July 22nd, 2001

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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Ember's Story

By Kerry Stratton

Sept. 30, 2000 my wife and I were preparing for bed when we received the phone call that every parent dreads. We were being asked to come to Harbor View Medical Center in Seattle, WA to help identify a young woman believed to be our daughter. The voiced told us she had been air lifted by helicopter from an automobile accident in Skagit County near our home. They continued to say she had been identified as Ember, our daughter but, the hospital needed confirmation and to please come as soon as possible. They would not give us any further information other than to say she was alive. The 90 mile car ride to Seattle was silent as my wife and I could only hope for the best.

We found our way to the emergency center and informed the staff who we were. We were immediately ushered into the treatment area where the injured young lady was. I will not recount the images that confronted us here. Suffice to say to this day recalling this evening brings tears to my eyes and a huge lump to my throat. The girl on the gurney was our daughter and we identified her as such.

For the next week we took up residence in the Intensive Care Unit waiting room. The next week or two are a blur of emotions, visiting family members, doctors, nurses and unqualified decision making. You will never be prepared for this type of situation and all the questions that need answers. To make things easier on us and the hospital staff we rented a room near the hospital. After the second week of ICU it was becoming clear that our daughter would survive her accident.

I will not go into to much detail on Ember's injuries. I do need to tell you a little about them to get to the point where this is a fishing story and to some extent describe her stay in the hospital. Ember had broken her jaw, her left arm and her left leg. All three of these injuries would require constructive surgeries and her leg took several surgeries. She has pins, plates and screws in all three and all three have required lots of rehabilitation work. The worst of her injuries however, was Ember had suffered a closed head injury which included what is called a shear injury to her brain. People with this type of brain injury usually suffer the effects for the rest of their lives and these effects can range from barely noticeable to severe. It turns out Ember's brain injuries fall somewhere in the middle. She has problems with short term memory loss (which is common with traumatic brain injury) and could be describe as child like in her mental capacity. All said and done Ember was in ICU for 31 days. She was in a coma for approximately 45 days and spent 3 months in 3 different hospitals. One more thing. She celebrated her 20th birthday while in a coma in the ICU.

Most of you that visit FAOL know me a little from my posts and fishing reports You may have concluded I enjoy steelhead fishing but, will go out in a tube or a pontoon boat fishing for trout in the spring. Every time I headed out to fish Ember would ask to come along. I would tell her that she wasn't well enough to go fishing. She would humbly say ok and ask if we could go sometime later. After talking with her mother one evening, we decided that Em's arm had healed enough for her to be able to reel and she was now walking well enough with her cane that we could get her into a boat. I ask Em if she would like to go fishing on Saturday. I'm not sure but, I believe it was a Thursday when I asked. For the next few days she would remind me we were going fishing on Saturday. This is quite an accomplishment for her considering her problems with short term memory.

I tied up some flies known locally as careybuggers (a cross between a Carey Special and a wooly bugger). I was a little concerned with her ability to use a single action reel so I setup a small spinning rod with light line to help get the fly down.

Saturday came and we packed up all the necessary gear, hitched up the small aluminum boat and headed to the lake. What a great day for fishing. Temperature was a comfortable high sixties and the skies were slightly overcast with no threat of rain. We helped Ember into the boat and headed out into the lake. I tied a fly on her line, helped mom get her rod ready and setup my own. We started to slowly troll with the help of a small electric motor. Five minutes and Ember had the first fish. With gentle instruction she was able to land a nice 16 inch rainbow. I will never forget the joy on her face nor the joy that I felt at that moment. I have never cried a tear over catching fish before. I must admit my eyes were moist. At that moment I realized how much I love my family.

Ember not only caught the first. She caught the most and the biggest. She wants to go fishing again just as soon as we can and honestly I can't wait to take her. ~ Kerry Stratton



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