Woman who drove into lake leaves hospitalA Spiritwood, N.D., woman is returning home today after her car submerged in Hobart Lake near Valley City, N.D., about three weeks ago. Hospital officials called her recovery “a miracle.” Sara Gullickson, 19, recovered at Innovis Health Center and MeritCare in Fargo after she crashed the 2002 Pontiac Grand Am she was driving April 29, landing in near freezing water for 30 minutes.
By: Katie Ryan, The Jamestown Sun
A Spiritwood, N.D., woman is returning home today after her car submerged in Hobart Lake near Valley City, N.D., about three weeks ago.
Hospital officials called her recovery “a miracle.”
Sara Gullickson, 19, recovered at Innovis Health Center and MeritCare in Fargo after she crashed the 2002 Pontiac Grand Am she was driving April 29, landing in near freezing water for 30 minutes.
The Valley City State University softball player was driving westbound on Interstate 94 around 3:30 p.m. Witnesses say she swerved to avoid hitting a goose — an action typical of Sara, her grandmother said.
“She wouldn’t kill an animal if her life depended on it, which she just about did,” Connie Gullickson said.
MeritCare discharged her Thursday.
Medical professionals didn’t expect such a rapid recovery, said Karen Benjamin, RN and clinical coordinator of the rehabilitation unit at MeritCare Hospital in Fargo.
“She’s doing phenomenal and like I said, it’s a miracle and it’s not a term we use lightly,” Benjamin said.
After emergency responders recovered Sara, they performed revival procedures and transported her to Mercy Hospital in Valley City.
Sara’s lungs had filled with water and her body temperature measured 85 degrees, Connie said.
“(She was) in a coma, but no body injuries,” Connie said. “When they took her out of the car, everybody knows, she was flat-lined.”
And family members feared the worst, Connie said.
“I didn’t think that we’d have her anymore,” she said.
Sara first opened her eyes about six days after the accident.
Underwater, Sara’s brain was deprived of oxygen, Benjamin said. So Sara had to recover some cognitive, physical and psychological skills as well as other functions. Occupational, physical and speech therapists helped her regain muscle movement and strength.
“I could definitely feel that that (accident) happened,” Sara said. “I could barely walk or anything.”
Now, Sara is speaking, walking and even skipping her way through her therapy sessions. Sara doesn’t remember the accident but her short- and long-term memory is OK.
And the first thing she’d likely do when she gets home, Sara said, is take a nap.
Part of her recovery is to rest, but Sara expects to attend her cousin’s graduation this weekend in Lisbon, N.D., Connie said.
“I can move quite a bit. I’m getting stronger everyday,” Sara said.
Outsiders have aided Sara’s recovery, said her mother, Wendy.
Friends, family and even strangers sent cards, letters and gift certificates. Sara’s Caring Bridge Web site received more than 86,000 page views.
“To see the people that were behind us and supporting us and praying is just overwhelming,” Wendy said.
Many of the Caring Bridge visitors adopted Sara’s penny-in-the-shoe good luck charm.
In high school, Sara found a face-up penny on the ground and put it in her right shoe before a softball game, said Scott Gullickson, Sara’s father. The team won its match that night and Sara continued the tradition ever since.
Some of the Caring Bridge’s followers adopted the tradition as well, Sara said, including a softball pitcher in Michigan who’d heard the story.
“I can’t imagine the number of pennies in people’s shoes right now,” Scott said.
Sara still has some recovery to go and will continue treatment in Valley City. Hospital staff said her prognosis is good.
“I don’t have any doubt that she’ll get back to 100 percent,” Benjamin said.
And as for Sara’s family, that prognosis is something they’ll take to the bank, Wendy joked.
“Vegas here we come. She’s just been so lucky and fortunate,” she said.
To follow Sara’s recovery, visit her Caring Bridge Web site at http://caring bridge.org/visit/saragul lickson.
Sun reporter Katie Ryan can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org