Greg Nordfelt survived a life-threatening motorcycle crash in 2011 and wanted to celebrate the five-year anniversary by meeting his care team for the first time since his hospital stay.
Three years ago, Kootenai Health magazine published an article about Greg Nordfelt, who survived a motorcycle accident while on vacation with his wife, Laura, and a family friend. On Monday, Greg and Laura returned to Coeur d’Alene to visit his care team and thank them for giving him a second chance.
The following is an excerpt from an article in the Coeur d’Alene Press by Brian Walker. To read the complete article, click here.
COEUR d’ALENE — A life-threatening crash stopped Greg Nordfelt from riding his motorcycle around Lake Coeur d’Alene five years ago.
The 54-year-old visited Kootenai Health on Monday, the anniversary of the accident, to thank the staff members who helped give him a second chance.
“You worked endlessly for me,” a teary-eyed Nordfelt told the hospital team which treated him. “I was a stranger, some Harley rider who passed out on a motorcycle and you all brought me back.”
Nordfelt and his wife, Laura, who witnessed the crash on U.S. 95 south of Desmet while driving another motorcycle, made the trip back to Coeur d’Alene from Salt Lake City together this week.
“This is my first time here, even though I’ve been in this building before,” he said, referring to how his previous visit to Coeur d’Alene ended up being an 11-day stay in the hospital fighting for his life. “I wanted to show them that I am OK. When I read about all the work that they did for me, Laura and our family, I wanted to come back now. There was a clear outpouring of love and warmth.”
When Nordfelt’s bank officer job ended in February, he said he could have remained in that industry but he chose to become a motivational speaker on traumatic brain injuries instead. Along the way, when talking to groups, he waves the Kootenai Health flag and praises its staff for saving his life.
“When I explain the kind of care I received, it’s an easy message,” Nordfelt said.
On his first journey to Coeur d’Alene, Nordfelt was battling food poisoning caused by the previous night’s trout dinner. The couple thought about stopping for a breather in Moscow, but Nordfelt said he decided to forge ahead because they were closing in on the Lake City.
Laura noticed Greg slowed from 60 mph to 30 mph and veered toward the road’s shoulder. She assumed he was pulling over due to his upset stomach. Then his head dropped to his side — Greg had fainted. He was thrown from the motorcycle and landed on a bed of sharp rocks.
Despite wearing a helmet and other safety gear, Greg was air-lifted to Kootenai after suffering a brain injury, broken kneecap, fractured femur and other injuries.
Laura, who rode in the helicopter, admitted she was skeptical about the “small town” treatment Greg was about to receive.
“I had just seen a horrific accident, and I panicked,” she told hospital staff. “I asked someone in the emergency where we were, and said, ‘We’ve got to go home to Salt Lake.’ I thought that there couldn’t be good doctors here.”
After Greg started to receive treatment, she thought otherwise.
“This hospital is amazing,” she said. “I’m so grateful for you and your hard work. You have people who really care.”
William Ganz, the neurosurgeon who treated Greg, said the hospital appreciates the feedback and it’s not often someone comes back to personally thank staff.
“It’s a team; we can’t do this individually,” Ganz told Greg.
Joseph Bowen, an orthopedic surgeon, said seeing Greg return was “incredible.”
“I appreciate you coming back,” he said. “It closes the loop on what we do.”