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Sarah: A College-Student’s Life Turned Upside Down

Sarah Seippel - Patient Story

When an Accident Turns Georgia College Student’s Life Upside-Down,
Air Methods Steps In

When Sarah set out on the road with two other college students on June 6, 2019, she had no idea that her life was about to be turned upside-down – literally. 

Like many college students, Sarah held a series of part-time jobs as she prepared to become a teacher in early childhood education. One of those jobs was driving a truck laden with flowers, teddy bears, and other items to sell at college and university commencement ceremonies throughout the south.

A few hours after setting out for a college in South Carolina, her truck’s refrigeration unit stopped working. When that happened, it began drawing power from the diesel engine to protect the vulnerable flowers, slowing the truck to a maximum speed of 40 mph on a stretch of highway where other vehicles typically go 80-90 mph. 

Sarah had experienced this before, so she pulled over to the side of the road to try to get the refrigeration unit working properly again. Soon after pulling back onto the road she was hit from behind by a tractor-trailer. Her truck went tumbling off the road, and its contents (and the other two students) were strewn all over the area. Sarah, however, remained strapped into the driver’s seat, upside-down and bleeding profusely from lacerations to her face and skull. She had gone numb from below the waist and thought she was about to die from loss of blood.

Shortly thereafter her father, a local technology entrepreneur, received the call no parent wants to get. 

“The Air Methods pilot was calling, telling my wife there had been an accident, Sarah had life-threatening injuries, and she was going to be taken by helicopter to a trauma hospital in Columbia, South Carolina,” her father says. 

Having been in a serious accident that cut his promising college football career short in his youth, her father knew a little about brain injuries and how it can take time for symptoms of concussion to manifest themselves. So he and his wife waited a while before making the roughly three-hour trip from the Atlanta area to Columbia. In the meantime, his wife continued to receive updates from the Air Methods pilot. 

“He was great,” her father says. “We were surprised at how responsive he was considering his part was essentially done, and how he was able to give us more detail. Throughout this ordeal, the Air Methods people were the most helpful in trying to sort out what had happened to cause the accident and keeping us updated until we arrived at the hospital.”

Sarah had experienced a great deal of blood loss, but the air medical transport to the hospital kept things from getting much worse. 

“She had whiplash, multiple lacerations on her face, four broken teeth, and a cut that went from the tip of her nose to the back of her scalp,” her father says. “She was essentially bleeding to death from her injuries. She is a powerlifter and is incredibly tough despite her five-foot-four-and-a-half inch stature – she is very insistent about that half inch – but I don’t think she’d be alive today if it wasn’t for Air Methods.” 

After recovering from the initial shock of the accident, her father received a second shock. Since this was a work-related incident, Sarah’s injuries should be covered by Workman’s Compensation insurance. Yet neither the company she worked for nor their insurance company’s third-party administrator (TPA) seemed very interested in communicating about the cost of the life-saving airlift, which came to more than $51,000. That’s when Air Methods stepped in again. 

“Rose at Air Methods was appalled at the lack of responsiveness,” her father says. “She immediately got on the phone and started tracking down someone at the TPA who could provide answers. But that person said Sarah wasn’t covered under the insurance policy, so Rose kept after them.”

It was pretty much a stalemate until her father forwarded a voicemail to Rose that Sarah had received from the TPA about the accident. 

“That person wouldn’t talk to me, but once Rose had that information, she was able to make inroads and break through the stall tactics,” he says. After this, the TPA worked closely with Rose to identify and bill the Workman’s Compensation insurance, which confirmed it accepted the claim. 

While the full cost of the Air Methods emergency airlift may seem high to some people, her father has an interesting perspective. 

“A few years ago I was having some knee problems from my automobile accident 40 years earlier and looked into a few options,” he says. “One of them was a complete knee replacement for $45,000, which my insurance would have covered completely. If insurance companies are willing to replace an old man’s knee so he can get around a little better, isn’t saving a beautiful, warm, caring young girl’s life worth at least that much?”

Her father continues to be profoundly grateful to the Air Methods team for everything they did on his family’s behalf. 

“Air Methods did so much for us I can’t even begin to express our full gratitude,” her father says. “Sarah has a long recovery still ahead of her, so her student teaching plans have been put on hold for the time being. But her mother and I, along with her four siblings, are all very thankful she will have the opportunity to make that recovery. 

“I never thought much about these types of emergency medical evacuations before,” he adds, “but I am now a firm believer that coverage for these lifesaving measures should be included in every insurance policy.”