Bringing back “normal” with farm muscles, prayer
Level I Trauma care and a half-century of rehab experience help family heal
The Lemburg family’s journey began on May 9, 2019 when several inches of slushy springtime snow covered the roads in rural Marshall, Minnesota.
“The kids had just left for school when they started to slide sideways and were t-boned on the passenger side of the car by a full-sized truck,” explains Rachel Miller whose children, Malinda (18) and Parker (15) Lemburg both received life-threatening injuries and were rushed to Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center before being flown to HCMC, a Level I Adult and Pediatric Trauma Center in Minneapolis.
“Once they arrived at HCMC, they were met by a team of amazing doctors where they were both assessed and given X-rays, cat scans, and full head-to-toe evaluations.”
Malinda had a broken collar bone, broken right arm/shoulder, crushed/collapsed lungs, crushed right kidney, shattered pelvis, broken sacrum, compound fracture of the right femur, and a very large laceration on the top and back of her leg. She had lost several pints of blood and was taken to surgery right away.
“We were told to prepare for the worst – words no parents ever want to hear. That’s when I stopped and said a silent prayer – a prayer for Malinda that she would pull through this. We weren’t ready to lose her,” said Rachel.
Parker had a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and bleeding on the brain as well as fractured ribs, arms, right femur; lip lacerations, and several cuts and scrapes. He was stable and did not need immediate surgery; however, his femur was put into traction and the lacerations on his lip and face had to be sewn up in HCMC’s emergency department.
Malinda had her first surgery that day to stabilize her sacrum, clean that very large laceration, and place her femur with external fixation bars. She was placed on a ventilator for ten days to strengthen her lungs enough to breathe on her own, and she went on to have several more surgeries to fix all the broken bones. Of the nineteen days she was hospitalized, she was on life support for ten of them.
“She had several amazing doctors and nurses taking care of her through five tough surgeries. Through it all, she continued to defy the odds,” beamed Rachel. “Every day she got stronger and showed us her strong will to live. All of those prayers we had asked for had been granted. She was getting better right in front of our eyes. And Parker also amazed doctors with how quickly he healed.”
Parker was taken to surgery two days after the accident where he had his femur and both bones in his arm fixed. He spent twelve days in the hospital, four of which were in Knapp Rehab learning to walk.
The Lemburgs are home now and trying to find their new normal but there’s still a long road ahead of them that include several months of therapy and lots of relearning. Malinda is non-weight bearing for the next three months and will begin to learn to walk again after that time period. Parker is working hard on learning to walk and use his arm again – but both are determined to get back to normal as soon as possible.
The Lemburg’s journey is one that so many families have taken but each circumstance is as unique as every patient. A trauma occurs, patients are brought to their local hospital for triage and assessment, and those hospitals skillfully prepare patients for transfer to HCMC for Level I Trauma care.
This year Hennepin Healthcare is celebrating two exciting milestones: the 30th year of being Minnesota’s first Level I Trauma Center and the 50th Anniversary of the Miland E. Knapp Rehabilitation Center. For trauma patients and families, having an award-winning, nationally recognized rehabilitation facility attached to the hospital where they received inpatient care is not only convenient but reassuring.
“The trauma surgeons and other critical care staff are able to check in on rehab patients to assess their progress,” explains Geoffrey Roe, RN, Manager of the Miland E. Knapp Rehabilitation Center. “This allows patients and families to sustain relationships with the providers from the time they arrive at HCMC for trauma care through their recovery and rehabilitation journey, too.”
Both Parker and Malinda Lemburg received comprehensive inpatient therapy at Knapp Rehab prior to being discharged home to Marshall, where they continue to receive outpatient physical therapy nearby.
“We make sure all therapy plans are communicated to ensure that each patient is prepared for an optimal recovery experience,” said Roe.
“The doctors said what saved these kids was that they are young, have strong (farm) muscles, and are healthy kids,” said Rachel. “And I certainly agree. But without the great care from the first responders, Avera Hospital, HCMC and the support from family, friends, our church, the community, and people I don’t even know, this journey may have had an entirely different outcome.
Hennepin Healthcare agrees that it takes a team to ensure that the best possible outcomes are achieved for trauma patients. And thanks to an extraordinary, comprehensive team approach that began with first responders and an outstate hospital the Lemburgs are finding their way back to the “normal” they once knew – as a family.
“We would like to especially thank all the fire, ambulance, ER staff, and doctors and nurses who helped save the kids’ lives. Without all of you, they wouldn’t be here with us.”
Special thanks to Rachel Miller for contributing content for this story.