Cedar Rapids, Iowa

On July 3, 2007, Lori Lindseth of Cedar Rapids was grocery shopping when the phone rang.

“It was a police officer— there’d been an accident,” Lori says.

Her daughter Meg, then 13, and friends were motorboating on the Cedar River near the city’s Ellis Park area. Meg and another girl were riding on an inner tube behind the boat when they hit a submerged embankment that was part of a destroyed bridge. The impact threw the girls against the concrete wall of the bridge structure. Meg was seriously hurt.

Rescue crews rushed her to the emergency room at a nearby Cedar Rapids hospital. Meg had a fractured skull and an epidural hematoma—a dangerous buildup of blood between the skull and the outer layer of the brain.

“It was a traumatic brain injury,” Lori says. “They told me Meg needed to be taken by helicopter to University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital immediately.”

“When I heard that, I knew it wasn’t good,” recalls Jim Michalski, Meg’s father, who was visiting the family’s other daughter, Sara, in Phoenix when Lori called with the news. “It was a life-or-death situation.”

Meg’s UI medical team quickly assessed her condition and prepared for an emergency operation. Neurosurgeons performed a craniotomy—temporarily removing a portion of the skull—so they could evacuate the blood clot. The procedure took three hours, but the surgery was a success.

“Being at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital, she was able to get that treatment immediately and get it resolved,” Lori says. “They saved her life.”

Over the following days, doctors and nurses closely monitored Meg’s condition and progress and gave her cognitive tasks and other activities to keep her mentally active and stimulated. She also received physical therapy for a hip that she’d badly bruised during the accident.

Looking back, Lori and Jim marvel at the care Meg received at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital—the coordination of the emergency medicine staff, the expertise of the neurosurgical team, and the “human touch” doctors and nurses provided.

“There was one nurse in particular, Mary Hovda Davis, who brought her own shampoo from home to wash Meg’s hair,” Lori says. “She simply wanted a 13-year-old to have nicer-smelling shampoo than what they normally use. That meant a lot—it showed how much they care for the whole person.”

Recovering from a traumatic brain injury takes time, and in the year after the accident, Meg experienced headaches and some memory difficulties. But with hard work, patience, and perseverance, she’s overcome the challenges.

During her senior year at Xavier High School in Cedar Rapids, Meg was an honor-roll student and school ambassador who looked forward to college.

“I almost died, but now I’m fine,” she says. “I want to help other kids feel like they can recover, too, and live their lives and be happy.”

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