December 31, 2009

October 26, 2009 (THE CHALLENGES BEGIN)


Redwood Times

Around noon on Monday, October 26, three people received major injuries in an accident approximately one mile south of Laytonville.

Jamie Swink, age 24, of Eureka was driving her 2005 Kia Optima northbound on Hwy. 101 south of Laytonville. Richard Grover, age 24, of Santa Cruz, was driving a 2004 Acura southbound on Hwy. 101 approaching Swink’s vehicle. Ms. Swink’s attention was diverted and she allowed her vehicle to drift to the left over the double yellow lines into the northbound lane and into the path of Mr. Grover’s vehicle. He took evasive action by swerving to the left. At about the same time, Swink directed her attention back to the road and swerved to the right. The front end of Swink’s vehicle struck the front of the Acura. Grover, his right front passenger Rose Sniatowski, age 28, of Santa Cruz, and Swink were all trapped inside their vehicles as a result of the head-on collision.

The Laytonville Volunteer Fire Department responded to the scene and according the California Highway Patrol, did an outstanding job with rescue efforts, utilizing the Jaws of Life to extricate all three involved parties. CALSTAR and REACH also responded to the scene. Grover was transported by REACH to Mercy Hospital in Redding. Swink was transported by CALSTAR to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, and Sniatowski was transported by Ukiah Ambulance to Howard Memorial Hospital in Willits. All three parties suffered extensive injuries to their lower extremities as a result of the collision and all were wearing their seatbelts.

November 8, 2009


Dear Friends and Family,

I am sorry I have not been able to answer all your well wishes and to find the time to return all your emails and calls. I have been trying to write an email for the past two weeks, but our time is extremely limited, so this is a compilation of moments of time pieced together. We are taking it one minute at a time.

As I think you all know, Rose was involved in a head on car crash on Monday, October 26th. All three crash victims suffered "extensive injuries.” Rose is an amazing person, as you all know, and she is working so hard to overcome each obstacle as they arise. Chris, Cliff and I have been by her side all week. Josh, friends and neighbors are holding down the fort at home.

Ric was flown by helicopter to Mercy Medical Center in Redding. Rose was first taken by ambulance to Howard Memorial Hospital in Willits, but when her injuries were assessed and another helicopter was available, she was flown to the trauma center at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.

Rose has had several great trauma doctors and nurses here at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. Her injuries are extensive. She has a through-and-through L3 vertebrae fracture, but thus far no paralysis, both feet were crushed and have undergone surgery and may need more surgery in the future. Because she will be non-weight bearing on her feet for many months, the neurologist decided it would be better to wait to make the decision regarding the fusion of her spine (normally this type of spinal injury would require fusion of 3-5 vertebrae.) She has been fitted with a clam-shell device that she must wear anytime she is >20 degrees, so she is restricted to her bed.

Her right hand/wrist/arm bones were broken and she now has internal pins and an external fixator. Her clavicle is fractured and misaligned and may be a candidate for an experimental type of surgery this week, if they determine she can have another surgery. Three days after the accident she was complaining of abdominal pain. She had a ruptured bowel. The surgeon removed 3-4 inches of bowel and used a subcutaneous running stitch to minimize the scar, but it failed and she now has a large open incision. She loves watching them pack it with gauze. Finally Marsha came in and put her on "the vac." It really helped draw it closed. After a week on antibiotics she developed an infection (C-diff) which causes diarrhea, so she has been in isolation since. The good news is that she has had a private room because of the infection, but we have to gown up and wear gloves to be with her. Despite her extensive injuries, she is optimistic about her future challenges, her smile fills the room and the hearts of her caregivers, and she gets stronger with each day.

Either Chris or I have been by her side 24/7 since the day of the accident. Cliff spent the first week here and returned home to take care of legal matters and things at home. We finally were able to move from the motel to an apartment nearby subsidized by the hospital, which will be less expensive. It has been a stressful intense 2 weeks!

At this time we have little idea when we will be able to bring Rose home, what her needs will be or even where we will care for her. As of this point it looks like Ric and Rose will loose the house they were about to buy 2 doors up from me, due to medical expenses and Mount Hermon intends to exercise their first-right of refusal. Both of our homes have stairs, are small and not ideal for this undertaking. When we have time we continue to explore options. Both Ric and Rose are limited to one limb for 2-3 months, so they will not be able to independently wheel themselves around in a wheelchair. We have faith that the pieces will come together with help from friends and family. For now the Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital and our apartment in Santa Rosa are our home away from home. We look forward to returning to Santa Cruz and to being back among our friends. We miss you all so much and are forever grateful for all the love and support, flowers to bring cheer to a tiny hospital room, help with pets and legal issues, visits, donations, etc.

We love you all so much and I am thankful everyday for the support of our family, friends and community. We are thankful Rose, Ric and Jamie all survived this terrible accident. I know I am not in control of this situation, but I am determined to do my best to be there for Rose and Ric as they work through this difficult time. We will take it one moment at a time, rise to the challenges, some known and some unforeseen, together with your help. None of us would have chosen this journey for them, but as Rose said to me the other day, "Mom, I am strong, and this will just make me stronger. I will be OK."

Thank you all for helping us through!

We love you!
Cathy, Cliff and our beautiful Rose.

November 14, 2009


Dear Friends and family,
We have been here at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital with Rose for the past 3 weeks and are looking forward to returning to Santa Cruz next week sometime when they release her. I’d like to thank you all for your support and well wishes. Rose’s spirits are high, her smile lights our world. The beautiful flowers you have sent line her windowsill. She has many challenges ahead, but she gets stronger and more determined every day. She continues to amaze us all.

Rose wants to go back to her tiny apartment on the Westside of Santa Cruz to continue her healing process. She looks forward to walks along West Cliff with the ocean breeze filling her lungs and the sounds of the seals and birds healing her soul. We hope to have Rose’s apartment ready for her return. So many of you have offered to help, but it has been difficult for us to determine what we need without being there, just taking it one day at a time.

We would like to thank you all for your help and support. Auntie Chris, my sister, put her life aside and has been here with Rose since the day of the accident! She is there for all of Rose’s needs, a tremendous support to Cliff and I, a master coordinator of paperwork, legal/financial matters and I just don’t know what I would do without her! Josh and Shanna have been an amazing support in innumerable ways and have been our life-lines between home and hospital. Ric, also severely injured, has called Rose every day from his hospital bed in Redding and now from his Mom’s house in Arcata where he is healing. Ric often reads Rose to sleep. They provide a wonderful support to each other through the good times and the rough times, albeit long distance. Someday soon they look forward to being together again.

Our friends have helped get us through. John and Pam have been a tremendous emotional support and are also finding many of the supplies and equipment we so desperately need. Carter and Patti are working on getting Rose set up to do laundry at home, including finding machines, electrical, and plumbing. I can't even imagine having to go to the laundromat every day and take care of Rose! She uses a dozen pillows to prop her legs. Lynne, Patti, Mindy and Renee are making her blankets and pillowcases. Ron and Debra loaned us a bed and Pam got her a cushy foam topper for extra comfort. When you are living in bed, especially with all her injuries and broken bones, a comfortable bed is so important. John, Josh and Eron installed and assembled it. Josh, Bob and friends are working on a wheelchair ramp today (Sunday) and moving furniture to accommodate a hospital bed. Amy and Lynne have been taking care of Flex and things at my house. Debbie has offered to sterilize Rose’s apartment because her pins and abdominal incision are still venerable to infection. Cathy and Lauren are going to decorate. Debi, Reed, Ben and Nancy brought Rose a little huggy bear to Santa Rosa that she uses to prop, snuggle and hold her food.

Shanna’s shampoos and Leonardo’s massages are so healing and wonderful. Many of you have been helping with the paperwork and legal matters, which is so hard for us to do right now. A special thanks to Mindy, who figures out what we need long before we do. I could go on and on. But just imagine, we haven't even been home to help! You all have been wonderful!

The doctors have mended the bones they could. The nurses and hospital staff have treated her with great care. We have so much to be thankful for: We have our little girl in our lives. We have the support of friends, family and even strangers. A heartfelt thank you to you all!

November 20, 2009


Rose is finally out of the hospital, and doing well! We are here at her house in Santa Cruz. We brought her home in her wheelchair accessible Dodge Caravan. She reclined in a special-neuro wheelchair loaned to her by “John, the wheelchair man” at the hospital in Santa Rosa. She was able to sleep most of the way. She set a new record in her clamshell of 3.5 hours. Her motorized wheelchair is making a world of a difference for her. When she got home without any assistance she drove up the ramp Josh and Bob built her. She loved her newly decorated house, the cushy bed, stacks of new pillows to prop her legs and beautifully hand-sewn pillow cases, flowers, plants, signs, lights, candles, equipment, gifts and all! Her fish and plants were alive and well cared for. She even checked out the refrigerator, which had been beautifully stocked with nutritious food. Thank you all so much for making coming home so wonderful! For the first time in a month she slept for 8 hours straight with just a few adjustments. Cliff & Chris have to give her Lovinox shots to prevent blood clots. Rose calls them "bee sting" shots. She is waking up so I have to go. Love to you all!

November 26, 2009


We had our family Thanksgiving at Rose's house. Rose stayed in bed in the living room and we had a low key meal. I even bought a cooked turkey. Unkie and Kioma hadn't seen Rose since the accident and it was so nice to be together.

December 11, 2009


Rose’s beautiful smile is still lighting up our lives. Chris or I still are taking turns being with her round the clock. Last weekend Ric came down from Arcata for a couple days to visit. As you can see in the pictures, they were very happy to finally see each other.

The tiny apartment seemed even smaller with the hospital bed still in the living room, 2 wheelchairs, a body lift looming over the only chair, and medical supplies from one end to the other. They are quite a sight together. Ric with his good right arm and Rose with her left, they went "rolling" along West Cliff together. His left knee and right leg and heel have really bad injuries. After a wonderful visit, his brother brought him back to his mom’s to continue his healing, until Rose gets back from surgery in Santa Rosa.

We will be there the 13-15th. She is scheduled for X-rays and surgery with her orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Bennett, early Monday morning, wound check with Marcia in recovery and neurosurgeon, Dr. Eichbaum, on Tuesday and if all is well, back home after that. We hope to have time to visit the nurses and staff, who took care of her for a month. We also have to meet with John about returning the wheelchair. I hope we will be able to borrow it longer, as she uses it every day and it will be easier to get her back home. If he needs it, I guess an air mattress on the floor will have to do, since she still can't sit up for 3 hours in the brace. Wish us safe journeys.

Things did not go as planned. Last Friday we ended up spending all night at Dominican ER. We all were exhausted! She had severe abdominal pain and vomiting. The ER doctors did a ton of tests (yet more radiation), but determined that she was a "difficult case" and recommended going to Santa Rosa for diagnosis and treatment. We made it up to Santa Rosa and were there from Sun-Wed for more surgery to get her pins and external fixator removed. She was able to put weight on her heels (with the aid of her orthotic boots and clamshell) for the first time in 2 months today. Making progress!

December 15, 2009


Our holiday decorations come from friends near and far. All the way from Nevada, a Christmas tree was sent from a park ranger there. It even came with tiny ornaments and lights. While Rose was in the hospital last week, Chris and Laurel brought over lights, a wreath, poinsettias and even Santa Bear for her to snuggle. It looked liked we’d stepped into a Christmas wonderland with all the lights lit and holiday cheer. What a treat!

Rose is getting more independent every day. She is even walking around on her heels, in her orthotic boots with her clam-shell brace on. Still needs care 24/7. Cliff is spending his days off with her and starting to resume their traditional "Daddy Daughter Days." There is always a long to-do list waiting for him, but they still manage to have fun together, too. Auntie Chris is with her tonight and I go back in the morning. The bills are piling up (almost one million so far).
Rose, with Chris's help, is responding to every one. Stress over financial matters coupled with emotional stress slow the physical healing process that is so important right now. I hope she can find that balance.

Hope you all have a happy holiday. We will, our girl lived through a very scary accident. Thanks for your thoughtfulness.