By Jennifer Von Ohlen
HOWARD LAKE, MN A fundraiser will take place Saturday, Aug. 27 in Howard Lake to raise money for Liz Paetow's medical bills. During a car accident, Paetow broke her back and left heel.
For Liz Paetow of Montrose, a long weekend away from home quickly turned into an extended stay at the hospital after she crashed her vehicle on County Road 10, just outside of Montrose.
Paetow and her husband were headed out of town March 4 to visit her father’s home in Chicago, each of them driving separate vehicles.
“I reached down to just pull my phone,” Paetow stated. “Not to answer it, not to do anything, just to pull it out to set it near me, and when I looked back up, I saw that I was in the wrong lane, and there was a car coming.”
“I over compensated,” she continued. “My husband says that if I had just gone into the ditch, I probably would have been able to drive back out. Instead, I hit the driveway going into the field, and that sent me flying.”
Her husband, who was driving the vehicle ahead of Paetow, saw the crash occur in his rearview mirror and said she “flew like the Dukes of Hazard, and came down very hard,” breaking out the bottom of the car.
Paetow was the only person in the vehicle.
“As soon as it had happened, I knew that I had broken my back, and possibly my foot, because I couldn’t breath,” Paetow said, continuing to say she does not remember much happening after the impact. “I was pretty out of it,” she stated.
Paetow was first taken to Ridgeview Medical Center in Waconia, but the center was unable to do the necessary surgery on her back. She was transferred to Hennepin County Medical Center, where she underwent an eight-hour surgery that same day.
Paetow learned that she had also broken her left heel in the accident, which did not require surgery.
She spent about five days in the hospital before being relocated to the Lake Ridge Care Center in Buffalo. Since she was unable to put any amount of pressure on her broken heel, she remained at Lake Ridge for several weeks.
While Paetow said her husband was “traumatized” after witnessing her accident, she shared that it has not interfered with his care for her.
“He’s been my rock,” she said. “Without him, I wouldn’t have been able to get through this. He’s been at the hospital every day, at the nursing home every day,” and has continued his support since she returned home Mothers Day, May 8.
Still assigned to wear a back brace for 12 weeks and being restrained to a wheelchair because of her foot, Paetow said daily tasks, such as getting out of bed and getting dressed, were quite difficult, but her husband was there to help her complete each one.
However, it was only a matter of time before Paetow’s husband needed to return to work.
The first Sunday Paetow was able to return to church, she did. She told her fellow congregates at Saint John’s Lutheran Church in Howard Lake that she needed help, as there were still three weeks of healing to go before she could start putting weight on her foot.
The response she received astounded her.
“People stepped up to help right away. I had people coming in the mornings and afternoons, helping me make breakfast, getting me dressed, helping me take showers,” Paetow said.
A nurse practitioner Paetow barely knew offered to help three to four times a week, as well as retired nurses who stepped up, and other members of her church who wanted to make Paetow’s experience a little easier.
“It was amazing. God provides,” she stated. “I wouldn’t be here without [her church family’s] love, and support, and prayers.”
Now, almost six months into her recovery, Paetow said the healing process is going “a lot better than we ever thought it was going to [go].” She explained that her doctors are “very happy” with her progress and her therapist said she expected it to take a far longer time for her to regain the strength she currently has.
“I’m healing,” Paetow noted. “And it’s all glory to God.”
Paetow was able to return to her work at Coram five months following the accident.
Because she has been healing faster than she or her doctors anticipated, Paetow was excited to have been able to participate in this year’s Wright County Fair, where she usually assists with the baking and canning exhibit. She was even feeling well enough to enter a few of her own baked goods.
Along with the Wright County Fair, Paetow and her husband have been making an effort to visit every county fair in the state, and were even able to visit a few on their list since her accident.
As she continues to heal, Paetow is looking forward to having a flower garden next summer, since her injury prevented one from being planted this year.
In spite of her fast progress, Paetow still has doctor appointments a couple times a week, and recently started experiencing some nerve damage issues, which are affecting her left side from the waist down.
Because of the slow healing rate for nerves, Paetow says it will possibly take a couple years for them to completely heal. She has an upcoming doctor’s appointment to determine if she needs surgery done on the problematic area.
Other than this, Paetow says she has not experienced any other unexpected medical problems.
Financially, however, the medical bills have added up.
Since Paetow was unable to get into a vehicle for her appointments, she had to go by medical transport, which insurance does not cover at all.
“Not even a small percentage,” Paetow stated, “and it’s very expensive.”
This, in addition to her husband being away from work, and the ongoing doctor’s visits, inspired Paetow’s church to organize the “Liz Paetow Country Fair Fundraiser.” Proceeds will be donated towards Paetow’s medical bills, which she expects to keep arriving throughout the next year or so.
Not used to being on the receiving end of such gestures, Paetow said she is very grateful for all who are involved in the event.
“It’s going to be a wonderful day, and it will give me a chance to say thank you to everyone who have given me so much,” she stated.
The fundraiser will take place Saturday, Aug. 27, starting at 4 p.m. There will be a Mexican Fiesta supper, a silent auction, a bake sale and farmers market, and a bar and cookie contest. For more information, visit stjohnshl.org/announcements.