Hillsboro man wins award for recovery

Eric Bartel, who was in a terrible accident in April of 2019, has come far in his recovery and was recently chosen as the recipient for the Goal Award from Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital.

Eric Bartel, of Hillsboro, has come a long way in the four and a half years since he was in a horrific car accident and could not even breathe without assistance. Now he is actively living life and doing things he never thought he would do again.

“I’m able to work with my hands more and take on some larger projects. With the help of my boys, we recently got an old pickup running that hadn’t been on the road in years. The pickup is a manual— three on the tree. It was one of those things I didn’t think I’d be able to do again, but I was able to drive it to our local cruise night this summer,” said Bartel.

Bartel credits many things for his progress. But to appreciate how far he has come, it is important to understand where he was at the time of his accident.

Bartel’s accident happened in April of 2019.

“I was thrown from the vehicle and suffered several broken vertebrae, including a spinal cord injury at the C four, C five level. After the accident, I was unable to move anything below my shoulders and needed help breathing. I was taken to the ICU [intensive care unit] at St. Francis in Wichita, where I spent a week filled with stress and anxiety, although I don’t remember much of it,” said Bartel.

Bartel does remember having a significant moment in which he felt the presence of God letting him know that he was going to be okay.

“This was important because at the time my family was concerned about what was going to happen next or how to even move forward with my condition. I needed to be able to breathe on my own before I could transfer out of the ICU. So I focused on every breath, which was really the only thing I could do at the time, and was transferred to Madonna by the end of the week. That’s when I knew that everything was going to be okay, and I was going to be okay. I just needed to take the next step,” said Bartel. “After that, all my anxiety and fear was gone.”

Bartel was transferred to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, NE.

According to their website, Madonna leads the nation in providing medical and physical rehabilitation for adults and children. The Lincoln site specializes in rehabilitating patients who have suffered a stroke, spinal cord injury, brain injury, complex medical issues and a variety of other conditions or traumatic events. Patients and families nationwide seek out Madonna for their ability to handle cases of varying complexity. They combine heartfelt hospitality with unmatched innovation and education and their clinical expertise, rehabilitation research and state-of-the-art equipment provide the tools to help all patients, even those whose diagnoses pose the most complex challenges. They also brag that their investment in exceptional talent, groundbreaking technology and progressive treatments is changing the face of rehabilitation.

“After arriving at Madonna, my main goal was to walk again. I quickly realized that I was going to need to work hard and meet so many other goals before that would happen,” said Bartel.

There were many machines and equipment that Bartel could not wait to use, but much of it did not come easy to him with his injuries and he had to work his way up to using it all.

“Getting to use these things didn’t come easy. My never taking anything too serious and my persistence set the tone for those times when progress seemed a little slow,” said Bartel. “From the moment I arrived my care team began to challenge and guide me through the recovery process. The daily grind of therapy is physically and emotionally exhausting. I always looked forward to seeing my night shift crew though after a hard day—they kept me grounded, allowing me to relax and feel normal.”

Bartel was in inpatient at Madonna for about 10 weeks, and then he switched to the outpatient rehab day program for another four weeks.

He has continued to work on goals since returning home and attends physical and occupational therapy once a week. He isn’t “back to normal” and never will be, but he continues to strive to get as close to it as he can.

Eric Bartel and his sons Logan and Mason were able to restore their truck this summer despite Bartel once being paralyzed from his shoulders down due to a car accident in April of 2019. He has worked hard on recovery and was recently chosen as the recipient for the Goal Award from Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital.

“My goals obviously change a lot as I reach new ones. Lately they have been a lot more about building strength,” Bartel said.
Recently, Bartel received special recognition from Madonna for all of his hard work when he was chosen for their Goal Award, which is an award given to past patients and is voted on across the staff. While Bartel already has so much to show for his hard work and time at Madonna, this award publicly acknowledges all that he has accomplished.

“It’s kind of a big deal in two ways. I mean, to get the award, but then your story is added to these other incredible testimonies of previous patients who have also been honored,” said Bartel. “It’s a big deal within Madonna rehab, too, to go through all of that and then be recognized for it and your recovery and the staff and all that stuff. They’ve seen a lot of patients and a lot of recoveries. But it’s the people who receive the award that typically have excelled at recovery.”

The award means even more to Bartel because the award isn’t just that one couldn’t walk and now they can walk, but the choosers of the award take into consideration other aspects like attitude and perseverance.

“They even consider the family and the support group. So that’s as much an award for my wife Danielle and my family being there,” said Bartel.

In addition to the award, Bartel and Danielle feel they have gotten so much out of the accident and its aftermath of recovery. In addition to feeling like they have become better people, they have found their marriage much stronger than it ever was.

Bartel is incredibly honored and touched by the award and is determined to keep moving forward and taking his recovery step by step.

“If I had to do this all over again, there’s not one thing I would change. It truly is an honor to be a Madonna Goal Award recipient. I feel this award is a reflection of the organization, the staff, my team, and everyone at Madonna, who is part of my journey,” he said.

Bartel carries so much of what he learned in recovery with him even today, four and a half years after his accident.

“I appreciate the validation for my effort and consistency. It was helpful on tough days to remember, be all in. Just take the next step, even if that means it’s only taking your next breath. Pray often, work hard and trust God. I am forever grateful to be a part of the Madonna family,” Bartel said.


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