Idaho Woman Still Gets Calls About Freak Accident

By KATHY HEDBERG | January 29, 2013

A freak accident more than three years ago has placed an Idaho woman who was impaled by a tree limb in the national media spotlight.

Michelle Childers is scheduled to be featured on the ABC News “20/20” television program either Friday or Feb. 15, according to an email from Kimberly A. Launier of the network to the Best Western Plus Lodge at River’s Edge in Orofino. The television crew stayed at the Orofino hotel and conducted the interview there last Saturday.

Childers, 24, said the interview was just the most recent in a handful of events that has taken her to across the country to tell her story.

“It’s been a lot of fun. It’s been an adventure,” Childers said during a telephone interview. “It’s amazing. It’s a different kind of jungle out there.”

The adventure began Sept. 5, 2009, when Childers and her husband, Daniel, 25, were out for a drive off U.S. Highway 12 near the Lochsa Lodge in northern Idaho County.

What exactly happened, Childers said, is still not known for sure.

“What makes most sense,” she said, “there had been some four-wheelers up there. It was a green tree and it must have been one that got pushed out into the road.”

As they made a right-hand turn around a corner a 13-inch limb, 2 inches wide, apparently was hooked by the car’s mirror and guided through Childers’ open window and into her neck.

She said the branch, “flipped me like a rubber band,” and broke off on the window frame.

“It just came out of nowhere,” she said. She felt no pain but “we screamed. I felt a lot of pressure on my shoulder, almost on my collar bone, and the pain was more or less just the pressure.

“I had so much adrenaline, like if you were in a car accident, the adrenaline just kicked in. My husband was screaming and that got my adrenaline going more.”

The branch had rammed through the front part of her neck on the left side, missing every artery and nerve but stopping before piercing the skin on the back of her neck.

Her husband drove to the Lochsa Lodge where help was summoned, and Childers was flown by helicopter to St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula.

There she underwent a six-hour surgery to remove the tree limb from her neck.

“When I got out of surgery they figured I would have to have at least a dozen more and they thought I would be in the hospital for months,” she said.

“I got to leave the hospital a week after I was impaled,” and no further surgeries have been necessary.

Once home Childers posted a picture of herself on a Spokane TV station website. The next morning she got a call from NBC’s “Today Show” wanting her to be a guest and talk about her experience.

“We got to go to New York for five days and (NBC) flew my whole family out there for the ‘Today Show,’ ” she said. “And that was really cool. New York is completely different from here. It was something none of us would have ever experienced or got to see or do had this not happened.”

Childers’ story also was featured on the Discovery Channel and on Maury Povich, who paid for a romantic get-away for her and her husband to Sedona, Ariz.

Although the accident happened so long ago, Childers said the “20/20” crew “wanted to start from scratch and (review the story) all over. This was pretty much all over the place. They were talking to a couple different people about doing a show on traumatic medical miracles and they came across our story on the Discovery Channel. And they saw that and were really intrigued.”

Attempts to contact the ABC network by the Lewiston Tribune were not successful.

Childers said, other than an arrow-shaped scar on her neck, there appears to be no long-lasting physical effect. She is a stay-at-home mom raising two daughters, Paylynn, age 2, and Prezzley, age 4 months. Daniel Childers is a logger.

But Childers said she suffers from back pain, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Everything is really good, but I have a lot of anxiety,” she said. “Just going from Kamiah to Lewiston I have the constant fear of: ‘Is the tree going to fall now?’ Just other, constant, crazy fears.”

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