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Published on August 31, 2016

fera heckman and dr brian skow

Fera’s Story: Avera eCARE provides immediate intervention after ATV turnover

On a warm June evening, a group of 4-H’ers and their parents set out from Westby, Mont., heading toward a member’s farm. One of the girls, Fera Heckman, was asked to ride on a side-by-side ATV.

Her mother, Melissa, knew it was important to 10-year-old Fera to ride along with her friend and the only other girl on the trip, so she agreed, knowing that she’d be close behind in the caravan of vehicles heading to the farm.

“I got the sense that we needed to hurry up, and another parent told me she had the same feeling,” Melissa said. Little did they know that the ATV would soon end up overturned in the ditch, with her daughter pinned underneath.

When Melissa jumped out of her car and first saw Fera, she wasn’t moving and seemed unresponsive.

In the middle of nowhere

“We were in the middle of nowhere – an hour from a hospital and 20 minutes from the highway,” Melissa said. Someone called 911, and Melissa wanted to take her daughter to meet the ambulance at the highway to save precious time.

“At a typical 4-H meeting, we have no fathers along, but on this trip, we had three fathers with us, who were able to pull the ATV off her and then drive as fast as we could to the highway,” Melissa said.

On the way to meet the ambulance, Fera’s breathing was labored and she gasped for air. She wasn’t talking, but would respond by shaking her head yes or no. Melissa sang and talked to her. Once they met the ambulance, there was another 30-minute drive to Sheridan Memorial Hospital in Plentywood, Mont.

The staff at Sheridan were ready to care for Fera, and had initiated a connection with Avera eCARE™ eEmergency, with emergency medicine specialist Brian Skow, MD, on the video monitor.

“I was freaked out at first that this doctor wasn’t there in person. I tried not to worry and left it in God’s hands. Dr. Skow’s voice was very calm and comforting as he talked with the emergency room staff,” Melissa said.

Fera had multiple injuries, but most critical were her lungs, which were both collapsed. “They were all focused on getting her lungs to respond,” Melissa said.

Once Fera was stabilized, she was flown to St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings, Mont., where she was hospitalized for two weeks. In addition to her collapsed lungs, she had numerous fractures, including six ribs, her jaw, both shoulder blades, upper right arm, as well as a bone in her spine.

She knew God had a reason

“Her first words were ‘did anyone else get hurt?’” her mother remembered. Also, Fera asked how she lived through such an ordeal, and said that she knows that God has a reason for sparing her life – that she will one day save someone else’s life.

In the meantime, she and her family are grateful for those who helped saved Fera’s life. “She needed immediate care, and that’s where Avera eCARE stepped in,” Melissa said. Today, Fera is doing well, and is up and walking as she continues to recover from her fractures and surgeries.

The Heckmans, who live in Grenora, N.D., recently met with the staff at Sheridan Memorial Hospital to thank them. That included face-to-face time with Avera eCARE staff and Dr. Skow via telemedicine. In addition to celebrating Fera’s recovery, they celebrated Avera eCARE’s milestone of serving its 1 millionth patient since its founding in 2004, reached around the time of Fera’s accident.

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