“Angel of the highway, protect us” reads the engraved angel visor clip hanging in what’s left of Megan McClure’s car. The words have special meaning to the 20-year-old University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) student after surviving a near-fatal car accident.
On Dec. 17, 2008, Megan was driving home from college to Lincoln, Neb., for Christmas break. As she headed out of Kearney, on I-80, Megan swerved to avoid hitting a deer. Her Chrysler Sebring shot across the median and collided head-on with a semi before landing in a ditch. The state patrol arrived on the scene and the Jaws of Life were used to extract Megan from the wreckage. Her heart stopped at the scene, but paramedics performed CPR and revived her. Megan was rushed to Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney where doctors drained fluid from her heart and performed surgery on her collapsed lungs. Megan’s extensive injuries included eight broken ribs, a broken jaw, lacerated spleen and a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI). She would spend more than a week in the intensive care unit in a drug-induced coma.
Megan can’t recall much about her hospital stay or transfer to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital on Dec. 29. But, she remembers the frustration of dealing with her trach and feeding tubes. Within a week, Megan’s nursing team had freed her of the tubes and she began eating independently.
Family and friends supported Megan as she healed at Madonna. “My family knew Madonna had a good reputation and wanted me to be close to home,”
For the captain of the 2008 women’s UNK cross country team, physical therapy was easy to grasp. “It was like a coach telling me what to do,” said Megan. Long distance running is a passion for her. It’s not surprising that Megan’s rehabilitation goals included her love of running.
Megan’s therapy team incorporated her athletic goal into her therapy. Scott Fandrich, physical therapist and a fellow runner, could relate to her passion. The nurses and therapists started slowly, assisting Megan with standing and she quickly progressed to walking unassisted. Megan worked on her balance with the Proprio 4000™ and the treadmill. Once her balance improved, Scott encouraged Megan on short jogs as he ran alongside, holding her safety belt. “Megan really exceeded all expectations in a very short period of time given the severity of her injuries,” said Scott.
Another goal on Megan’s list was honing her cognitive skills. The TBI had injured the right side of Megan’s brain. “Initially, everything to do with my left side was so hard for me, but gradually that improved,” Megan noted. Madonna’s Therapeutic Learning Center (TLC) staff offered the guidance and encouragement Megan needed to regain those compromised skills. Jacque McCullough, a therapeutic education coordinator in the TLC, used deductive reasoning and logical solutions to challenge Megan’s thought processes. “I had trouble with reading and comprehension, but Jacque got me back to where I was before the accident,” said Megan.
Madonna’s brain injury support group “Heads Together,” provided Megan an opportunity to interact with other patients in a learning environment. Tracy Kalnins, licensed psychologist, explained that members support one another in their recovery while discovering the delicate nature of the brain, its recovery and functions.
On Jan. 15, a smiling Megan jogged down Madonna’s hallway. “I couldn’t even keep my balance a month ago – I’ve come so far!” she exclaimed. Megan’s mother, Joyce, captured her amazing feat on video and uploaded it to YouTube™ to share with others. A week later, Megan was back home with her family.
Megan recently completed the Rehabilitation Day program and attends outpatient therapy. She’s working with Madonna’s driver retraining program to get her license renewed by March 14, her 21st birthday. Future plans for the exercise science major include returning to college and her cross country team. For now, she’s relishing life one day at a time. “It’s really a miracle I’m alive,” said Megan.