Idaho woman almost killed by rogue branch

September 18, 2009

[Chattahbox] In one of the most bizarre and curious stories to surface in weeks, a quiet Labor Day drive in the woods nearly killed a young  woman when a large portion of tree became impaled in her neck.

Michelle Childers, 20, was sitting in the passenger seat of the family truck on a restful tour of the lush, verdant splendor of North Central Idaho when a tree branch flew in through the window.

“It was like a bomb had gone off,” says Michelle. “I had no idea what happened. I had to ask.” Husband Daniel, who was driving, could barely believe what he saw; A branch from a spruce tree, about an inch in diameter and over 12-inches long, was sticking out of the left side of Michelle’s neck. “I saw that going through her neck and I knew I needed to get help quick,” Daniel told reporters on Friday.

The couple were in remote country on the Lochsa River, near the Montana border. Cellphones were useless,  and they were currently more than an hour from the most basic of civilization. Daniel had to drive for over an hour on uneven roads just to reach other people “I just went as quick as I could,” he told MSNBC‘s Nora O’Donnell. “It was a very bumpy road, so I had to drive slow – but I was trying to go quick, too.”

They finally reached the Lochsa Lodge, where Daniel called 911. A nurse practitioner was on hand just by chance and she examined Michelle. With no visible blood loss and clear respiration the Nurse, whom they know only as ‘Paula’ told Michelle she would be fine, “She took my vitals and got help on the way,” says Michelle.

Fifteen  minutes later a Medivac helicopter airlifted them both to a local ER.

The flight took an hour and was followed by six-hours in surgery at St. Patrick Hospital, where surgeons removed the tree limb and cleaned Michelle’s wound. They discovered the branch had missed both her jugular vein and her windpipe by fractions, drilling past both before emerging outside her left shoulder. “I felt pressure,” Michelle recalls. “There wasn’t a lot of pain; there was a lot of pressure.”

Neither is sure of exactly what happened, but their best guess is a branch was sticking out in the road and came through the window in an explosion of spruce bark and needles, impaling Michelle in the neck.

Now well on the mend, Michelle is at mild risk of infection and has trouble lifting her arm, but there’s now way you’ll find her complaining, “I don’t know how I’m still alive,” she confessed. “I just don’t know.”


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