After attending an insurance meeting in Bloomington, IL, Katie was a passenger in a mini-van with other fellow employees heading back to Effingham on the afternoon of June 7. As they approached LakeLand College/Mattoon exit (#184), a fatal accident up ahead of them on Route 57 had caused traffic to be slowed to a crawl. A semi behind them, failed to slow down, however, ramming into one pickup truck, then the van Katie was in, and then another vehicle before it tipped over on its side and burst into flames, killing the driver.
Unfortunately, one of Katie’s fellow passengers was killed as well. The media report merely stated that “22 year-old Katie Harvey of Newton was taken to Carle Hospital for treatment.” What it didn’t say was that Katie was thrown from the vehicle, suffering multiple injuries to her arm, her back, her spine and her legs. She also suffered a collapsed lung. One official told her that it was fortunate she wasn’t wearing a seat belt; had she been wearing one, she most likely would have been killed. Ironically, Katie swears she had her seatbelt on and remembered nothing of the accident.
“Treatment” at Carle lasted two months. Surgeries, rehab, doctors, nurses, therapy, wires, skin grafts, bone grafts, wheel chairs— all became part of her normal routine. Katie’s one year old daughter, Raylie, was afraid to approach her mother in the hospital. Katie’s parents, Randy and Linda, spent the entire time with her daughter, offering support and encouragement whenever they could. As tough as the situation was, the Carle personnel were amazed at her early desire to begin the long road back, always with a smile and a willing heart.
Once the two months were over, Katie returned home to Newton with her family and began physical therapy and further treatments at a facility in Effingham. Although she was not paralyzed, she was still confined to a wheelchair and so began the lonely, arduous task of trying to regain that normal lifestyle so she could become the mother she eagerly wanted to be for Raylie. After some time, however, Katie’s hopes began to fade, as the results she wanted didn’t come. “I felt like a number there,” she said. “Like sometimes they really didn’t care about me like I thought they should.” She told her mother that she didn’t think she would ever walk again.
In early February, Katie got a second chance. Champion Fitness Physical Therapy opened a new clinic in Newton, and the Harveys decided to change her routine and not have to travel out of town for therapy. “The first time I came in here,” Katie recalled, “I could tell they were different. These guys cared.”
They were PT Cory Hanley, PTA Daniel Weiler, and student assistant Tyler Doughty, and their approach gave Katie that much needed shot in the arm. “They spent time with me, they worked me hard; they pushed me….like I thought I needed to be pushed,” she said. For their part, working with Katie has been equally a joy for the clinicians. Like their counterparts at Carle, they have enjoyed her spirit and approach to each session, as if she is motivating THEM, rather than the other way around. “Everyday she’s in here—up to four days a week—she never has a bad day,” Tyler noted admiringly.
Her parents noted the change immediately. “These guys -,” mother Linda commented, “- they have meant the world to her. She looks forward to coming in here every day.” Her dad Randy added with a smile, “Best thing that’s happened to her.”
Katie Harvey knows the road ahead still is going to be tough. She faces a two-week stint of concentrated in-house therapy up in Chicago; there also might be more surgery on her arm to restore its full range of motion; and there are still weeks of therapy with her clinician friends at Champion. But Katie also sees that June 7 date coming up, and she remains determined to accomplish her goal. “I’ll be okay,” she smiles to whoever talks to her.
Somehow, you got to like her chances.