(Photo by Nancy Nelson)
Nick Benningsdorf, a typical ten-year-old Cherokee child was riding his scooter around in his family's driveway. His mom, Christine, had just been watching him and his friends from the kitchen window as she was washing dishes. Then she went into another room to do something else.
Tina Riedemann, also a mother of three, was carefully making her way east on Walnut Street in her family van, unaware that Nick had decided to ride down the driveway toward the street. The view, for both of them, was blocked by a shed, which sets high up on the property next to the Benningsdorf's driveway.
In that instant Nick collided with the side of Tina's van. He hit the left front side of his head on the van and was sent reeling backwards where he hit the back of his head on the pavement.
Tina immediately stopped her vehicle, and instead of "freezing up" or going into a panic, she went into what she calls "mom mode". Like a scene out of the CPR and First Aide training video, she got out, checked the scene, saw a neighbor in her garage and yelled for her to call 911, then went to Nick to keep him still until help arrived.
Nick's twin sister, Hanna, ran in the house to tell her mom what happened. For a split second, and only a split second, Christine thought she was kidding. She then ran out to the scene in her "nurse mode". Christine is an RN at Cherokee Regional Medical Center.
In another strange twist of events Cherokee firemen happened to be in the neighborhood for fundraising when they got they got the call. Needless to say, from the time Christine was told and got outside there were at least 15 responders already on the scene.
Nick was quickly taken to Cherokee Regional Medical Center with his mom going along and getting in contact with her husband, Kevin, who just happened to be in his office at the Department of Transportation in Cherokee. His job does not typically leave him in the office that much.
When Kevin arrived at the hospital, emergency staff were just taking Nick out of the ambulance and Kevin knew right away that things were not good. Christine was remaining calm and tried to comfort her husband as a wife rather than a nurse. After a fast track to the CT scan and X-rays Nick was life-flighted to Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City.
Christine says it seems like it took her and Kevin three hours to get to Sioux City. With their other two children safely taken in by Bob and Jeanette Grant, they were able to get to Sioux City to be with Nick. By the time they got there, Kevin had calmed down and it was Christine's turn to break down as a mom.
They were greeted at the hospital by a nun, which instantly put them ill at ease. The nun quickly took them to the neurologist, who told them, in no uncertain terms, that it was life or death and they needed to operate right away. Kevin's thoughts were along the lines of "don't wait on me, get it done."
It turns out that Nick suffered a basal fracture from the fall backwards which was causing heavy bleeding and the front of his brain had a blood clot. The surgery, called a craniotomy, a surgical opening of the skull, was performed so doctors could remove the blood clot and stop the bleeding. When they were done they put his skull back together with plates and screws.
After four heart-wrenching hours of waiting, the surgeons came to tell them that Nick had come through the surgery fine. Heartened by the news and knowing how naturally smart Nick is, and not assuming anything other than he would indeed survive, Kevin asked doctors if he was going to have brain damage. The doctors told them that they weren't worried about that now because he first had to survive the next two days.
Christine said it was at this point that she completely lost all reason and broke down. They had waited for four of the longest hours of their lives only to find out he wasn't out of the woods yet. For the next four days, Christine stayed by Nick's side. Kevin returned home to gather up Zach and Hanna so they could be included in what was going on and not left wondering.
Christine and Kevin would hold his hand and talk to him and spent an immense amount of time praying. Pastor Arndt from Trinity Lutheran Church was there to pray with them that night.
On Thursday Christine was in the room sitting next to him when Nick sort of just "woke up" turned his head toward his mom and said, "Mom, when can we go home?" Up until this point Nick had been unconscious, not in a coma, like some rumors going around. Christine was so overcome with joy she nearly crawled in bed beside him and she is pretty sure everyone within three floors of the ICU could hear her.
Doctors came in and examined Nick, asked him a ton of questions, and made sure he could move his arms and legs. He could move and he could recognize his family. Things were looking much better.
Nick's older brother, Zach, and his twin sister, Hanna, handled the whole ordeal very well. The made cards for Nick, brought him a Teddy bear, and a Hot Rod magazine. When he arrived home he was greeted by a big welcome home sign they made and hung on the garage door.
In all he spent four days in the intensive care unit and then two days in the pediatric unit. The improvements Nick made from Friday to Saturday were nothing short of miraculous and by Sunday he was up and walking the halls. He was able to return home Monday afternoon.
Although you would never guess that he had such an ordeal by watching him move around and interact with his family, for the next three weeks he will undergo different therapies three times a week for three hours each session. Far from what rumors would say, Nick is not paralyzed or brain damaged. However, with plates and screws in his head his football days are at an end.
Physical therapy will ensure his body is and continues to function in time with his brain. Occupational therapy will be to ensure his hand and eye coordination stays normal. Speech therapy is where all the brain work will take place. Working on things like word searches, mathematics, and other things to make sure his brain is working.
Nick wanted to go play with his friends right away on Tuesday after he got home. Christine made him rest and swears she wants to send him out wrapped in bubble wrap capped with a helmet from now on. She may not be able to wrap him bubble wrap, but she is now adamant about all her kids wearing helmets when they are riding scooters, bikes, or skates.
Kevin and Christine know too well that Nick is more than lucky to be alive. When he was a small infant, born one of a set of triplets, he was nearly lost to them, but doctors revived him and he made it through.
The Benningsdorfs credit Tina for her quick actions of getting help that resulted Nick's life being saved this time. Possibly, if it had been anyone else, they may have panicked and left the scene or "freaked out" failing to take appropriate action. Every second counted and they are thankful that Tina made them count. They also thank the neighbor who called 911. They are simply grateful to all those involved in helping to save Nick's life.
The family is also extremely appreciative of all the support of phone calls, prayer chains, and just plain thinking about them. It meant a lot to them and helped them through the ordeal.
Nick had some advice to share with his friends. He said, "Wear a helmet, look for cars, stay out of the street, and listen to your parents." That is great advice from someone whose been through what he's been through.
Tina commented that it has been a tremendous weight lifted from her to know that Nick is going to be all right. She said the mom in me seemed to kick in. Being a mother of a one month old, three year old and seven year old she asked herself in a fraction of a second what would she want someone to do for her kids had it been them. That is what resulted in her quick actions.
She also said that she is much more aware of what is going on around her now, not only when she's driving but just even watching children play. She asks that all motorists be fully aware of where they are at all times and pay attention to what is going on around them as they drive.
Kevin and Christine kept in close contact with Tina throughout the ordeal, keeping her apprised of the situation. They had heard some of the rumors going around and they told her that if she didn't hear it from them, it wasn't true. It was just as hard on Tina as it was on Nick's family.
At any rate, all is well that ends well and Nick is his same old self, even if he is more conscientious about what he does.