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Healing through faith

Brooklet teen recovering after horrific New Year’s Day accident

Healing through faith

Healing through faith

Sean Odegaard is shown with his fathe...


        It was New Year’s Day 2014. On a day when many people consider how they would change their lives during the next year, Brooklet resident Sean Odegaard found himself fighting just to stay alive.
        Odegaard, 19, and his friend Jared Wood had traveled more than 1,000 miles as they headed to Webster, Wis. They were going to work for his uncle Joel Odegaard, with whom Sean had been working for a year. The trip was uneventful, albeit snowy and very cold.
        They were near Janesville, Wis., which is just north of the Illinois state line and about 60 miles west of Milwaukee, when Odegaard noticed a suitcase lying in the middle of Interstate 90. He decided he would remove it from the roadway. Odegaard walked over, reached down to pick it up, lost his grip, and bent over further to grasp it more firmly.
        But then, things went horribly wrong. He heard a noise, looked over his shoulder, and saw a tractor-trailer bearing down on him. Odegaard said he vaguely remembers jumping up into the air.
        That move most likely saved his life. According to witnesses, Odegaard become pressed against the grill of the truck, which was screeching to a halt. Once the semi stopped, it was discovered that, miraculously, Sean was alive.

Immediate help
        Odegaard and his family believe God's hand was reaching out and taking control. Jeff Odegaard, Sean's father, said two women who witnessed the accident immediately stopped to render aid.
        One of the women was a registered nurse. She bent over Sean and immediately placed a coat over him to keep him as warm as possible. She knew how dangerous the cold could be to someone who was injured so badly.
        The nearest hospital, Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center in Janesville, also is the region’s Level 2 trauma center. Upon getting the call for an ambulance, the hospital dispatched an EMT doctor to go to the site of the accident. He got there before the ambulance even arrived and examined Odegaard.
        This doctor immediately recognized that Odegaard was drowning in his own blood. He cut two holes into Odegaard’s chest to drain the blood from his lungs.
        Odegaard and his family believe it was more than just coincidence that brought skilled medical attention to his side so quickly. Sean, his father, and his stepmother, Janet, say that to them, the miracle of God taking over and ensuring Sean’s recovery had already begun at that moment.
        Back in Brooklet, hearing his son was in critical condition, Jeff Odegaard immediately booked a flight, heading to his son’s side as quickly as he could. Arriving in Madison, Wis., he rented a car and drove to Janesville, some 30 miles south.
        Once Sean Odegaard arrived at Mercy Hospital, physicians set about stabilizing him. The first concern was that his blood pressure kept dropping dramatically. Jeff Odegaard, who had posted on Facebook about Sean’s accident, asked that everyone who had Sean in their prayers ask that his blood pressure be brought under control.

Mercy Hospital
        About his arrival at Mercy Hospital, Sean Odegaard said: “Although I was supposed to be unconscious, I remember sensing something was wrong. I remember reaching out to God and almost immediately I felt this warmth spread throughout my body. Somehow I just knew that I was going to be alright.”
        Once Jeff Odegaard got to talk with his son’s doctors, he was told point-blank, “When Sean arrived we all expected him to die.
        “But, they told me, ‘It is our job to do everything humanly possible for our patient, and that is what we did.’”
        He also was told by Wisconsin State Police deputies who arrived at the accident scene that they had seen similar incidents in the past, and none of the victims had ever survived.
        At the same time doctors got Sean Odegaard’s vital functions under control, the snowy weather cleared and a helicopter was available. He was airlifted to the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison, which is a Level 1 trauma center, capable of providing the highest level of care.
        But shortly after arriving in Madison, one of his lungs collapsed, possibly from the changes in air pressure he experienced during the helicopter flight.
        Sean believes God’s providence was again evident, for a nurse on hand immediately recognized Sean’s symptoms, intubated him, and he quickly began to recover. 
        When Jeff Odegaard, who had driven his rental car back up to Madison, arrived, doctors had identified Sean’s most serious injuries. He had a lacerated right lung, five ribs broken, a fractured skull, 40 breaks in the facial bones with his jaw alone broken in three places, two fractured vertebrae, his pelvis broken in two places, a broken clavicle, and his right-hand ring finger broken. There also was, they said, serious swelling on the brain.

Odegaard family
        Members of the Odegaard family then began arriving in droves. While Sean and his family live in Georgia, most of his father’s immediate family lives within several hundred miles of Madison.
        Sean, who was at Mercy Hospital for 24 hours, remained at University of Wisconsin Hospital for the next 30 days.
        As Jeff Odegaard later said, “I had a peace that God knew what he was doing. On the other hand, I knew it was possible I might not like what he was doing.
        “The prayers were snowballing, from at first our church members, to people in our area whom we had never met, and then to people all around the country and indeed even around the world,” he continued. “Sean even got an envelope full of cards from a small school up in Alaska, where someone I went to high school with but hadn’t seen for years was a teacher.”
        Eventually, Sean was declared physically able to go the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, considered one of the best such hospitals in the world.
        Sean Odegaard’s progress at the Institute was remarkable.
        “There was doctor who'd been there for over 20 years,” Jeff Odegaard said. “He came by every morning as they made their rounds. One day I noticed at one point he was chuckling very quietly and shaking his head. I asked him what was going on. He replied that in all of his years working in the field of rehabilitation, he had never seen anything like the progress that this young man was making.”

Never give up
        Something that shocked Sean, he said, was “the number of rehab patients there who seemed to have given up. I would like to help them, especially those who feel like they're all alone. I know that not everybody has the support system that I have been blessed to have.
        “What I did was stupid. I accept that. However, I am moving on. Everybody makes mistakes. I understand that I'm going to have to live with the results of my mistake, but that being said, my life is not over.”
        Sean and his father finally returned to Savannah on Valentine’s Day.
        Sean flew back as a regular airline passenger and not as a medical transfer. Within a week, he underwent surgery to remove his feeding tube. He has resumed physical therapy, focusing on muscular development. He’s also trying to put on weight, as he lost nearly 50 pounds, shrinking all the way down to 107 pounds after the accident.
        And Sean Odegaard still has a dream.
        “I had been working with my uncle so I could save up some money and then to go to college and then enlist in the Army,” he said. “That’s not going to happen now. I still very much want to go to college, and my choice would be Georgia Southern University. They have a linguistics program very much like the one I was going to pursue in the military.”
        Asked what would make him happiest at this point in his life, he stated very clearly that, “I would love it if I could actually get to live on campus like a ‘normal’ college freshman. Honestly, not much of my life has been normal, and this is something I’d really like to do.”
        Who knows how his story will unfold. But Sean and his family are certain: God is not done with him yet.

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