Kevin Salmela

In Kevin’s words…

I was shopping after work at Walmart for a video game system for my birthday, my girlfriend and I were driving back to my house at 4:00am (I worked until midnight). About three miles from home, Bri was asleep and then I must have dozed off. At highway speed we went into the ditch and coming out of it we hit the street sign which then flipped the car and, airborne, it crossed the road, hit and broke a tree and landed in the dirt on the other side of the road, upside down. I guess my size 13 foot got stuck and it was a little bit challenging to get my 6’2″ frame out of a little car that was pretty smashed over my head. I had no recollection of what happened until two weeks ago. An image of a helicopter came back to me but that would have been the last thing I saw before they put me to sleep and flew me to Regions Hospital in St. Paul. I didn’t start writing memories again until my fourth week in the hospital.

The experience from Kevin’s Mom and Dad’s point of view…

Bri couldn’t get Kevin’s attention and knew he needed help. She somehow managed to get out of the car with a severely broken leg and crawl 150 feet through barbed-wire and a wooded area toward a house with a light on and called 911. Scandia Fire and Rescue arrived minutes later. Kevin was airlifted by Life Link III to Regions Hospital. When they loaded Kevin into the helicopter, it didn’t look like he was going to make it. Some thought he might already be gone. We don’t know what they had to do but they kept him alive. While they were stabilizing Kevin, more than once we were told, “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” from staff, only we didn’t know how bad things were.

For the first 3 days Kevin was unconscious and no one was giving words of optimism. We brought 30 people through the ICU that first day, one or two at a time. Late the third day he stirred and when told “if you can hear us, give a thumbs up” and he did. After 8 days of intense care, Kevin was moved to the rehab unit to begin to relearn everything – to eat, brush his teeth, move his limbs, and eventually walk and drive. He spent 5 weeks at Regions getting therapy 3 times/day. When he went for therapy after discharge, the therapists all signed him off because he was pretty well recovered. Unfortunately he couldn’t work or go to school and still had to be guarded against over stimulation of the brain. The medical team arranged for Kevin to have four more weeks of more advanced therapy and then they too said he’s surpassed all of their expectations.

By January, Kevin enrolled in Century College and took a double English class and got a 4.0. This semester he has a full load and is working part time. Bri had two surgeries on her leg and has recovered very well. She rollerblades and Kevin longboards along the Gateway Trail in Stillwater. Kevin has gotten back to enjoying normal activities for a 23 year old.

We are so thankful for the quick response of the Andersons, Scandia Fire and Rescue, the well-trained EMTs and Life Link III heroes who can deal with this type of emergency when time is critical. Kevin may not be here today if there wasn’t air medical transport with well-trained personnel. By the time he was extracted from the car and airlifted to the hospital, his golden hour was running out. I can’t say enough about our experience at Regions Hospital either. Kevin’s staff was top notch and very tolerant of us in our worry. You all are our heroes! Thank you for what you do!

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