Young crash victim recovering well: parents thankful for community support

Deb Hill
Managing Editor

Accident victim Nichelle Mueller (left) and her mother, Rachel, react when shown the new bicycle and helmet donated by CMMC staff.
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Prater

The helmet saved her life. Everyone involved agrees that when 10-year-old Nichelle Mueller was hit by a vehicle on Sept. 18 while riding her bike to school, her bike helmet prevented an even larger tragedy.

“If she hadn’t been wearing her helmet, this could have been much worse,” said CMMC ER Doctor Amy LePage. “She is doing amazingly well now, but she could have had a traumatic brain injury or worse.”

Kate Elam, a respiratory therapist at CMMC who helped to stabilize Nichelle when she was brought in to the ER, agrees.

“Wearing that helmet definitely saved her life,” Elam said.

For Nichelle’s mother Rachel, the accident reinforced something she’s taught both her daughters from the moment they started riding bicycles.

“My older daughter didn’t like wearing her helmet but we insisted,” Rachel said. “I’d see her riding with her friends and she would be the only one with a helmet on. She hated it. But we always told them, ‘this could save your life,’ and it did.”

Rachel said neither she nor her husband, Calvin, were home to see Nichelle off to school that morning, but the safety lesson still held.

“I’m so proud of her that she put her helmet on even without us being there to make sure,” Rachel said.

Of course, the helmet alone couldn’t protect Nichelle from other injuries when a vehicle hit her just outside Fergus High School. The situation was grave as EMTs and then other medical professionals worked to stabilize the young girl.

Both LePage and Elum credit the first responders on the scene for doing a great job.

“We call it ‘packaging’ the patient,” LePage said. “They put a collar on for neck injuries, wrap them up and get them on the gurney. Nichelle was very brave in the ER.”

LePage said the quick work by those first on the scene made it easier for those in the ER.

“We do a lot of training for trauma and kids,” LePage said. “It pays off in times like this when we need it.”

Quickly the extent of her injuries was assessed, determined to need specialized care, and Nichelle was flown be airplane to Children’s Hospital in Aurora, outside Denver, Colorado.

Along with family members, she spent eight days at that facility.

“That facility is very impressive,” Rachel said. “They have beds right in the patient’s room for the parents to spend the night.”

The good news is that, although she still has some healing to do, Nichelle is back in Lewistown.

“She is doing amazingly well,” LePage said. “It’s nice to see her recovering so well.”


Community lends support

Even while she was being worked on in the ER, medical staff remember Nichelle was very concerned over what had happened to her bike.

“She was very worried about it,” LePage said. “She wanted her dad to fix it.”

Of course the bicycle was a bit beyond repair, but thanks to contributions from CMMC employees, Nichelle now has a brand new bike. The bike was presented to her earlier this week, and Nichelle’s mom says she gets to “visit” it until she is well enough to ride it.

 “We are so grateful to everyone,” Rachel said. “The first responders and those who helped on the scene and the CMMC staff – everyone did an amazing job. It’s awesome to live in a community where everyone is so supportive.”



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