Volume 127, Number 4
Fire department volunteers injured in accident near Garrison
Editor’s note: The following story concerns Barb and Doug Steinmetz, former Maddock residents. She is a native of Maddock and is the daughter of the late John and Gertrude Simon.
BY STU MERRY
McLean County Independent
Doug Steinmetz and Ryan Nelson, along with fellow Garrison firemen Ben Berntson and Ted Seidler, were in the department’s 2000 GMC extended cab/fire rescue truck that, along with other firemen and fire trucks, responded to a one-vehicle rollover north of Garrison on US Highway 83 Dec. 17. Conditions that morning were less than ideal. Roads were glare ice. Fog shrouded the area and visibility was extremely limited. Fire department officials said motorists were driving without heeding the conditions.
After inspecting damage to another vehicle that had been struck by a semi, Seidler, who was the driver of the rescue truck, prepared to relocate off the shoulder of the road to provide traffic control away from the accident scene. In the passenger side of the front seat was Steinmetz. Hearing an oncoming semi, Seidler stopped.
Upon seeing the emergency vehicles and lights the driver of the semi hit the brakes. A trailer, carrying a chemical called emulsion breaker concentrate, slid sideways. The trailer’s back wheels slammed into the rear of the stopped pickup.
Doug suffered neck and back injuries. Ryan suffered facial and shoulder injuries in the accident. Both were transported to Minot’s Trinity Hospital. Seidler and Berntson were treated at the Garrison Memorial Hospital and released later that day.
Nelson remained a patient in Minot; being released Christmas Eve.
Steinmetz was air evac’d to Minneapolis and the Hennepin County Medical Center where he stayed until Dec. 29. He was then transferred to a Bismarck hospital where he remained until Jan. 7 when he returned home to Garrison.
Through such trauma, Doug and Barb Steinmetz and Ryan and Hilary Nelson have learned to never take anything for granted. A new perspective on life has begun.
Ryan and Hilary have only been married for three months. Hilary said, "You have to cherish everything you have."
Barb and Doug, who have been married for 38 years, marveled at how life can change in an instant.
"It makes you appreciate things a lot more," Barb said. "Next year you might not be here. The reality is that we might need to be a little more active in doing things."
The four agree that it’s not wise to put things off, sharing words to live by. "Cherish every day," Hilary said. "You can’t take anything for granted."
"The main thing is that you do things together," Ryan added, "Cherish the things you do together . . . it makes things more special."
Talking about an Alaskan cruise she and Doug have put off, saying "next year . . . maybe next year," Barb admitted it’s easy to postpone. Now, her outlook is different.
"Just do it — just go," she said.
Couples say they are never alone
BY STU MERRY
McLean County Independent
You are never alone.
On Dec. 17, Doug and Barb Steinmetz and Ryan and Hilary Nelson had their world turned upside down. Doug and Ryan, along with fellow firefighters Ted Seidler and Ben Berntson, were involved in a serious accident when a semi tanker struck the fire and rescue truck they were in. Fortunately, Ted and Ben suffered minor injuries, were treated and released. But for Doug and Ryan, the accident proved to be much worse. It was life threatening.
But the four have been lifted up and have a new perspective about "community." The four found out they are never alone.
The abundance of words of support, prayers and acts of kindness were beyond belief, Hilary said. Those acts helped the four through some trying times as Doug and Ryan recovered from their injuries.
"Just everyone and their great comments . . . sometimes you felt like you wanted to give up, but with everyone’s support you knew they would be fine . . . family, friends, workers, strangers — everyone had a lot to do with it," she said.
Of the outpouring of support, Ryan said the whole experience has been unbelievable.
"I can’t even describe the feeling when you have cards coming in from people you don’t know, showing their support," he said. "(And) it’s encouraging to know you are part of a community that operates like this . . . it’s very nice to know you are part of something like that."
For Doug and Barb, who spent the first weeks of his hospital stay in Minneapolis, the saving grace began with family.
"Coming and being there, that was the best for me," Barb said. "Family is huge . . . it made it a lot easier."
That "comfort" came spiritually and faith-wise, as well. There was a church across the street from the hospital, which Barb visited while in Minneapolis. Some members of the congregation came to visit. Staff from the Camp of the Cross who live in the Twin Cities even came.
"We received so many calls," Barb said. "Young people offered to bring supper and presents and to sit with us on Christmas Eve day. It was really special."
Doug and Ryan were also there for each other. Ryan said the key was to stay positive in time of doubt. He only had to hear about Doug to get that bad karma out of his head.
"I know that’s one thing that made me feel better . . . Doug stayed positive and thoroughly enjoyed life and friends," Ryan said. "Knowing that Doug is going to fight it — that was one way I was able to cope."
Ryan, a South Dakota native, has been with the department since October
2007 — about a year after arriving in Garrison to be the assistant manager at Fort Stevenson State Park.
Doug has been on the fire department less than a year, but has previous firefighter experience in Wyoming and Maddock, ND.
After retiring from Basin Electric at Wheatland, Wyo., Doug and Barb picked Garrison to settle down and retire. The couple has been a part of the community since 2006, choosing Garrison, they said, because of its central location and because of its notoriety as being a progressive community.
"It fit our bill," Barb said.
Talking about their injuries and what steps were taken to bring them back to where they are today, physically, Ryan and Doug said they are amazed at what medical science can do.
Ryan said he was told that in the accident the front of his face had become detached from his skull. Medical staff had to build the jaw back up from the bottom up. An airport-screening device would blush if Ryan passed through it. You see; Ryan has a number of small plates in his face that are held in place by approximately 80 screws.
And while his neck and back heal, Doug wears what is called a "halo" to stabilize his head.
Looking back on that fateful day, Doug said the ordeal was an unfortunate situation. And if it weren’t for some very special people, things could have turned out a whole lot different.
"We are fortunate we have the (fire) department we do that acted so professionally," he said. "I have no doubt without them I wouldn’t be here."
"With his type of injury, most have paralysis — he doesn’t," Barb said.
"The people that took care of him after the accident made sure there wasn’t any further damage," she went on to say. "I cant’ say enough about the training."
"And to keep their emotions in check under extreme duress," Ryan added.
"Not knowing if another vehicle was coming . . . ," Barb said.
The four agreed: Everyone at the scene did a phenomenal job.
The staff at Garrison Memorial Hospital was just as professional and caring. Hilary reflects back on that day.
"People were coming from different areas, knowing what to do . . . it ran so smoothly, everyone knew what to do," she praised. "Everyone was very professional about it."
Then, thinking back on the phone call no one ever wants to receive, she said, "No wife ever wants to get that phone call . . . you never expect it," she said.
"For us, our families are so far away. The respect and response of people to help me through it . . . they all knew to be there for me. It was unbelievable," Hilary said. "It’s definitely changed my perspective on a lot of things."
Trying to grasp the reason behind what happened Dec. 17, Barb expressed thanks that Ted and Ben weren’t injured more seriously.
"You never know why," she said.
Hilary added, "You don’t know why and never understand . . . God’s not going to give you anything you can’t handle, and this has brought us a lot closer. There’s always something positive about a bad experience."
Barb marveled at how God can turn a bad experience into such a positive experience.
Ryan said it’s all about faith.
"We have to have a sense of faith like we do, the reason we understand it is because of our faith," he said.
A new bond
The ordeal has cemented a new bond among the four.
"It’s a newfound friendship that you form and respect that you automatically have when you go through something like this — and it goes for Teddy (Seidler)and Ben (Berntson) as well," Barb said.
Hilary added, "There is a special bond. It’s brought us closer to each other than you typically would have."
The four shared a number of other stories of compassion shown them during the ordeal. Those stories remind them once again that they are never alone.
"Every story we’ve heard . . . every family has their own tragedies, from people you don’t know, but for people to have their own tragedies and to reach out has been inspiring. Hopefully, I can show compassion to people like has been shown to us," Hilary said.
But the journey is far from over. Many more treatments lie ahead for Doug and Ryan.
Ryan speculates he’s at about 70 percent of being back to normal. But he adds that it will take a while before he is fully healed, as some numb spots remain. The potential exists that he could require shoulder surgery as well. He knows he has to be patient, realizing he has to remain positive, knowing mindset has a lot to do with it.
"He’s had a very positive outlook on all of it, I think he’s dealt with it better than I have," Hilary said. "He’s done very well with it and has a very good attitude."
Doug has some nerve root damage. More will be known when the "halo" comes off and he can begin therapy to strengthen his neck and upper body muscles. "We are hoping no surgeries," Barb said of what lies ahead. "X-rays and a CAT scan will be done to ensure proper alignment of the vertebrae continues. And fractures are healing with the immobility created by the ‘halo.’ Any other problems will be addressed after the ‘halo’ comes off, hopefully by the end of March."
An avid golfer, Doug said if all goes well, he’ll be golfing by summer, but he might have to settle for being a caddy this spring.
Ryan and Doug said they are anxious to resume normal lives. Doug said he still would be a very active member of the community.
"Things I was involved in before . . . I will not change that," he said.
"That’s the least I can do." Ryan has the same sentiments.
"I want to be a part of a group that has that much to do with the training and to do all the right things in treacherous environments," Ryan said of getting back into action on the fire department.
It was those firefighters — that brotherhood — that also provided unwavering support. "It makes you proud to know that you are part of a group of people who affect their lives," Ryan said, to which Doug added, "It’s definitely impacted our lives in a positive way."
Reflecting on all that has taken place, Hilary put things in perspective: "It speaks for itself the kind of people that are out there. You weren’t alone."
Barb and Doug Steinmetz and Ryan and Hilary Nelson have formed a unique bond following a fire department accident near Garrison in December. Barb Steinmetz is a native of Maddock. (Photo by Stu Merry of the McLean County Independent, Garrison, ND)
The United Community Bank of Leeds recently contributed $1,500 to the Adult Farm Management Program at Lake Region State College (LRSC). Kelly Fischer, senior vice president of United Community Bank of North Dakota, left, presents a check to Dr. Mike Bower, center, LRSC president, as Jay Olson, LRSC farm management instructor, looks on.
Donates to library
The Active Women of Maddock (AWM) made a donation to the Maddock Community Library. A computer grant received by the library required matching funds to place computers at the library, which were provided by the Active Women. A laptop computer is now available for checkout and the library is planning computer classes later this year. Kaaren Duren of the AWM (right) is shown presenting the donation to librarian Perky Backstrom (left).
Sorlie honored by fellow coaches
Maddock native Michael Sorlie was recently selected by his coaching peers as the District 1 Girls’ Basketball Coach of the Year, as well as the Region 1 Girls’ Basketball Coach of the Year. He is now a finalist for the North Dakota Girls’ Basketball Coach of the Year Award, which will be awarded at the state tournament in Minot. He teaches and coaches at North Sargent Public School in Gwinner. Michael is the son of Dean and Rita Sorlie of Maddock.
The freshman civics class from Minnewaukan High School observed court cases February 22 at the Benson County Courthouse in Minnewaukan. District Judge Donovan Foughty answered questions from students. Those attending were, front row, left to right, Devon Anderson, Brionna Green, Penny Mudgett, Nevada Feather and Josh Lohnes. Back row: Perry Mudgett, Jordan Every, Chelsey Rallo, Brad Jensen and Teresa Santos.
Fund raiser for Haiti
Warwick School FCCLA students Bailee Langstaff and Shelley Richotte headed a fund-raising project for the victims of the disaster in Haiti.
Selling root beer floats are, left to right, Shelley Richotte, Sindy Volk and Bailee Langstaff. Excited first graders stand in line with their money.
Pre-schoolers Shelby Stevenson and James Leaf enjoy their floats. A total of $225 was collected and sent for Haitian relief.
Student shows honor to gramp
Kennedy Fehrenbacher of Buda, Texas was able to share her honor with her grandfather, Mark Motis of Minnewaukan during his most recent visit there.
Kennedy was chosen the student of the month at the Elk River Elementary School. Her mother is Kristie Motis, who is a 1986 graduate with honors of the Minnewaukan High School.
Sing in UND choir
Two Maddock High School students were recently selected to be members of the 2010 UND Honor Choir. Selected to the bass section was senior John Sears, son of Jerry and Marianne Sears (right) and selected to the tenor section was sophomore Karl Kenner (left), son of Dave and Karen Kenner.
Singers for the choir were chosen through a live audition last fall. The Honor Choir festival, which was originally scheduled for January 22-24 was postponed due to inclement weather and took place February 13-14 in Grand Forks. Sears will sing the National Anthem at the State Girls Class B Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 4 at 1 p.m.
Staff members dye locks in honor of cancer survivor
The elementary staff at the Warwick School celebrate their fellow colleague’s one year anniversary of being cancer free. Kindergarten teacher Rebecca Gjovik marked the first anniversary of being cancer free and the staff members had a clip of their hair dyed teal in her honor. Teal is the color designated for a cure for ovarian cancer. The project was spearheaded by first grade teacher Amy Olson and hair stylist Amanda Pranke of Bismarck donated her time to do the dying. Eighteen staff members participated and seven others donated but did not have their hair dyed. A total of $125 was donated to the Relay for Life at Minot, where Mrs. Gjovik used to live. Posing with their locks of hair are, left to right, back row, Wendy Gourneau, Dawna Leith, Laurie Prnake, Rebecca Gjovik, Angie Moxness, Linda Ferguson, Amy Olson and Maryann Freeman. Front row: Kelly Lund, Lori Kosmatka, Sandy Barber, Dorik Walter and Leticia Holden. Not pictured are Stacy Luehring, Patti Clifton, Frannie Greyhorn, Wendy Church and Charlotte Franks-Erickson. Other donors were Cindy Geller, Karen Birkeland, Cherry Heinz, Karlene Warner, Melanie Harlen, Jodi Wellman and Barb Eversvik.