When STARS paramedic Duane Kugelstadt learned that former patient Stephanie Wierenga planned to visit the Edmonton base, he was thrilled to see her again. “We go to a lot of tragic, life-changing calls and Stephanie’s is one I will always remember,” he said. “It was tough to keep it together, but seeing her so happy and full of life – that’s why I do this job.”
Stephanie’s car was crushed by a semi-trailer, hauling two combines on Nov. 19, 2010, while on her way to work near the hamlet of Neerlandia, AB. While fire fighters worked to free her from the wreckage, Duane, who has worked at STARS since 2006, sat with her in the cold. “The car roof was off so EMS began treating her while she was in the vehicle,” said Duane.
Stephanie was not conscious, her breathing was abnormal and she was trapped for some time. Duane said he felt privileged to treat Stephanie, as he does with every patient he touches. “We protected and warmed her, too, as she was so cold and suffering from catastrophic injuries.”
Once she was free, Stephanie was flown by STARS to the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton. The accident has taken a tremendous toll on Stephanie’s body. In addition to having both legs amputated, she’s also lost fingers. The effects of a serious brain injury challenge her daily. Despite this, Stephanie is able to live independently. She remains grateful and encourages everyone she meets to support STARS. “You never know when something like this can happen to you or someone you love. I was just driving to work.”