Thrive by IU Health

June 29, 2021

Beating the odds

IU Health Methodist Hospital

Beating the odds

Ashley Miller doesn’t remember the wreck.

It happened two days after high school graduation. She was enlisted in the Navy and was preparing to ship out for basic training. She had big plans.

What she can recall is that on a summer night in early June 2013, she was riding in a truck with four friends on the backroads of Bloomington.

But the next thing she remembers is waking up in IU Health Methodist Hospital’s ICU in serious pain and hallucinating from heavy pain meds. Two weeks had passed since the accident, and she’d been in a medically induced coma.

Ashley was told that the driver had lost control, the truck flipped several times, and paramedics found her several feet away, face-down in a ditch. The driver died on impact. Three others were treated and released from hospitals. No one in the vehicle was wearing a seatbelt.

Photograph of the truck following the accident
Photograph of the truck following the accident

Paramedics took Ashley to IU Health Bloomington, where doctors discovered massive internal injuries. She was flown via IU Health LifeLine to the IU Health Methodist Hospital’s Level 1 Trauma Center.

“I was bleeding internally, and both lungs were collapsed. They lost me twice on the flight,” says Ashley.

After the helicopter landed, IU Health trauma surgeons Todd McKinley, MD, and Saad A. Khairi, MD, immediately performed emergency surgery on Ashley.

“I’m so thankful they were my physicians that night, and that they’ve continued to be my doctors,” she said. They’re nothing short of amazing.”

In total, she suffered a spinal cord injury, broken neck, and a shattered pelvis and hips. Her tailbone was broken into 23 pieces.

That summer, instead of going to basic training, Ashley spent two months in a hospital and underwent 10 surgeries.

At one point, she transferred to IU Health Bloomington, where she experienced life-threatening complications, then went back to IU Health Methodist Hospital and eventually to the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana, where she learned to walk again.

Today, Ashley is 26 and lives in Westfield with the love of her life, Grant, and their daughters, Madi and Isabelle. Ashley doesn’t have feeling from her left hip to her toes, and the former high school runner can’t run or walk very far. Despite that, she’s grateful.

Grateful patient Ashely Miller and her family
Grateful patient Ashley Miller and her family

She says, “It’s crazy how God works things out. I feel this happened for a reason.”

That reason? Her six-year-old daughter was born with a rare chromosome condition and is learning to walk without the aid of her wheelchair. “I know what it’s like to learn to walk again, and I’m using that to help Madi,” Ashley says.

Ashley and her daughter are both learning to overcome obstacles together, as Ashley must continue physical therapy and see Dr. McKinley once a year. He reminds her that only 2% of patients with injuries like hers are able to walk again. Together, they marvel at how far she’s come.

It’s for that reason that Ashley is sharing her story as part of Rev, presented by Fifth Third Bank and hosted at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Funds raised support IU Health statewide trauma and critical care programs, which she owes her life to.

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