One February morning 15 year old Morgan and her grandfather “Papa” John Anderson set out for a snowmobile ride in the Pintler mountain range outside of Anaconda, MT. This was a special morning as this was Morgan’s first ever solo ride. During the ride, Morgan felt the need for speed. In Morgan’s words, “I’m a speedy girl, I like things fast”. Unfortunately, as John caught up to her he found an empty snowmobile crashed into the trees. He also found his granddaughter unconscious and fighting for her life. Morgan was unable to negotiate a turn. One of the skis on the sled caught on a downed log and launched her forward head first into a tree. She had been helmeted but the impact was so severe it knocked it off her head.
Cell service was spotty but John was luckily able to get a phone call for help out. First responders from Georgetown Lake Volunteer Fire Department and Anaconda Fire responded to the remote scene while simultaneously launching Life Flight Network’s local helicopter. Small-town news travels fast and many other local community members and friends with snowmobiles and a cat flex (a large machine with tracks that can easily transverse the snow) responded to assist in whatever way they could. All of the responders as well as Morgan’s grandfather and family friends were essential to her survival as she lay unconscious barely breathing in the snow.
Life Flight Network’s initial response was deep into the backcountry via helicopter. The Life Flight crew quickly assessed Morgan, realized the severity of her injuries, treated her life threats, and successfully intubated her. She was extricated from the scene and then flown to the closest local trauma center, St. Patrick’s hospital in Missoula. Morgan underwent stabilizing treatment and imaging studies at St. Patrick’s hospital and was subsequently transferred to Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane, Washington via one of Life Flight Network’s Pilatus PC-12 aircraft based out of Butte, MT.
Morgan remained unconscious for 10 days. She was diagnosed with a Stage 3 Diffuse Axonal Injury (DAI), temporal skull fracture, multiple brain bleeds, blood and cerebral spinal fluid leaking from her ear, and a bruised lung. Morgan went through extensive treatments and rehabilitation therapy. 40 days after the incident she was discharged home and continued therapy through the Community Hospital of Anaconda’s rehab program.
Morgan’s mom, and “rock”, Faith, point out that 90% of people with stage 3 DAI remain in a vegetative state forever if they survive, Morgan was one of the 10% without these effects and she believes Life Flight Network played a large part in that. She describes the event, “I felt enveloped in a real support system. It was not just people doing their job, it was one of the most caring and loving experiences I have ever witnessed. It was beautiful. It is incredible to look back and say I was comfortable the whole time, because of you guys. I have faith in the Lord but you guys held me.”
Looking at and talking with Morgan today one wouldn’t realize what a serious accident she endured. She is a bright-eyed, fun, goofy young lady with a lot of dreams and an attitude that will undoubtedly see them through. She is getting ready to enter her senior year of High School, is already completing college-level classes, and is getting straight A’s. She has hopes and aspirations of traveling the world and becoming a journalist. Morgan has not only been looking at colleges in the area but they are also looking at her for scholarship opportunities. One can’t help but smile in her presence. Her joyful outlook on life and the strength she possesses are contagious. She says, “because of what you all did I have my life back.”
The conversation ended with an excited Morgan stating, “There is no way this brain injury is going to hold me back” as she flexed both of her biceps proudly with a beaming smile. Having gotten to know Morgan and her support system there is no doubt that statement is true.
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