Back before Eldorado, Texas, made national news, it was the place of a heart-wrenching local story for one unsuspecting family. It was a beautiful day in West Texas, one when the blue in the sky seemed endless. The Owen family had just stopped in Eldorado for snacks on their way to San Angelo to drop off Terry for a trip to California. Kelly had the day all planned. They would drop off Terry, run to Target and then head back to Sonora to finish packing for their impending ski vacation.
In the blink of an eye, everything changed. "A truck crossed the yellow line," Terry says. "We were headed up a hill, and it was as though the truck was magnetized and being pulled toward our car. I went as far to the right as I could, but there was a stone embankment next to the road. I thought the truck would miss us, but them—BAM! It was the loudest noise you could imagine. Our car went out of control, and we ended up on the other side of the highway."
Terry Owen immediately checked on his family. The boys, Reagan and Gage, were strapped in their car seats and seemed fine. But when he looked at Rebeckah, fear set in. "I told Kelly to grab the phone and call 911, and I would get the kids out of the car." That's when he realized he had an even bigger problem. Kelly whispered to him, "I can't. I think my arm is gone."
Kelly's first concern was her children. She didn't want to scare them, but she knew something was terribly wrong. "When I looked down at my arm, I was sure it was gone by the looks of it," she says. "At that moment Terry didn't waste any time. He dug the phone out of his pocket and dialed 911 while trying to stop Rebeckah's bleeding. With surprising clarity, he told the operator about the accident, about his daughter's bleeding face and his wife's potentially severed arm. He asked for a helicopter. Then he saw gasoline leaking from the Suburban and quickly removed the boys from the car.
Kelly remembers thinking about the possibility of Rebeckah dying. "I had a sense of calm and was very appreciative of the six years I'd shared with my daughter, but I couldn't imagine never holding her again," she says. I truly believe our daughter was given back to us on that highway."
Within minutes the EMS team from Eldorado arrived. They removed Rebeckah and then Kelly from the remains of the vehicle. Terry recalls: "It seemed like an eternity we were waiting in the ambulance. I know they were checking on the other driver, but I was convinced I could drive my girls to the hospital."
During the chaos of the accident, a family from Sonora was on the road behind them and stopped to take care of the boys until their grandparents arrived.
Kelly and Rebeckah were first taken to the ER in Eldorado and then transferred by helicopter to Shannon in San Angelo. The crew of the helicopter called ahead, indicating a level one trauma. Once the helicopter landed, the physicians were ready to care for Rebeckah.
The technician taking care of Rebeckah couldn't help but think about his own child on the way to Shannon. "She was six years old—the same age as my child," he says. "She was combative and had significant head trauma. I kept talking to her, and she calmed down. Her injuries were severe. You could tell by looking at her face. You could see her jawbone and by the amount of blood everywhere, we weren't sure if her brain matter was exposed. I didn't know if this little girl would make it."
Once at Shannon, Rebeckah was immediately taken off the helicopter, and the chopper took off again to pick up Kelly. While the medical team cared for Rebeckah, Terry stayed with Kelly. Once she was flown to Shannon, the ER team in Eldorado realized that Terry had been in the accident as well and made him undergo a battery of tests before being released to go to his wife and daughter in San Angelo.
As a mother, Kelly was very worried about Rebeckah but knew she couldn't do anything. "My biggest fear was that Rebeckah would not hear my voice when she awoke from surgery," she says. "By the time Terry arrived at Shannon, all the tests had been done on Rebeckah and immediate surgery was necessary. While Rebeckah was still in surgery, Kelly's surgery was completed and her physician decided Kelly needed to see a hand surgeon in San Antonio if her arm was to be saved.
The decision for Kelly to go to San Antonio was relatively easy for her. For Terry, on the other hand, it was agonizing. Kelly insisted that he stay in San Angelo with Rebeckah. "I just wanted her to wake up to her father," Kelly says. "I knew that her trauma would be made more complicated if she awoke to strangers."
There were questions raised at the time as to whether Rebeckah should be flown to another hospital, but Kelly was emphatic that she stay with Dr. Patyrak. "I had so much faith in him as a pediatrician," says Kelly. "I knew I could leave the life of my daughter in his hands. I also knew that Dr. Jeter was fabulous. She was hurt so badly. I just didn't want her to go through more trauma being transferred to another hospital."
The next day Kelly was flown to San Antonio. Rebeckah remained in a medically induced coma at Shannon. As Terry recalls: "They had to keep her in a medically induced coma because she was such a fighter and she kept pulling out her tubes. She even tried to do it with her toes!"
Something special happened for Terry when the pediatric nurses cleaned Rebeckah up. Due to the trauma and the immediate surgery, Rebeckah still had blood in her hair. "The nurses were so kind. I'm not great with names, but they took the time to clean and comb her hair. It was such a little thing, but it meant so much to me."
Rebeckah remained in the hospital for about a week—all the while surrounded by friends and family from around San Angelo. Terry recalls stopping to thank Dr. Jeter for saving his daughter. Dr. Jeter humbly replied, "Don't thank me. I just put her together. Thank the Man upstairs."
Rebeckah had over three feet of stitches throughout her face, and yet today she has no long-term impact from the accident. Kelly's arm was successfully repaired and is fully functional. Although the Owen family's lives were changed forever in a moment on the road from Eldorado, they are thankful for all the physicians who put them back together again.