VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. - You could call it an amazing story of survival. A tree fell on a Florida mother during Hurricane Nicole, pinning her underneath a tree and a truck. She needed a miracle to survive, and she got one as crews worked non-stop for more than an hour to get her out.
"I don’t want to remember the accident at all. It’s bad enough I remember hearing the tree break," said Julie Tindel.
That tree nearly killed the 24-year-old mom.
On November 10, she ran outside quickly to grab her aunt’s inhaler out of her truck just as Hurricane Nicole was ripping through Volusia County. A big oak tree fell on top of the truck as Julie was next to it. She was pushed under both the tree and the truck. Her uncle rushed to help her.
"He ran outside as soon as he heard the noise and was talking to me until EMS could get there. He made sure I stayed talking, and he held my hand. He held my hand until he couldn’t anymore," she said.
When EMS arrived, paramedics did everything they could to keep her alive as Orange City emergency crews had to cut the power, get a tow truck on the scene and use a crane to lift the tree and truck off of her. After 61 long, excruciating, minutes, they got Julie out and raced her to the hospital.
"Julie was awake and talking to us the whole time. Even though she doesn’t remember, she kept us going," said paramedic Kelli Jackson.
Julie got to shake hands with her rescuers for the first time this week, with her one-year-old son, Samuel, and her mom, Shelley, by her side. She thanked each of the heroes who saved her life.
"They worked in dangerous conditions, and I really appreciate them a lot," she said.
"You showed us a lot of what strength was that day. We’ve seen a lot, all of us together, and we have never seen anyone as strong as you," Jackson told Julie.
Dr. Peter A. Pappas, trauma medical director, HCA Florida Lake Monroe Hospital, said it is truly amazing that Julie was awake and talking when she arrived.
"I really can’t say enough to honor them for their dedication, compassion, and their quick thinking," Dr. Pappas said. "What was done in the field, by all the first responders working together, were the perfect steps to get Julie here alive at all."
A team of doctors, nurses, and surgeons worked to save her life, but they couldn’t save her left leg. They had to remove half of her pelvis too.
"It’s one of the toughest decisions we make. It’s not the outcome we want to have," explained Dr. Pappas. "The leg, unfortunately, was not salvageable. It would have been a source of infection, it would have been bleeding and devastating for Julie – so we must, unfortunately, take the option of taking life over limb."
Julie won the battle of her life. Now pushing toward her next challenge, which is recovery. She has had 23 surgeries and is working on physical therapy to help with things like just sitting up. She dreams of one day being able to walk with a prosthetic, get a job, and get back to living her life. She’s fighting every single day for her son.
"I just have to do it to get home to him. That’s my goal. I need to get home to him. I’m missing out on so much. He’s saying words that I didn’t know he could say," she said.
Julie is now looking for an intensive rehabilitation facility and is also seeking a service dog to help and comfort her in her day-to-day life. She has established a donation page to help cover major medical expenses, here.