Although he’s suffering from a broken back that is being supported by rods and screws, not to mention 46 staples necessary after surgery, a Shawnee nurse is keeping his spirits up as he begins a rehabilitation program at an Oklahoma City hospital.
Trever Engler, 35, is recovering from injuries suffered Jan. 2 while aboard a Medi Flight helicopter ambulance that experienced a rough landing when the engine stopped shortly after take off.
The accident occurred as he and three other crewmembers aboard the chopper were responding from Seminole Regional Airport to the scene of a traffic accident near Okemah, he said.
“We took off, and the next thing the engine quit and we were on the ground,” Engler said. “As soon as I hit, I felt my back — it hurt.”
Engler, who was moved from OU Medical Center to Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation Center on Friday, is beginning his journey to recovery.
Engler said he is able to walk but will have to relearn that and many tasks through rehab, and that journey could take several months or up to a year.
In addition to three spinal fractures and other back issues, Engler also suffered chemical burns from the aviation fuel, with those burns healing well.
For the nurse who normally cares for patients, it’s been a different, but good experience to be on the other side of care.
“I understand everything and I’m able to talk to the doctors,” he said, adding he understands most of the technical lingo.
Engler worked off-and-on for many years as a REACT EMS paramedic, but had worked previously at both Medi Flight and Eagle Med. Several years ago, after the birth of his daughter, he said he left the profession at Eagle Med and returned to working as a nurse in the Emergency Room following another helicopter crash involving his colleagues.
But after working the past few years in the emergency room at St. Anthony Shawnee, along with a long-standing job as a paramedic with Creek Nation EMS, Engler said he “got the itch” to return to the skies as a flight nurse.
“I really, really loved doing it and I really missed it,” he said, so he had recently returned to work at Medi Flight, which is operated out of OU Medical Center.
He was on his fifth day back at work there when the accident occurred near Cromwell in Seminole County.
It was a normal day as he and three others were en route to a traffic accident call. The chopper was about five miles away from take-off when the engine quit, he said, then “it went bad fast.”
Page 2 of 2 - The crew practices and trains for such emergencies, he said, and everything appeared to go by the textbook as they helped the pilot find a place to land, even though that landing was a little harder than they wanted.
Engler was able to get his seat belt unfastened and he fell forward. Another medic helped him out of the aircraft to safety.
“It was a serious crash — we’re lucky we didn’t die,” he said.
Of the three others on board that day, two remain in the hospital, Engler said.
Despite the obstacles he faces, Engler has remained positive.
“I have faith in the Lord and I always have a good spirit,” he said. “I try to stay as happy as I can.”
With family and friends at his side, Engler said he’s thankful for the support and prayers.
“I’ll be back just as strong,” Engler said.
His mother, Connie Engler, is grateful he's getting better.
“It’s very hard to watch your child hurt,” she said, adding, "wounds will heal.”
Engler and his wife, Alicia, have a daughter, Emily, who is 3.
A family fund to assist Engler and his family during his recovery has been set up online at https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/ePqub