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Parker teen, first responders meet to celebrate survival

Morgan Koetter wasn't expected to live after serious traffic accident


Parker resident Morgan Koetter, 19, was out for a ride with her boyfriend, Jonah Manning, and their two dogs on the evening of Dec. 17.

Koetter was safely buckled in the front seat of the pickup truck she was riding in, and Manning was obeying all safety laws near the intersection of Hess and Parker roads, not far from Koetter's home. Koetter, a young Metro State University student, was going to school to learn to be an entrepreneur, with hopes of one day starting and running a ranch for people with disabilities. Her future was bright and there was nothing to stop her from achieving her goals — until another driver ran a red light and hit the truck Koetter was riding in.

Manning's seatbelt held, and he suffered minor injuries. Koetter's seatbelt failed, and she was thrown into the windshield and dashboard, as the engine of the truck was pushed into the passenger's seat. She suffered severe head and neck injuries as well as a lacerated carotid artery, damaged kidney and liver. She also sustained facial and skull fractures, and a shattered jaw.

South Metro Fire Rescue paramedic Mike Porter, first to arrive on scene, didn't think Koetter would live.

“I found her on the floor of the truck, and in a triage situation, we always care for the sickest first,” said Porter, in a recent reunion with Koetter and others involved in saving her life at Parker Adventist Hospital March 29. “Morgan won that award. When I left the hospital that night I wasn't feeling very good about her prognosis.”

Dr. Chris Winter, a trauma surgeon at Parker Adventist who treated Koetter, echoed Porter's thoughts — he didn't think she would live.

“The first things you think about with a patient this severely injured is 'Will they survive? How functional will they be if they do?'” said Winter. “I wouldn't have predicted this outcome.”

Koetter spent three weeks in a coma at Parker Adventist, and despite the seriousness of her injuries, is recovering well and recently returned home to Parker. Due to the severe head injuries she received, Koetter has had to learn to walk again, and still struggles with memory and cognitive issues.

Koetter met with the first responders, doctors and nurses and others at Parker Adventist who were responsible for her care and recovery. It was a tearful reunion, and those in attendance said it was a miraculous recovery that nobody expected.

“Her recovery is nothing short of a miracle,” said Koetter's grandfather, Richard Koehler. “God's hand was in this from day one.”

“I don't remember much,” Koetter told her rescuers and caregivers. “But every time I see your faces, for some reason I feel happiness.”

Koetter's sister, Faith Koetter, said the caregivers have become like family to them, and although they are glad to be out of the hospital, they miss all of them.

“An eternity of thank-yous would never be enough,” said Hope.

Koetter hopes to return to college at Metro in the near future, and the accident has renewed her passion for starting a ranch, which, ironically, may be more attainable to her now. According to Koehler, before the accident, the plans for a ranch for those with disabilities was a dream, but since the accident they have connected with people who have helped advise the family and bring them closer to building the ranch. The family is looking for property and have developed a site plan for the ranch, which will be called Inspiring Hope Ranch.

Sadly, one of the two dogs did not survive the accident, but Koetter recently acquired a new puppy, named Hope, which will be trained to be Koetter's service dog.


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