Today I have the honor of introducing a very special family to you: Barb Farrington and her daughter Katie Tweit. Katie suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident in 1998. Barb is Katie’s primary caregiver and cares for her in their home in northern Idaho. In this three-part series, Barb shares her very personal story of heartache, restoration, and forgiveness.
The Accident: Angel on Her Shoulder
It was April 8, 1998. Barb and her husband of one year, Rex, were having a branding on the Oregon ranch. Barb tried to get her eighteen-year-old daughter Katie to come up to help with the cooking for the event. Katie’s roommate, Frances, was coming up to ride and rope cattle.
Katie had just landed a new job at a local farm supply company and was going to school at Treasure Valley Community College in Ontario. Oregon. She decided to stay and work at her new job.
The call for Barb came around 9:00 p.m. It was her ex-husband Ron, Katie’s dad. He told her that Katie had been in a serious car accident. She was being life-flighted to St. Alphonsus Hospital in Boise, Idaho, because they had an advanced trauma center.
Barb knew that meant it was bad. She had been told that no bones were broken, which could only mean that Katie had suffered a head injury. She tried to get more information from the hospital, but no one would give her much information over the phone. They didn’t sound encouraging, though.
It was an awful two-hour drive to the hospital.
When Barb, Rex, and Ron arrived at the hospital, they learned more about what had happened. Katie was the passenger in a car driven by a young man who had been drinking. He was driving 110 miles an hour when he lost control of the care. He had been thrown clear. Katie had not.
The doctors had argued about whether they should try to save her.
The accident was terrible. Barb was told that when emergency personnel arrived on the scene, Katie had “death rattles.” She wouldn’t have lived much longer. Barb also discovered that before she arrived at the hospital, the doctors had argued about whether or not to save her. One doctor was adamant that they shouldn’t try.
The medical team had made the decision together to make the attempt. One of the nurses on the trauma team came to visit Barb later. She told her that as they debated Katie’s care, she felt that there was an angel on Katie’s shoulder, protecting her. The nurse just couldn’t push for a decision to let her go.
Barb and Ron were never given an opportunity to decide whether or not to fight for Katie to live. That decision was made before they arrived at the hospital.
The first time Barb walked into Katie’s room, Katie was unrecognizable. Her face was swollen; they’s had to shave part of her hair off to put a pressure monitor into her head to keep an eye on the the swelling in her brain. They weren’t allowed to touch her or talk to her, because any kind of stimulation would be detrimental to her at this point. She wasn’t breathing on her own and needed a ventilator.
Katie’s family was given no encouragement about Katie’s prognosis. “It was such a hard time,” Barb says, “We were given absolutely no hope. Nothing.”
One doctor did say that the worst case scenario was that she would never be better than she was at the moment. The best case scenario was that she might walk or talk again. There were no guarantees.
Katie didn’t look good, either. She didn’t respond to others and appeared to be asleep. Her family was told that the first three or four days would be crucial. Most of Barb’s family were in Mexico to attend her nephew’s wedding, held, ironically, on the same day as Katie’s accident. It was difficult to contact them with the news. But Barb was soon joined by her sister, son Andrew with his wife Angie, and daughter Heather.
At the hospital, Barb saw people come in and be released. She saw others that came in and didn’t make it. It was her sobering reminder that God is not a respecter of persons. “You just never know how your situation is going to turn out.” Barb could only wait and pray.
Photo of Barb and Katie courtesy Grace Thorson