Over the last 60 years, the hospital’s impact on Northland families has been measured by more than bed size and construction projects. Like many families in the area, Kathy Thompson’s parents sacrificed to help build the hospital. Her dad’s company, TWA, deducted funds from employee checks to raise money. Through the years, the hospital employed Kathy’s mom, Katherine Stapp; allowed Kathy to volunteer as a candy stripper; and provided care for family members. However, it’s the events of 10 years ago that forever endeared the hospital to Kathy. She recently returned to NKCH to thank the hospital staff for saving her daughter’s life.

The Accident

Kathy recalled how the holiday ice storm in 2007 hit the area around her Atchison County home. With the ice thawing, Kathy allowed her daughter, Liz, and three friends to travel to Zona Rosa to shop. While on the return trip home with conditions refreezing, the teens encountered black ice in Weston and the car slid and overturned. Liz was ejected and landed face down in a creek bed. No one else was seriously injured.

Kathy with ED Nurse Beth Schoening and ICU Nurse Melissa Rust

Kathy with ED Nurse Beth Schoening and ICU Nurse Melissa Rust.

With 30+ years as a nurse, Kathy knew her condition was serious when she learned the ED staff was resuscitating her daughter. “It’s the call that every mother dreads, but I felt reassured immediately when I got to the hospital,” Kathy recalled. “I knew my daughter was in good hands. The ED staff saved her life.”

After stabilization, Kathy learned her daughter’s brain was shaken inside her head, similar to Shaken Baby Syndrome. Also, her lungs had filled with dirty stream water and caused pneumonia. Kathy knew the road to recovery would be long. It would be 10 years before she would see Liz’s full potential.

Long Road to Recovery

In January 2007, a successful three-week hospital stay ended for the next phase of rehabilitation. Liz transferred to Madonna Rehab Hospital in Lincoln, NE, and later to a rehab hospital in Carbondale, IL.

Liz, a varsity athlete who also excelled academically, couldn’t walk, talk, eat or swallow. Her previous talent of drawing was now replaced with only stick figures.

Her journey to relearn daily life skills was fraught with highs and lows, anguish and joy. “You take every bit of progress and hold onto it. Hope is the only thing that never lets you down,” Kathy said.

Kathy and her daughter, Liz

Kathy and Liz enjoying a fun time out.

Throughout the experience, Liz exhibited personality changes, feelings of sadness, violent outbursts and experienced setbacks. The family lost their home because of the medical expenses.

“Recovery for my daughter has touched her mind, body and spirit. It took everyone at this hospital, from the nurses and doctors, to the housekeepers and cooks, to provide this lifesaving environment. They were all caring, professional and great educators,” Kathy said.