Life is So Important

Jill Solin

Back in the summer of 2017, Val Lekie, of Medford, WI, was burning garbage in her backyard burning barrel. Fumes ignited by the fire caused a gas can in her hand to explode, resulting in second- and third-degree burns to Val’s upper body, including her throat.

Taylor County Ambulance and Aspirus MedEvac were called. Upon arrival, MedEvac Paramedic Kris Nelson saw the damage and knew Val needed intubation as her airway was closing from smoke inhalation and burns. That fast thinking saved Val’s life.

“Kris Nelson is my angel,” Val said. “If it wasn’t for him intubating me, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Over the next six weeks, Val recuperated at the UW Health Burn Center in Madison where she received several skin grafts and additional surgeries to help heal the damaged tissue.

Upon returning home, Val required continued physical and occupational therapy to restore strength in her shoulder and the mobilization of her neck and face due to scar adhesions.

Aspirus Occupational Therapist Samantha Lang worked with Val for months. “Sam is a really wonderful, amazing person,” Val said. “If it wasn’t for her pushing me, I wouldn’t  be able to move my neck or shoulder today. I’m very thankful for what she’s done for me.”

After the fire, Val suffered from depression and anxiety as she readjusted to normal life. “There were times after I got home that I was suicidal,” Val said. “At times, my husband thought we wouldn’t make it to our 15th wedding anniversary, but we did.”

Now, Val looks at life as a gift. A gift that looks different than before the accident, but still bright with the love of her family and friends.

“Life is so important,” Val said. “Take every minute, every hour like it could be your last. Don’t take it for granted. If you’re dealing with something you don’t think you can handle, talk to someone and seek out other resources to help get you through.”

Photo caption: Val Lekie (with mamma Ducky), of Medford, WI, is thankful for every day following a life-threatening accident.