TORRINGTON — On Saturday, March 6, Samantha Hill was headed to her parents’ house in Colorado for the weekend. However, instead of seeing her family in Colorado, they would be coming to see her in Nebraska after a life-changing accident.
The devastating collision that Saturday morning would take the life of Tyler Schaub, a classmate of Samantha’s, when the vehicle driven by Schaub crossed the centerline and collided head on with her vehicle. Schaub was pronounced dead at the scene while Samantha was flown by helicopter to Regional West Medical Center in Scottsbluff, Nebraska in critical condition.
“I just remember getting in a helicopter. After that, I don’t remember anything,” Samantha said. “They had to use the ‘jaws of life’ to get me out of the car, it took them like an hour. The EMT said I was talking to him the whole time, but I don’t know what I was talking to him about.”
Flight For Life transported Samantha Hill from the scene of the accident to Regional West Medical Center where they examined the extent of her injuries. She had 44 different traumas to various parts of her body.
“When she first came into Nebraska, she had 44 traumas,” said Samantha’s mother, Deanna Hill. “Ranging from a broken kneecap, broken bones in her foot, two ribs, sternum, two places in her pelvis, lacerated liver and spleen, her major injury in her neck, stitching over her eye and lip and her major injury on her left arm.”
Samantha spent the first week at Regional West Medical Center on a ventilator. During that time, she was in a halo brace from Saturday, March 6, to Wednesday, March 10 to ensure her neck was stabilized, and allowed time for her spine to heal.
She had been internally decapitated, and her head was held on to her body by just the stem of her brain. When she was first put into the halo, Samantha couldn’t move anything on the left side of her body.
The doctors sedated her again before her fusion surgery and readjusted the halo one millimeter, which allowed her to have full use of her body again.
“We had lost a nephew from the same injury,” Deanna said. “It’s called internal decapitation. We knew what it was, and we knew what we were dealing with. Her head was just balancing on her brain stem.”
Deanna said she was at home when she received the phone call about the devastating accident. She immediately called her husband, Judd, home from work and got a hold of her oldest daughter Sydney who also lives in Colorado. The three of them jumped into the car and headed straight for Regional West Medical Center.
While en route to the hospital, Deanna said the doctors and nurses kept calling them on the way to provide updates.
“The hospital and the doctors were phenomenal,” Deanna said. “They kept calling us along the way. We were kept in constant contact of what was going on.”
Deanna said she stayed in Nebraska for the entire three weeks while Samantha was at Regional West Medical Center. Her husband was able to stay for two weeks but couldn’t stay longer due to his work.
Samantha spent the first two weeks at Regional West Medical Center undergoing surgeries and giving her body the time to heal. During the final week at Regional West, the doctors had her slowly start to get up on her feet and move around.
“One of her knees is missing a PCL and partial ACL,” Deanna said. “Her other knee had a broken kneecap. She could walk, but she just looked like a robot because she was in two different braces.”
After three weeks at Regional West Medical Center, Samantha was transferred to Craig Hospital in Colorado for outpatient care. She does outpatient work twice per week.
The days start early and end late while in outpatient care. During outpatient care at Craig, the doctors do a lot of work with Samantha’s neck to make sure her muscles don’t get tight and that she is healing correctly. They also have her doing speech therapy to ensure her brain is still functioning correctly. There’s also some occupational therapy with her left arm.
The most difficult part for Samantha, during her recovery, has been being away from her home since the accident and not being able to do things she used to do.
“Not being home has been difficult, granted I’m home with (my parents), but that’s not my home,” Samantha Hill said. “I’m not a person who likes to stay inside all the time and not being able to use my left arm has been difficult.”
The injury to her left arm was so horrific, doctors still don’t want her to push-off with the arm, put any pressure on the arm or put any weight on the arm. Her humerus broke, her elbow completely busted out and the ulna had four to six different breaks.
“She’s rod, pinned, screwed, all the way up her left arm,” Deanna said. “So far, Sam can go all the way out and touch her head, but there’s other things she can’t do, like bring a bottle to her mouth to take a drink. The physical therapy hasn’t started on her (left) arm yet.”
Deanna said doctors expect Samantha will be back to her normal self by January.
She still needs to have the operation to repair the ligaments in her knee and will have to do annual checkups with her neurosurgeon to make sure none of the hardware has moved around.
Although the recovery process has been difficult for Samantha, she still found the time to continue her college classes at Eastern Wyoming College (EWC) and was able to graduate with her associates degree on Friday, May 14.
She plans to be done with therapy and cleared to drive again on her own by the beginning of August. She will attend Chadron State College and wants to pursue a degree in education to become a middle school teacher.
Since the accident, Samantha hasn’t had any issues getting into a vehicle again. She said she hasn’t had any flashbacks to the accident and that it just feels like she’s riding in a vehicle again.
While the Hills moved to Colorado from Torrington in November, the community was still there for them during their time of need. It is something Deanna was overwhelmed by and didn’t know where to begin with the words and feelings of thanks.
“There aren’t even words,” Deanna said while fighting back tears. “I’ve tried to reach out to multiple groups. It’s an amazing thing and please let everyone know how thankful we are. There’s such a laundry list of people that you can’t name them all.”
Samantha still has a way to go before she has fully recovered from the accident, but she wanted to let the community know how thankful she is for all of their support.
“Just thank you to everybody for everything,” Samantha said. “I’d like them to know that I’m blessed for all the support. I love Torrington.”