Even in Marion County when lives often follow the same pattern year after year, life can change suddenly and drastically. Eric and Danielle Bartel learned this in April of this year. They continue to learn this every day.
Eric was in a car accident on Friday, April 19 that left him mostly paralyzed from the neck down.
“He sustained a significant spinal cord injury at C4 and fractured cervical vertebrae 4 and 5, as well as several thoracic and lumbar vertebrae and ribs. Eric was taken to St Francis and was in the Surgical ICU for several days. The doctors told us Saturday morning that Eric may never walk again,” said Danielle. “I didn’t understand what ‘C4’ meant at that time, but soon learned that the spinal cord regulates a person’s ability to breathe at C3. We thank God the injury was not any higher in his neck.”
The following Friday he was transported to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, NE to be a patient in the spinal cord wing of the acute rehab floor. Eric completed eight weeks as an inpatient and is in the process of completing 10 weeks of outpatient therapy.
Eric will complete his therapy in Nebraska on Aug 30.
“Our time at Madonna has been incredible, both for physical recovery and emotional support. The nurses, therapists, aides and staff were with us every step of the way to support us and answer so many questions. We developed relationships and a support network that will not be forgotten,” said Eric.
Eric and Danielle are both HHS graduates, 2003 and 2004 respectively. They began dating in high school and were married in 2007 at First Mennonite Church.
Eric co-owns a small business with his brother-in-law, Brandon Emery. They started Wichita Clear Bra in 2015 providing central Kansas with automotive paint protection film and detailed car care. Eric is looking forward to getting back to work.
Danielle serves as the Executive Assistant at MB Foundation. The MB Foundation is the stewardship ministry for the Mennonite Brethren church family in the United States.
Eric and Danielle have three boys. Twins Logan and Mason are third graders at Hillsboro Elementary School, and William who is going to Pre-K at Kids Connection. The Bartel family is a very active, involved family that loves being part of the community. Having family nearby has been crucial while raising their young family especially during this time. Eric’s parents are Marlin & Cheryl Bartel and Danielle’s are Keith & Karen Goossen.
“Our journey of healing has been filled with little wins—each one backed with prayers and support from family, friends, co-workers, churches, the community and many people we haven’t even met. God has provided healing and a sense of peace during these last four months. We are taking this journey day by day, and some days are better than others, just like everyone else! We put our trust in Him and were often reminded to be faithful through cards and comments on CaringBridge,” said Danielle.
“Following the accident, we have experienced increased expenses and anticipate more as Eric continues with therapy and follow up appointments. In addition, Eric is a very active dad. He loves being outdoors with his family and the lack of mobility makes it difficult to be as active with the kids,” said Danielle. “We also hope to make exterior updates at home to improve Eric’s ability to spend time with them independently.”
Just this week Eric can walk with a cane short distances around the house and he uses a manual wheelchair a majority of the time. He recently purchased a recumbent trike that he can use to get around the farm yard better than he could with the manual chair.
Eric is determined and focused on his recovery. He works hard several hours a day in therapy and pushes himself further than the therapists ask of him. Looking forward, Eric will continue to do physical and occupational therapy closer to home. He has an amazingly positive attitude and they all look forward to being together as a family full time again.
“We will experience a new normal, but we will be together,” said Danielle.
The Bartel’s family and loved ones will be hosting a fundraiser for them from 4-9 p.m on Aug 24 at First Mennonite Church at Grand and Ash in Hillsboro. This also happens to be Eric’s 35th birthday. All are welcome to attend. If you can’t make it, but would still like to donate to help the family out, feel free to call the church at 620-947-5662.