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From rescue to rehab: Nurse’s ATV flipped, LifeLine whisked her to Methodist

IU Health Methodist Hospital

From rescue to rehab: Nurse’s ATV flipped, LifeLine whisked her to Methodist

It’s been a year since Kylie Owen was in a tragic four-wheeler accident. Now, she reflects on the life-saving measures that have her back at home with her family.

By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

It was about 30 yards, and about four seconds. That’s how long it took for Kylie Owen to land beneath a 400-pound Suzuki four-wheeler.

It took hundreds of days for her recovery. One year later, she talks about that ongoing journey. It was Oct. 9, 2020, when the unthinkable happened in her backyard.

Seven years earlier, Kylie met the man who would become her future husband. Eric Owen was sitting in the second row on the right side of Spirit of Life Church in Martinsville when he first saw Kylie. He waited every Sunday after that to see if she’d return to church. She did and eventually, they joined the same small group. They started dating, Eric helped Kylie with some repairs on her 100-year-old home, and on Oct. 26, 2017, they declared their love for each other. With Eric down on one knee and Kylie’s son, Andy, holding the ring box, they were engaged on New Year’s Eve 2018.

A year later, June 9, 2019, on the point of Five Acre Lake at Spencer, Indiana’s Abram Farm they exchanged their wedding vows. Weeks later, on a Sunday afternoon when they were out joy riding on their Harley Tri Glide they spotted what would become their dream home. The three-bedroom house sits on 11 acres and includes a seasonal front porch view overlooking a horseshoe-shaped pond.

They’d only been married a little more than a year when that picturesque view became one of disaster.

Kylie took a joy ride on a newly purchased 500 Suzuki quad and had driven no more than about 30 yards when the 400-pound ATV flipped on top of her.

“She couldn’t have been on it more than four seconds and all of a sudden everything happened,” said Eric. “We don’t do anything without helmets, but because this was a spontaneous ride on the property, she just hopped on.”

From the age of seven, Kylie knew she wanted to be a nurse. At the time she was employed at a surgery center and previously worked in the burn unit of Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health and also in surgical trauma at IU Health Methodist Hospital. She was familiar with accidents and the outcomes.

At the age of two, Kylie was a patient in the burn unit of Riley after an accidental scalding over 65 percent of her body. She remained hospitalized for three months. Eighteen years before her ATV accident – on the same date, October 9, Kylie attended the funeral of her brother, who was killed in a car wreck at the age of 19.

“Life changes so quickly. It only takes seconds, and yet it takes months, years to recover,” said Kylie.

She was on flat ground when the ATV started to get away from her. She hung tight to the handlebars as it shimmied into a 90-degree turn. The quad flipped, landing on Kylie’s head, shoulders, and back.

“We all saw it happen – our son, my best friend and his wife. Kylie was laying face down in the dirt, bleeding from her ears and gurgling to breathe. I put the front of her head in my elbow and stayed beside her until the emergency crew arrived,” said Eric. “I watching those guys work on her and I knew it was bad. As she flew off in the LifeLine helicopter, I asked, ‘is she going to make it?’ and the paramedic looked at the helicopter and said, ‘her best chance just took off,’” he added.

Kylie remained in Methodist Hospital for two weeks and was transferred to a hospital closer to her Martinsville home. She then continued with rehab for several more weeks.

Eric remembers feeling helpless during early conversations with IU Health doctors preparing him for the long-term effects of her head trauma. She suffered multiple facial and cranial fractures and dramatic brain injuries. She also had collapsed lungs, a broken sternum, broken ribs, and shoulder separation.

Numerous surgeries followed including a cochlear implant and procedures to save her left eye. Rehabilitation helped her relearn walking, talking and basic every day living skills.

With COVID restrictions in place, Eric was one of her only visitors. He stayed by her bedside 13 hours a day – praying and coaxing her to respond.

“It was so overwhelming. I’d never seen so many monitors or tubes in my life. She’s the nurse, not me and here she was totally out of it,” said Eric. His voice cracks as he describes the fear of losing the love of his life. “Everyone on her team – the doctors, nurses, technicians - were so kind and compassionate – even the people in the coffee shop made sure I had something to eat. They all went above and beyond and then the people outside – her family and our church members – they prayed for her recovery,” he said.

Finally, he saw a glimmer of hope – a toe and a finger wiggled. Then Kylie opened her eyes and attempted to wave at her husband.

She continues to work each day to return to life as it was before the accident. She had hopes of going back to school to become a nurse practitioner but for now that is on hold. Even before she returned home, her husband asked a friend to remove the four-wheeler from his property.

“I doubt I’ll ever get on a four-wheeler again,” said Kylie. “Instead, I’ll stay on the porch and enjoy the view.”

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TraumaLifeLine

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