They lived in the country and like most young boys, they saw the open land as a place to run and be carefree. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary to hop on a four-wheeler and race across the fields.
But the ordinary turned catastrophic when the young Jeremy Kinsler and his little brother, Blaine crossed a Frankfort, Ind. country road and into the path of an oncoming pick-up truck.
Jeremy Kinsler, 36, an IU Health HR Senior Consultant, remains a little fuzzy about the details today. That incident happened nearly 30 years ago. His little brother was six and Jeremy was eight. What he does remember is that he was the driver of that four-wheeler and the medical team at IU Health Methodist Hospital helped save his little brother’s life.
This week, communities across the country celebrated National Trauma Survivors Day – a time when people like the Kinsler brothers can inspire others on the road to trauma recovery.
“We don’t memorialize it as an anniversary but from time to time we’ll sit down and talk about it,” said Jeremy Kinsler, who recently moved back to Central Indiana to be closer to his family home. His younger brother also recently moved from Austin, Texas to Noblesville where Jeremy is living while he transitions his family to their new residence in Westfield.
Life goes on for the Kinsler brothers, including an older brother, Chad – watching Indy Cars race the track, eating dinner together, and just spending time with family. But on Oct. 14, 1990, life was hanging by a thread for the youngest son of Dennis and Teresa Kinsler.
The Kinsler Frankfort homestead was the weekly gathering place for a leisurely Sunday lunch and social time with extended family. After lunch the boys decided to hop on the four-wheeler for a ride - nothing unusual about that.
“We road all the time – four-wheelers, go carts – it was what we did on the farm. That day we were riding without helmets – something we rarely did,” recalls Jeremy. “I was driving, crossing a road, and didn’t see the vehicle pull out in front of us.” The driver of the pick-up was a close family friend. He locked up his brakes when he saw the four-wheeler and swerved to avoid the boys, but there was no time to steer clear.
“I just remember standing by the side of the road and seeing my brother laying there unresponsive,” said Jeremy. “People were running from the house. They heard the brakes squeal. My uncle started CPR . . . it seemed like an eternity. Who knows how long it was before my brother regained consciousness.”
There was a combine harvester coming up the road when Jeremy Kinsler heard the piercing screams from his brother. A Clinton County ambulance transported the 6-year-old to the nearest hospital in Frankfort, where he was airlifted to IU Methodist Hospital by a Lifeline helicopter.
Blaine Kinsler was listed in critical condition, suffering a ruptured spleen and a femur broken in five places. After surgery to repair his leg, he remained at Methodist for three weeks. He was released with a cast over both legs and extending all the way up to his abdomen. The next three months were filled with follow-up doctor’s visits.
“And all I had was a jammed thumb,” recalls Jeremy Kinsler.
Back at the Kinsler family farm is a box labeled “Methodist Hospital.” It’s sort of a time capsule. Inside are mementos from Blaine Kinsler’s stay at Methodist – stuffed animals and lots of Ninja turtles, a favorite of the youngest Kinsler boy.
“What I remember from when I visited, and from what my parents have told me, the nursing staff was so hospitable. There were balloons all around Blaine’s bed and the doctors were top notch,” said Jeremy. “Everyone was so kind, supportive and nurturing. We attribute that to where my brother is today.” Jeremy Kinsler said experienced that same care as an adult a few years ago when his father was treated at IU Health for prostate cancer. “I saw then, years later, the first-class operation of the hospital staff. It’s one of the main reasons I wanted to work here.”
With barely a scar to show for the trauma, Blaine Kinsler, eventually played football for four years at Frankfort High School, and like his brothers, went on to enroll at Purdue University. He graduated with a degree in organizational leadership and supervision and landed a job with Dell Computer Company. He’s married and has a 1-year-old daughter.
Jeremy Kinsler received a Purdue degree in hospitality and tourism management and after working in the restaurant industry for a few years, transitioned into human resources. He is also married and the father of three children – ages one, three and five.
As his oldest child nears the age Jeremy’s brother was on the day of their grave accident, he admits he is a bit cautious.
“I’m somewhat overly protective but in a good way,” said Jeremy Kinsler. “I want them to understand the dangers, the hazards and make sure they know their boundaries,” he said. “There’s always going to be dumb stuff, but I’m cautious. The kids have a little John Deere gator that goes about five miles an hour and I think that’s about just right.”
-- By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
Reach Banes via email at T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.