After she graduated from Fennimore High School in 2008, Katie Schrader enrolled that fall at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. Her sights were set on a career in journalism.
Schrader later discovered a passion for interior design and transferred to Western Technical College.
Although she no longer aspires to be a journalist, Schrader is busy writing a remarkable comeback story: her own.
Schrader was driving on a snow-packed Highway 14 near Middleton when she lost control of her vehicle and was struck by another vehicle on March 2.
The accident left Schrader with multiple fractures, including a broken vertebrae in her neck and a skull fracture that led to a brain bleed.
Almost six months later, Schrader has finished her coursework in interior design at Western Technical College. Later this year she will complete an internship at California Closets in Fitchburg.
Schrader still struggles to grasp just how far she has come.
“I know that I am lucky,” she said. It doesn’t feel like it was six months ago.”
To celebrate Katie’s recovery and to show their appreciation to those who have helped her on her road to recovery, her family is hosting “KatieFest” on Saturday, Sept. 1.
Dinner will be served at the Dave Schrader farm on Louies Lane in Stitzer from 5 p.m. until the food is gone. Guests are asked to bring their own beverages, including water and soda.
“I am so excited to see people and I hope we have a good turn-out,” Schrader said. “I will never stop thanking my family and everybody.
“My family has always been everything to me, but now, even more so.”
Schrader does not remember the accident. She spent a week in sedation at UW Hospital in Madison in the Intensive Care Unit after a craniotomy to address the brain bleed.
“I’ve said all along that by the glory of a fantastic medical team, we got to keep our daughter,” said Joan Winkers, Katie’s mother. “To have your 22-year-old experience the things Kate did and see her come back whole is pretty fascinating in itself.”
One of her favorite milestones in her recovery was Schrader’s first “normal” meal after enduring textured food.
“There was a chicken noodle soup and it literally looked like mustard,” Schrader said. “The night they told me I could have anything I wanted I ate a cheeseburger and fried pickles.”
Schrader impressed her doctors throughout her rehabilitation at UW Hospital.
“We kept hearing what a little miracle she was,” Winkers said. “She was blowing things off the charts when they would test something during rehab.
“I don’t know if anyone realized how strong she is. I want to give her all the credit she deserves and we had a lot of good help.”
When Schrader left the hospital she was required to wear a neck collar to support her vertebrae, which was a welcome change from the full brace she had worn during her hospital stay.
Back at home, Schrader wore the full brace only when she was active. A follow-up visit in April brought news that she should still wear the full brace more often than not.
A CT Scan on June 5 showed Schrader’s C2 vertebrae had not healed as well as hoped.
“The doctor said it didn’t heal at all, not even any bone formation,” Schrader said. “Immediately, it was waterworks. I just sobbed.”
Schrader was then left with a choice of a fusion surgery, or a “very careful life” free of contact sports, waterskiing or skydiving.
“At that point I chuckled through my tears,” Schrader said. “People from Fennimore don’t know me for my athletic ability, that’s for sure.”
Surgery was scheduled for the following week, Thursday, June 14.
“I was prepared for it and I had my head wrapped around it,” Schrader said.
On the day of a follow-up eye doctor appointment June 11, Schrader received a call from UW Hospital asking she visit for flexion/extension films.
Schrader traveled to the hospital and had the full brace taken off for the first time in three months, which left her feeling like a “bobblehead.”
The flexion/extension films showed Schrader’s C2 vertebrae had begun to heal and the surgery was cancelled.
“I woke up that morning and certainly did not expect that,” she said. “At that point I didn’t know if I should be happy or scared.”
A return visit to UW Hospital on July 27 showed Schrader is continuing to heal. Her next follow-up visit is scheduled for March, a year removed from her accident.
Schrader said she received great advice throughout her recovery, but one piece of advice did stand out.
“One of the best words of advice I got in a card was to let myself feel whatever I am feeling at the time,” Schrader said. “It was possibly to my mother’s dismay when I was moody sometimes.
“Just take it day-by-day.”