Katelyn Quimby headed home following November 2015 car crash
Not knowing if their daughter would live or die following a November 2015 car crash remains at the forefront of the minds of Jim and Julie Quimby.
Now, as the Quimbys sit in their living room in Redgranite with Katelyn’s infectious smile and enthusiastic personality lifting up the entire room, this simple act is not longer something the couple takes for granted.
“She’s a miracle,” Jim said.
Katelyn’s story begins just like every other day for the Quimbys, but on Nov. 13, 2015, it would take a dramatic turn leaving their lives changed forever.
Katelyn, a senior at Wautoma High School at the time of the car crash, had driven from their house to school numerous times, but, on this day, she would never make it.
“Nobody has a clue what happened,” Julie said.
“I don’t have a single memory,” added Katelyn.
According to a crash report from the Waushara County Sheriff’s Department, Katelyn was traveling southbound on 29th Road at 7:42 a.m. when she began to exit a curve to the right. As she overcorrected, her vehicle entered the west ditch. When she overcorrected again to the left, her car skidded out of control across both lanes and entered the east ditch and hitting a tree on the passenger side.
The tree Katelyn hit was less than a mile away from the Quimby’s front door. “That’s what they always say, accidents happen close to home,” Julie said.
When first responders arrived on the scene, Katelyn’s car was still running and it didn’t look as if she survived. It would be Leonard Schruck, a neighbor who was the former head first responder in Redgranite, who Jim and Julie credit with saving Katelyn’s life.
“The car was running and Leonard went to shut it off and felt her breath on the back of his neck,” Jim said.
“He was the one who yelled for the helicopter and jaws,” added Julie.
While talking about the crash, Katelyn admits she doesn’t have any memory of it, but when asked who her guardian angel was on that day, her response, “Brian Jacobs.” Julie explained Brian was Katelyn’s cousin who passed away a year and a week to the day of Katelyn’s crash in a dirt bike accident.
After Katelyn was extracted from her vehicle, she was med-flighted to ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah, where Julie and Jim found out their daughter suffered a Diffuse Axonal Brain Injury. This type of injury is a severe form of traumatic brain injury and results in immediate loss of consciousness with over 90 percent of the patients remaining in a persistent vegetative state indefinitely, according to the United States National Library of Medicine.
Upon her arrival at ThedaCare in Neenah, Katelyn remained in a coma and had to undergo a craniotomy where the doctors removed a flap on the one side of her head to allow her brain to swell. She also had to have her jaw wired shut for six weeks after it was discovered it was broken.
“They told us right from the get-go to be there as much as you can and that is the biggest thing you can do for her,” said Jim.
In those first few days following Katelyn’s car crash, Jim and Julie went from not knowing if she would live to the doctors telling them they weren’t sure if she would ever know their name or if she will ever leave the hospital.
“Ten percent with this type of injury live – two percent make her type of recovery,” Jim said.
After about a month, the doctors at ThedaCare determined Katelyn was no longer in a coma because of her reaction to pain. “They said she wasn’t in a coma anymore and it didn’t look any different than the day before,” said Jim.
“To them, it is reacting to pain,” explained Julie.
To test her pain reflexes, the doctors would poke her toenails and thumbnails to see Katelyn’s reaction. Jim said if the patient moved their arms to the sides it is a bad sign but not as bad as doing nothing. However, if a patient pulled away then it was a good sign.
The Quimbys spent almost two months at ThedaCare before Katelyn was moved to Saint Marie’s Sacred Heart Rehabilitation Institute in Milwaukee where they work to stimulate the brain and bring patients more out of their coma. It would be here Katelyn would begin to make strides toward her recovery, including creating sounds and laughing for the first time.
“Just out of the blue for no reason she just was really out of it, zoned out, and all of a sudden my sister did something and she busted out laughing – that was kind of it, wasn’t it? That was the moment that we knew she was coming back,” said Jim.
Katelyn stayed in Milwaukee for 10 weeks before moving to Clearview Brain Injury Center in Juneau in February 2016.