Real Patients, Real Stories

Emergency and Rehabilitation Care Helps Young Woman Recover from Serious Accident



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“The first thing I remember is waking up in a hospital bed on an elevator with my mom, my sister, and a doctor,” says 20-year-old Abigayle Ottley. “The doctor asked me if I knew where I was, who I was, and what had happened. The only thing I knew is who I was.”

On a bright, sunny day on July 18, 2010 Ottley, her brothers, and a few friends went to the Jordanelle Reservoir. It was her first time on a personal watercraft and she was excited to go for a second ride around the reservoir when disaster struck: the driver of the watercraft she was riding had to stop suddenly, causing the watercraft following directly behind to crash into them. “My brother was driving that second watercraft. He tried to swerve but it was too late. The front end of his vehicle came out of the water doing a wheelie over the top of us,” says Ottley.

She was hit and lay unconscious in the water while her brother frantically tried to administer CPR. A paramedic boat came to the scene and she eventually was transported by AirMed to University of Utah Hospital

Ottley learned the extent of her injuries—a broken back, pelvis and sacrum; a brain injury, as well as the removal of her spleen and part of her intestines. She was on life support for five days, in a coma for six days, in the ICU for 12 days, and in the hospital for a total of 35 days.

Her recovery was long and grueling, but the care team at U of U Hospital was with her every step of the way. “They were incredible. The doctors, the nurses, the therapists—everyone,” says Ottley. She fondly recalls her nurse and care coordinator Jodi. “She was an amazing nurse and always there to help me. I weighed 128 pounds when I arrived and got down to 97 pounds. They were trying to get me off my feeding tube, so I needed to eat and drink to get enough nutrients. I remember she asked me what my favorite ice cream was and I told her Rocky Road. The next day she showed up in my room with Rocky Road and got me to eat.”

Ottley also credits her physical therapist Sarah with being able to walk again. “I probably wouldn’t be able to walk today if it wasn’t for her. She pushed me when I wanted to give up. She knew I was strong and what potential I had and she forced me to keep going.”

The experience was the hardest thing she’s ever had to go through, and Ottley says she’s grateful to God for sparing her life. She’s also grateful for her family, friends, and for the team at U of U Hospital for helping her to recover. “I honestly believe that if I did not go to the U, I wouldn’t be alive today. I was so close to dying. I will be eternally grateful to the rescuers, the AirMed crew, the doctors and nurses, and every person who had a part in saving me and never giving up on me— even when I wanted to give up.”


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