A little boy tries to push mommy's wheelchair
Tara Peters just turned 22 years old. Her birthday celebration is one she never could have imagined - she celebrated at Fonda Nursing and Rehab, along with another resident of the facility who was turning 100 on the same day.
Tara is currently receiving nursing care and physical therapy for a car accident that she nearly didn't survive.
"I just thank God that no one else was in that car with me," she reflects.
May 1 was a regular day in Tara's busy life. She went to school at Iowa Central where she is studying to become an accountant, she came home and mowed her lawn. Her 2 year old son, Braeton, was tired so she laid him down for a nap. She didn't have time left for a nap for herself, so she got ready for work at Amvets in Storm Lake. It happened to be a late night - she left about 1:30 a.m., and after taking a couple of friends home, she headed home to Fonda.
That's where her memory freezes. She doesn't remember leaving town - in fact, she doesn't remember anything that happened in the week following that night.
The accident report fills in some of the blanks - it says she was driving on Highway 7 west of Fonda, just a couple of miles from making it home, when she was involved in a terrible car accident.
Authorities suspect that she fell asleep and struck a guard rail going over the train tracks. Her Ford Focus flipped into the air, rolling and eventually coming to rest on its side.
Tara was trapped inside, broken and bloody. The impact had shattered her pelvis, and caused compound fractures in both the major bones of her left leg.
She's been told that a person drove by the accident and called 911, but did not stop. Later, a friend drove by and recognized her car. He called his father, who had been a paramedic. They got her help and made sure someone stayed with her while she was taken to the hospital. She was taken to BVRMC and then flown to Sioux City where they had to operate immediately to save her leg and set her pelvis.
Her memory is full of blank spots, but she recalls a doctor stitching up her hand in the Intensive Care Unit, and she remembers her 10 year old sister, Autumn, coming to see her and holding her hand while in the ICU. She now knows her mother, Char Ulrich, has been there with her all the time. She works as the manager at Amvets when she isn't with Tara.
"I spend a lot of time with her. I neglect my own things and my house to be with her. I do it because I know she would do it for me, I don't want her to be alone," Char says.
Tara has had numerous surgeries to put her back together. She first had to have plates placed on each side of the bones on her leg since they were broken so badly. She had six large pins sticking out of her hips in front of her that were holding the bones together.
After she began healing, she was sent to Omaha were she had to have a muscle graft from her stomach placed over her wounds. When her skin wouldn't heal over, the doctors then covered the muscle graft with a skin graft from her hip. While this all is healing she has to wait to have a surgery on her other leg, where torn tendons in her knee have had to wait. Her meniscus is also waiting for repair.
While she heals, she works hard in physical therapy and occupational therapy. The physical therapy strengthens her body and the occupational therapy is to prepare her to go home.
"My goal is to be home in a month," she says.
She knows even when she gets home she won't be able to do certain things like going outside alone or walk and run with her son.
Her mom and Braeton's father will continue to care for the child while she recovers.
Tara keeps in good spirits despite the pain, saying" You just can't heal if you're grumpy."
Tara and her little sister Autumn were close before the accident but now they are inseparable. Tara says, " She comes and keeps me company. She walks down to see me every day.
"I look forward to the weekend," she adds. "I spend as much time with my son as I can. On Sundays my mom takes me to church."
There, she thanks God that she was alone in her car that night. And gives thanks for the people who have supported and prayed for her during the ordeal.
People have gone far out of their way to help her, Tara says.
Her brother covers her rent and her landlords have been very understanding with no one knowing when she would be home.
Char and Tara both say, "They have been really wonderful."
Her mother does as much as she can to keep Tara comfortable, and brings her books and sweets to help keep her smiling.
Her son, Braeton, after the initial scare of "Mommy being gone" now even tries to help. He tries to push her in her wheelchair and occasionally tangles underfoot trying to help move her slow walker with his 2-year-old mass. He says, "Me help Mommy". Tara just smiles when he pushes the walker and says," Mommy doesn't need that kind of help," and laughs.
She has grown patient, she finds, and finally, she is growing strong. Her mom notices that she shows emotion more easily than the girl she knew before, but Tara has also gained such willpower and determination that Char says she knows it's just a matter of time before Tara walks, taked on full time parenting again, and goes back to work.
Tara is eager for all that. "You wish so bad for a day off, but when you finally get a whole bunch in a row you get really bored and are very ready to go back to work for something to do."
Benefit planned for September 8
Tara's family is holding a benefit that they would like to invite the public to attend, Saturday, Sept. 8 at the Elks Lodge in Storm Lake. The dinner will be held from 5 - 7 p.m. A tenderloin dinner with baked beans, cheesy hash browns, salads and a bar will be served for $5 a plate, with proceeds offsetting Tara's medical costs. An auction will be held at 7 p.m. with jewelery, gift certificates, a lawn mower and more being offered. Karaoke and a DJ will provide entertainment until 1 a.m. after the auction.