41 year-old driving instructor fights for survival after being involved in a motor vehicle collision.
On February 11, 2004, Anna Grossnickle did what she does every weekday morning. She drove her two sons, Cailean and Geoffrey, to their dad’s Frederick County farm to catch the school bus. The road was covered with snow and as she approached an S curve less than a mile from the farm, she hit a patch of black ice and began to skid out of control and directly into the path of a tractor trailer. She watched as the back rear axle of the vehicle ran up and over her car and then the world went dark. The impact of the crash instantly woke the boys. They heard their mom in the front seat making gurgling sounds and unable to answer them when they called her name.
When the ground medics and rescue units arrived at the scene, the car was so crushed that they knew a helicopter would be necessary for Anna. She had a lot of facial trauma and her breathing was labored. Thirty minutes into their arrival, the providers were able to free Anna from the metal of her car and have her transported by helicopter to Shock Trauma.
When she arrived at the Trauma Resuscitation Unit, Anna’s heart was racing, she was sweating profusely and her blood pressure was low. Multiple X-rays and CAT scans were done to confirm that she had a torn aorta and air around her lungs. Placing chest tubes between her lungs and chest walls did not resolve her inability to breathe effectively. The doctor had to perform an emergent procedure called a pericardial window, which let the air escape and allowed her heart to beat. She was then taken to the operating room to have her aorta repaired.
While in the operating room a plethora of other problems were identified. She had blood in her abdomen from lacerations to her spleen and liver. She had multiple fractures: hips, ribs, collarbone and arm. The blood vessels that supply blood to the brain were also damaged.
After a 36-day stay at Shock Trauma, Anna was discharged to a rehabilitation center where she learned to walk again and regained her ability to function independently. She is now home with her family and is back to teaching people driver's education.