Driver impaled by tree limb home from hospital

November 10, 2010 4:46:32 AM PST
Two weeks after she was stabbed by a tree limb that fell through her Smart car's windshield, a 41-year-old Waukegan art teacher came home from the hospital.

Helen Miller said she underwent surgery to have the branch, which missed all vital organs, removed. Now the art teacher is home, resting and preparing to turn that tree branch into a project.

""For a tenth of a second I didn't know what happened. Then I looked around and was like, 'Oh my God there's a tree on me!'" said Miller. "I saw this stick was in my stomach and it was connected to the tree and it pushed right through my shirt and it was come out the other side of my stomach."

"I actually had to confirm with my partner, is that what I'm seeing?" said Miles TenEych, Lake Villa firefighter-paramedic.

Officials say high winds on October 26 cracked the branch of the dead tree, which fell 65 feet to cut through her car's window. Emergency crews had to cut the top off of Miller's Smart car and the branch, which took 20 minutes, to get to her. They sawed off a six-foot long section of the limb and transferred her with the tree intact to the hospital.

"It was in a good 6-8 inches and you have to take a step back and plan your reaction rather than just jumping in right away," said Bill Barber, Lake Villa firefighter-paramedic.

"If this was in an organ or abdomen cavity we were gonna have much bigger problems," said Bill Chebny, Lake Villa firefighter-paramedic.

Miller, who was hospitalized with severe heart problems last year, said in comparison the impalement was a walk in the park.

"I had to learn to walk again. I had to learn to talk again. That was a lot more serious and closer to death, I thought, than this was. So I didn't think this was really that big of a deal," said Miller.

Miller said she's received an outpouring of support from her students at Waukegan. She also received an anonymous letter from a driver who drove by and didn't stop because he or she assumed Miller was dead.

"There are people who are maybe of questionable character in the world, at least there's great and Good Samaritans and the other folks that helped call 911," said Todd Miller, husband.


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