cities. Both times I hung out with my friends, I could not swim yet- but they treated me like anyone else (I actually was able to go tubing with them; I (of course) wore a life jacket though).
A true friend is someone who treats you for who you are inside, and bases their decisions not on your physical characteristics, but on your personality. That is something that never fades or goes away. Friends like that are hard to find nowadays, and I feel that the friendships I have are priceless.
There were many times in the hospital where my sense of humor shone through my situation. An incident when my sense of humor really came out was on July 15, 2004. I was in speech / cognitive therapy and was spelling out different words on my letter board (this was before I could talk).
My therapist, Tom, was asking me some questions. One of them was: “What is your favorite food?” I, (being the smart-aleck that I was), proceeded to spell out the words ‘dog food’ with a huge grin on my face! My mom wrote in the journal entry for that day that when I did that, she and Tom laughed so hard they almost fell off their chairs!! So, even though I did lose a lot of different abilities and functions, one thing that I did not lose was my sense of humor!
One thing I cannot emphasize enough is how huge the power of prayer has been in my recovery. There have been thousands of people that have prayed for me, many of whom I do not even know; but at the same time, I am extremely grateful!
My dad just told me yesterday how amazed he still is at my recovery and how it has progressed – I enrolled myself in swimming lessons a week and a half ago, and now, am swimming again! (I had taken a course in HS phy-ed and also have gone to the beach with friends..)
It is my prayer that Jesus blesses your life as He has mine – and that you entrust to Him the pen of your life! J It is said that prayer can move mountains, and I’m here to tell you – it can also awake people from comas, and miraculously heal them too! Prayer and God’s healing touch are the two main reasons I am alive and well before you today, I cannot emphasize that enough!!
***A song that I found relates most to my recovery is the song ‘Beauty From Pain’ by Superchick. The song depicts my accident almost exactly! Not to mention, the song is so pretty!!