Critically injured Colorado teen and family optimistic about his recovery

Noble Haskell and friends were passing through Russell, Kansas, on their way home to Colorado from a boys’ trip when their car was struck from behind.

Photo:  Jeff Suderman, RRT, and Noble Haskell

While his friends were transferred to nearby rural hospitals, Noble's injuries required him to be airlifted to the Level 1 Trauma Center at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis in Wichita.

"He needed to be somewhere with a neurosurgeon," says his mother, Krisi Hantke, who received the call from the State Trooper informing her about her son's accident while waiting for him to return to their Denver-area home. "That whole eight-hour drive, I kept praying and asking if there's a reason why he was in Wichita."

She did so, she says, knowing that "God always has a plan."

Noble, a cross country runner who was expected to have a stellar junior season, suffered a broken neck and spinal cord damage. Surgeons at St. Francis removed his C5 vertebra and replaced it with a fused C4 and C6 vertebra from the front of his neck. He had a second surgery on the back of his neck to fuse the back of the replaced vertebra.

Noble was alive, but a quadriplegic.

"From the moment I received that phone call, even to today, our mantra has been, 'Noble will run again,'" says Krisi.

A marathon, not a sprint

While Noble and his family are optimistic about his future, recovery has required patience and perseverance.

"All I could do was lie in bed in the ICU and look at the clock and wait for this to be over," says the now 17-year-old Noble, whose injuries led to a collapsed right lung, pneumonia, and fluid in his pleural cavity during his month-long ICU hospital stay.

Noble was intubated on his second day and placed on a respirator and Jeff Suderman, RRT, was one of the many respiratory therapists called in to help manage the respiratory component of his recovery. Noble had two chest tubes inserted to drain the fluid from his pleural cavity on July 14, the day he was supposed to transfer to a rehabilitation facility in Denver.

"Whenever Jeff was around, he would make us all feel better and tell us stories about his experiences," says Krisi, who also relied on her faith, family and home community for support. "He was really comforting. No matter what, tubes or trach, Jeff was always there saying, 'Don't worry, we'll get through this together.'"

Throughout Noble's five weeks in the ICU, Krisi says Suderman provided above and beyond support.

"Every time Noble had a CT scan or other big events, Jeff was right there by his side and it was reassuring, especially with an ICU stay and Wichita being unknown to us," says Krisi. "He took medical jargon and made it easily understandable and was a constant, friendly face here."

"He even came in on his day off to check on us. To have somebody that cares that much for strangers was impressive," she says.

'People who we'll never forget'

Suderman was not the only one to make a lasting impression.

"Almost everybody from the hospital we interacted with were amazing – nurses, doctors, techs, physician residents," says Krisi. "It was hard to leave because we connected with such caring people who we'll never forget."

On July 27, he was discharged from the hospital to an inpatient rehabilitation facility near his home to begin the next phase of his recovery.

"It's been like running a 5K, when you feel like you should quit while thinking you can't make it, but you know it's worth it to keep pushing and fighting," says Noble, who continues to undergo intensive rehabilitation in Colorado. "Right now I'm in the middle of the race, and I felt I should just give up and quit but I know it's not the end."

Noble, and family, plan to return to St. Francis when they can to thank all the caregivers who helped keep him alive.

"I remember being in that ICU room thinking that, when I come back, I want to be walking and show them that keeping the faith works and miracles happen," says Noble. "Whether it's a few steps or walking through those doors like I own the place, I will return to show them what they made possible."