Julie Steffens

First post: Aug 8, 2021 Latest post: Sep 19, 2021
Hello friends and family-

I'd like to tell my story so everyone knows what  has happened.  This is a little graphic, so bear this in mind if you are squeamish.

On Tuesday evening (Aug 3) I was out on the wave runner with Emily and her friend Grace (on Crystal Lake in Hart MI, where we live).  We had stopped in the middle of the lake to swim.  I was floating on one side of the wave runner, with my life jacket on.  Emily and Grace had taken off their life jackets and were taking turns jumping off the wave runner on the other side.

Then, when Emily was sitting on the wave runner, and Grace was floating on the opposite side of wave runner, I heard a boat getting too close and knew something was wrong. I turned just in time to see it about to run me over.  I took a breath and tried to sink below the boat, but didn't get far under because of the life jacket, and because it happened so fast.

As it slammed into me,  I slid along the bottom of the hull and into the motor.  This caused broken vertebra, ribs, hip (actually busted off the top of my femur that sits at the hip)  and a smashed ankle.  The propeller (I believe) sliced open the entire back side of my heel (ankle to ankle), and severed my Achilles tendon.  And the broken femur is what most likely punctured through the back side of my thigh.

Thankfully the girls were not injured! I later learned that the side of the wave runner was hit, which tells how close we came to Emily and Grace also having been injured.  I also heard later that Grace had gone under, so probably the impact had pushed the wave runner into her. UPDATE: I heard now that Grace may have gone under on purpose, to get away from boat & wave runner coming toward her. Quick thinker!

I floated back to the surface (thanking God I had my life jacket on, because I could not move to swim up, and would probably have drowned).
Poor Emily and Grace had to hear me screaming and writhing in agonizing pain. Please pray for their little hearts, that witnessed such an awful scene!

The driver (who was towing a skier, and not looking forward) did stop immediately,  and jumped in to support me, while his family and/or others called 911.  Then other boaters and jet skiers arrived to also help, both for me, and to get Emily and Grace, and the wave runner, back to shore.
UPDATE: I learned from the sheriff that it was actually the driver’s son (45, I think) that had jumped in to support me. And, thank God, someone had thought to get a tourniquet around my leg, to slow ankle bleeding!

After they got me to shore, and the ambulance arrived, I was brought to Mercy hospital in Muskegon.  They managed the bleeding, wrapped and braced everything, and I waited for surgery for the next day.

Wednesday they re-attached the top of the femur with a rod, placed a lot of pins in my ankle/heel, repaired my Achillies tendon, and closed the thigh wound.  They have left the ankle wound unclosed, and on a suction/wash boot, due to fear of infection from lake water contamination.

Friday mid-day, I was brought to surgery again, to open up and flush out the ankle, check how it's doing (they said very well, and didn't need to remove any dead tissue), and then wrapped it back up with a flush/suction pack. On Monday they will do this again.  They are waiting to close the ankle wound until they have a plastic surgeon available, because of the extensive damage (may need to do grafts, etc). They are hoping that the plastic surgeon will be available to look at it in person when they open it back up on Monday, but, will take pictures if need be.

I will likely be in hospital through next week, and then possibly moved to a rehab unit for physical therapy.

So thankful for all those that have prayed and supported our family. We truly appreciate it.  A special thank you to the Hallacks for coming to get Grace and Emily right away and letting Emily stay with them for a few days.