Valentine’s Day of 2018 is a day Sarah Nolinwinkler will never forget. That day she received a call from the hospital in Decatur. The person on the other end said, “We have your husband here. He’s rolled his semi several times. I don’t know the conditions he’s in and I’m just calling to tell you to get here right away”.
Her husband, Michael, was on the job as a truck driver at the time of the accident. Sarah jumped in the car to make the nearly 4-hour drive from her home in Missouri to Decatur. “I think we got there in like 3 hours. In that window of time, my mind naturally went to the worst case scenario. Being a nurse I know enough to be dangerous in my own thoughts”
By the time she arrived, Michael had been discharged. He was bruised and had many superficial wounds, but the results of a brain scan were normal. They headed home, relieved. But, just 48 hours later that changed. “Something just wasn’t right,” Sarah said. “He wasn’t tracking right. He was very forgetful. At one point, he put a pot on the stove, turned it on and walked away. He was slurring his words, having severe headaches, was very dizzy, and didn’t make a lot of sense when he was trying to talk to me.”
They came into Quincy Medical Group Ambulatory Care Center and obtained a repeat CT scan. After the scan was completed, they went upstairs to see Sarah’s mom, Angel Garriga, a nurse in Neurosurgery, which led to a chance encounter with Dr. Arden Reynolds. “We just went up to say hi to her; it was a Friday afternoon. Dr. Reynolds was actually getting ready to leave for the day, and he said let’s take a look at the scans together. He really took us under his wings.” What he found was that Michael had a right orbital fracture and a small bleed on his brain (Mild Traumatic Brain Injury).”
With that news, their journey began. “He counseled us right then and there. It was Dr. Reynolds and his team’s afternoon off however his extraordinary nurses brought us into an exam room without hesitation and Dr. Reynolds performed a physical exam and explained to us what to expect. Dr. Reynolds and his team will never know just how grateful we are. He was able to catch Michael’s brain and facial injuries and I wholeheartedly believe he saved his life”
Dr. Reynolds shared with the couple that recovering from a brain injury takes an unwritten amount of time. The brain injury has changed Michael in a lot of ways. “No one really knows what it’s like to go through what he’s going through, and I’ll never be able to relate,” Sarah said. “I know he feels different. The side effects will always be there.”
As a result of the injury, Michael has lasting mental and physical challenges. “I still haven’t gotten my husband back and I don’t know that I ever will. His whole personality is different,” she shared. “We have a toddler, and Michael still gets dizzy when changing positions while playing with our son. We’ll be driving down the road, and he gets a ringing in his ears, followed by an acute immediate headache, then it just goes away.” Michael also suffers from PTSD, especially when he’s driving in the rain because it was raining at the time of the accident.
Bringing awareness to brain injuries is something near and dear to Sarah’s heart. “I don’t think people realize the direct impact it has on everyone.”
The Nolinwinklers are adjusting to their new normal, and are beyond grateful for their QMG family. Michael was cleared to go back to work on July 31, 2018, but was encouraged by Dr. Reynolds and his team to contact them for any future needs. “That’s what I think is so special about having such a close-knit Quincy Medical Group family because I know at any point in time they would see him. The fact that Dr. Reynolds took time to see him on his way out of the door on that day meant so much to us. That was his time to be with his family, and he took time to be with mine. It’s extraordinary, actually.”