One cold, dark January morning in Twin Falls, Idaho, Katie Juker left her home to walk to school. Katie was crossing the street in a crosswalk and was hit by a Ford Bronco—bouncing off its windshield and landing 54 feet away. The Bronco was traveling over 30 miles per hour. A bystander dialed 911 and paramedics arrived to find Katie initially unconscious. She wasn’t breathing well and the paramedics immediately took her to the Emergency Department at Magic Valley Regional Medical Center.
Within an hour, she was transported by Saint Alphonsus Life Flight to the Saint Alphonsus Trauma Center in Boise, Idaho. Within 42 minutes, Katie was on the operating table. Katie had many skull fractures, and during surgery, two blood clots were removed from her brain. Her injuries were so severe she required a 12-day stay in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
Katie was surviving, but her outcome was unknown. Traumatic brain injury is known to have uncertain and often grim outcomes. After 11 days, she had improved and was removed from the ventilator. She immediately began talking—something many patients do not do. Patients with brain injuries also usually have trouble swallowing, but not Katie. When her mom began feeding her Jell-O, Katie took the spoon out of her hand and shoveled the clear liquid diet down. Katie did her own swallow evaluation because Mom and the nurse weren’t brave enough to take the spoon out of her hand.
Katie was soon transferred out of ICU; spent a couple of days on the neurological floor and then began her rehabilitation program. Food is life for many of us, so imagine how Katie felt losing her sense of smell and taste. Eating had become a chore because Katie had lost her appetite until one day her dad popped popcorn. At that point, her sense of smell started to return. And chocolate was one of the first things she could taste. During her stay, Katie became quite good at making her favorite root beer floats for everyone—doctors, nurses and staff.
After achieving her goals for rehab, Katie was able to return back home to Twin Falls. “The odds were against me my entire stay at Saint Alphonsus,” said Katie. “But I’m very strong. I’m a survivor. I received incredible care and I’m a miracle.”
Katie now lives in Georgia with her husband, Tom, who is stationed at Fort Gordon. She is currently attending Augusta State University, working towards a degree in Social Work. Her goal is to one day work with patients and their families who are affected by Traumatic Brain Injury.