CHAMPAIGN — For Rob Brown, the events that all lined up to help save the life of his 20-year-old daughter were nothing short of a miracle.
Roxana "Roxy" Brown, an Illinois State University student, was critically injured in a May 5 rollover accident on Interstate 57 just south of Monticello Road.
She's now about 90 percent recovered, thanks in part to many good Samaritans who were driving by and stopped to help, her dad said.
Among them: a Carle Foundation Hospital emergency-room nurse who was on her way to church with her family, a Carle emergency-department technician who was en route to help someone move, and a Tuscola woman who got Roxy Brown's phone unlocked and called Rob Brown from the roadside.
It took Brown a lot less time to reach his injured daughter than it would have if he had been home in La Grange at the time of the accident.
One of the amazing turns of events was that he was already in Champaign with his son for a soccer tournament, he said.
His wife also had a bit shorter drive than if she had been home. She was already on the interstate heading back from a family event in Ohio and was near Indianapolis at the time of the accident, Brown said.
When he got the call that his daughter had been in an accident, Brown said he turned to his fellow soccer parents and asked them to look after his son. He headed straight to Carle and got there in time to see the Carle AirLife helicopter arrive with his daughter.
Brown said he had heard from Roxy that morning before the accident. She told him she was headed on a trip a couple of hours south to pick up a puppy, and he reminded her it was final exam week.
He doesn't have all the details of the accident, he said. What he knows is that his daughter was a front-seat passenger in the car and was traveling with three others who escaped serious injury, and all four of them were wearing their seat belts. He believes the driver of the car was in the process of passing a semitrailer truck and has since learned the car avoided contact with the truck when it overturned.
* * *
Aja Bozarth, a Carle emergency-room nurse, said she and her family were driving from their home in Tuscola to First Christian Church in Champaign when they came upon the accident. Austin Echols, a Carle ER technician, was en route to Terre Haute, Ind., and also stopped to help, she said.
The two of them started emergency care as the ambulances were en route along with an unidentified woman who was at Roxy Brown's side taking her pulse.
Bozarth could see the injuries were critical. Roxy Brown was taking only a couple of breaths a minute, and her heartbeat had slowed and then stopped. They started CPR with her and Echols holding Brown's neck steady and the unidentified woman delivering the chest compressions, and Brown's heart restarted.
"Miracles kind of aligned that day, and I feel that Roxy was kind of a miracle," Bozarth said.
She recalled getting back in the car afterward with her husband and three young daughters.
"I got in the car and said, 'I think we should say a prayer for her,' and my oldest daughter said, 'We already did,'" Bozarth said.
* * *
Rachel Gimer of Tuscola was the passer-by who got Roxy Brown's phone unlocked to call Brown's father.
She had been on her way to Champaign with her mom to do some shopping and pulled over as she saw the car flipping over. After calling Rob Brown, she called him back on her own phone and said she'd stay in touch with him. She helped another accident victim, finding his cellphone and one of his shoes, she said.
Jennifer Sedlock, an AirLife flight nurse, said Roxy Brown had an obvious head injury and wasn't able to breathe on her own when she and flight paramedic Jordan Stone arrived. They inserted a tube in her airway to help her breathe and gave her blood on the flight to the hospital, she said.
Rob Brown said his daughter suffered a brain trauma on the left side of her head with swelling and about a 3-inch gash.
"Her head was like a watermelon," he said. "You could not recognize her. Her eyes were swollen like plums."
He learned it takes time to see signs of improvement after an injury like that.
"You get very delayed responses, but you're grateful to see anything," he said.
* * *
The next step for his daughter will be therapy at a rehab center closer to their home, Brown said.
He's very grateful to everyone who helped her. He's also thankful that a hospital with a level-1 trauma center was nearby.
"I'm going to call it a miracle that all these things lined up," Brown said.
Many of the people who helped at the accident have visited Roxy Brown in the hospital. Among them have been Sedlock, Bozarth and two District 10 state troopers, Bobby Woodard and Todd Hanneken.
While she always likes to follow up with all her patients, Sedlock said, "there are certain flights that kind of tug at your heartstrings, and this was one of them."