Riding to Recovery. With her injuries, she was not in good shape, Morford said.

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1 Riding to Recovery Just let me die, I hurt so bad, cried Rachel Keefe in the emergency room of Citizen s Medical Center. Her nurse, Lace Morford, remembers it like it was yesterday. With her injuries, she was not in good shape, Morford said. Rachel has been an independent, strong- willed child since the day she was born, said Lisa Keefe, Rachel Keefe s mother. Lisa Keefe said some of the characteristics her daughter had as a child drove her crazy, but now they are exactly the traits she needs to recover. Before the accident, Rachel Keefe spent every second she could on a horse. Rachel has been on a horse for literally all of her life, Lisa Keefe said. Showing horses has been Rachel Keefe s strongest passion. Through the years, she competed in everything from local circuits to national competition with the Palomino Horse Breeder s Association. Rachel graduated from high school a year early and was pursuing her dream of attending college where she could continue showing horses, Lisa Keefe said. Colby Community College in Colby, Kan., provided the perfect combination of education and riding. Rachel Keefe received a presidential scholarship and an equestrian scholarship. Rachel Keefe learned about Colby Community College through a 4- H friend who attended Colby. Her family felt it would be a good fit for her, and they liked the community. Rachel Keefe started her college career as a nursing major, but has had enough of the medical field. She is now an agricultural education and agricultural business major. I ve always been an ag kid at heart, Rachel Keefe said. I like teaching people. 1

2 Rachel Keefe plans to transfer to Kansas State University or Sam Houston State University to finish her bachelor s degree in the field of agriculture. Rachel Keefe had just finished her first week of classes as a freshman and was headed home from dinner with six friends. It was Aug. 24, 2012, at 11:38 p.m. when the F- 350 she was riding in failed to negotiate a curve on the wet road and rolled two and a half times. Rachel Keefe was ejected from the truck along with three others. The driver Jance Kruse died on the scene. Jade Kruse, Rachel Keefe s teammate, was able to walk to the road to call for help. The injured were taken to Citizen s Medical Center in Colby, Kan. Morford said she remembers the staff talking about Rachel Keefe s injuries after she was life flighted to Swedish Medical Center in Denver, Colo., along with two others. When she left the ER, no one thought she would make it, Morford said. Morford pushed for Rachel Keefe to be sent to Denver, even though the hospital was having trouble contacting her parents for consent. Lisa and Robert Keefe received the phone call every parent fears. When we got the phone call at 4:17 a.m. on Aug. 25, Lisa Keefe said. We immediately began throwing a couple of changes of clothes together and making plans to get to Denver. The Keefes decided to drive since the first flight to Denver was not for another three hours. Robert drove, Lisa Keefe said. I cried, talked, shouted, screamed, and prayed. 2

3 Lisa Keefe decided to wait until they made it to Denver before she called their family. Her friends and family immediately offered assistance. I then began posting a daily update on my Facebook wall about what happened, any progress made and any specific prayer requests, Lisa Keefe said. Rachel Keefe had extensive injuries. She was not wearing her seat belt when the accident occurred. Morford and Lisa Keefe both said police officer on the scene believed not wearing her seat belt may have saved her life. The belt buckle she was wearing during the accident was bent and twisted. No one knows what caused it to bend, but everyone involved agreed she was very lucky. Rachel sustained fractures of C5 and C6, two left posterior ribs, one right posterior rib, her coccyx and sacrum, and multiple fractures to her pelvis, Lisa Keefe said. She had grade III lacerations of her spleen and kidney, ruptured her bladder, and had a pneumothorax. Morford kept Rachel Keefe in her prayers. Lisa Keefe sent Citizen s Medical Center updates on Rachel Keefe s condition while she was in Denver. Morford s friend knew the equestrian team coach and passed along that Lisa Keefe would be posting updates on Facebook for everyone. I added Lisa on Facebook and sent her a message explaining who I was, Morford said. Lisa Keefe accepted Morford s request, and the two stayed in contact. One month later, Morford s son had a doctor s appointment in Kansas City, Mo. she asked Lisa Keefe if she could meet Rachel Keefe. Not only did Morford want to meet her, but Rachel Keefe also wanted to meet Morford. 3

4 Rachel has a special place in my heart and always will, Morford said. Rachel had a long road to recovery. When can I ride again? was the first question Rachel Keefe asked when she woke from anesthesia. She was in the Intensive Care Unit for five days and remained in the hospital for two weeks. After three surgeries, loss of appetite and starting physical therapy, Rachel Keefe was released from Swedish Medical Center on Sept. 7, The Keefe family began their two- day journey back to Kansas City, Mo., the same day. They stopped in Colby, Kan., on Friday night and finished the drive on Saturday. In addition to the wreck, Rachel Keefe had to deal with three other tragedies in her life. On Aug. 10, she lost her step- grandmother in a fatal traffic accident near Houston. She mourned the loss of her friend, Jance Kruse, the driver of the truck in her accident. The last tragedy happened three days after her accident. Blake Gresham, her first boyfriend and one true love, was killed when he stepped out of his tow truck to help a disabled motorist and a box truck hit him. Rachel Keefe found a Facebook message from Gresham on Sept. 27, exactly a month after he died. The message read, Hey, I know you won t get this for awhile, but are you OK? She said the message gave her the chills. Rachel Keefe said it never fails that their song, Only You Can Love Me This Way, plays on the monthly anniversary of his death. On Oct. 16, Rachel Keefe posted this status on Facebook about Gresham: So much doesn't make sense right now. I miss you and I cannot wait to be in heaven with you. It's so weird knowing you can be someone's last kiss. Last everything. You can be holding on to them, but you have to let them go because The Lord is calling on 4

5 them. I have to have faith that I will learn God's plan through all of this in time. For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" Rachel Keefe said this experience has really changed her. She struggled with depression when she returned to school and cried herself to sleep at night. Her ER nurse said she truly believes that Rachel Keefe s love for horses is what kept her going. She has such drive, something so important to get back to, Morford said. The accident has tested some relationships and strengthened others Rachel Keefe said. Don t let this make you lose your faith, Lisa Keefe said to her husband. Three things have kept Lisa Keefe going: God is in control, He is still on His throne, and He will shepherd us through this. Rachel Keefe agrees that the accident has brought her closer to the Lord. Rachel Keefe views recovery as a challenge with goals. She said she knew that she would ride again, and it would be sooner rather than later. Not riding was the worst, followed by not eating for a month, Rachel Keefe said. Recovery has not been easy; Rachel Keefe was confined to a wheelchair for six weeks. She had to learn to walk and ride with her new pelvis. Once she was home, her body developed an infection. Rachel Keefe had to make another trip to the ER. Rachel Keefe will not have any permanent limitations due to her injuries. She will still be able to have children, even with a rebuilt pelvis. She s strong, that s for darn sure, Morford said. 5

6 The month of October has been a month of progress for Rachel Keefe. She went back to school Oct. 11. She rode a horse for the first time since the accident on Oct. 29. She is on her way to make a full recovery but will have challenges along the way. Lisa Keefe said the Bible verse that best describes the situation as a whole is Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 6

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