Stage collapse victim continues recovery
Most people only think about the State Fair stage collapse tragedy when they see a story on TV. But for the victims, there are daily reminders.
For Andrea Vellinga, there are 4,000 pages of medical bills and weekly therapy sessions. On Sunday, her comeback will include a trip back to where the tragedy took place. Vellinga is returning to one of her loves - running. She will participate in a 5K that begins at the very place where she got hurt nearly two years ago - the State Fairgrounds.
"I'm fine with that. It would be good to create a good memory. I don't remember the concert, but that's what I think of when I think of the fairgrounds is what happened to me. So, it'll be fun," said Vellinga.
It is a remarkable step for this Pendleton woman who has come so far since August 13, 2011. The 32-year-old woman who once enjoyed river rafting and running in the Mini Marathon was critically injured when the stage collapsed prior to the Sugarland concert. She has no memory of that evening.
"I don't even remember getting dressed to go," said Vellinga.
She spent five weeks in a coma with a traumatic brain injury.
"The visible injury was my right side. My skull had to be removed because it was crushed. My scapula back here was shattered and I had a couple of broken ribs and two broken vertebrae in my neck," said Vellinga.
There have been milestones in nearly two years. She came home after nine months in the hospital. Finally got out of that wheelchair. She no longer wears the helmet that protected her head.
But there have been many challenges. Seven surgeries. The breadwinner of the family cannot work or drive because of seizures.
Vellinga says she's no longer in pain, but she still has trouble with her left arm.
"Since I was injured on the right side of my brain, the left side of my body has been affected," she said.
But there have been significant milestones in therapy.
"I've learned to tie my shoes one-handed. I just bawled my eyes out.It sounds silly, but with a brain injury, it's exciting. That's a big accomplishment," said Vellinga.