Bike helmets help save Eagle River kids; road to recovery will be a long journey
On Sunday March 24, Eagle River resident Caleb Martiny made a trip to Wasilla to run an errand. On his way home, he got a call from his wife, Gillian Martiny.
She said the Anchorage Police Department had called and told her their two children had been involved in an accident while riding their bikes.
They were struck on the sidewalk by an SUV driven by 60-year-old Vicie Zielinski, at the intersection of the Old Glenn Highway and Coronado Road just before 4 p.m.
Earlier, 10-year-old Hank Martiny had the idea for him and his sister, 14-year-old Maddy Martiny, to ride their bikes to the Carr's in downtown Eagle River to buy some apples. It was only a couple miles away.
After stopping at Carr’s, the kids took the same path to go back home, texting Gillian that they planned to stop at Carl’s Jr. to get some ice cream, but they didn't make it that far before being hit.
Caleb says a couple off-duty APD officers saw the accident happen.
Zielinski stayed on the scene but failed all her field sobriety tests. A later test documented her blood alcohol content at 0.189, more than twice Alaska's legal limit for driving, which is 0.08.
The children suffered significant physical injuries.
Maddy was pretty badly beat up, with a blow to the head. Gillian described her injuries on the website the Martinys set up through CaringBridge, a nonprofit that lets people facing medical conditions, their families and friends communicate and support one another online.
"Maddy had fractured the roof of her right eye orbit but her eye was undamaged. She had several small lacerations on her left arm which were stitched up," Gillian wrote.
"She says the last thing she remembers is unlocking her bike at the bike rack at Carr's," Caleb said. "And it's just black after that. Her brain is not ready to unpack that yet."
Caleb is still waiting for a police report, but says he believes the damage to Zielinski's bumper is from Maddy's bike and the glass spiderweb on the windshield is from her helmet.
Maddy was released from the hospital on Wednesday, three days after the crash. She is now recovering at home.
Hank's injuries are more severe. Gillian posted about them on CaringBridge too.
"Hank's right femur, tibial plateau, and distal fibula were broken. About 6 teeth had been knocked out. The orthopedic and oral surgeon were going to do surgery on him at the same time and began coordinating that. Because of the nature of his breaks Hank couldn't get a cast, the surgeon was going to put in metal rods to hold the bones in place," Gillian wrote.
Hank is still eating only liquids, but doctors hope he'll start eating solids later this week. Once that happens, he'll be able to go home.
He’s also going to need extensive dental work in the future.
“He's lost several teeth that were adult teeth so he’s going to end up having bridge work and implants through, up until the time he's probably 19, 20 when he's finished growing," Caleb said.
Besides their physical injuries, the kids are also suffering psychologically.
Both children blame themselves for what happened: Hank for wanting to bike to Carr's and Maddy for not better protecting her brother.
But a program at Providence called Child Life is helping both children deal with the emotions and also looking after their mental well-being.
"They've popped in and checked on both of them, bringing them things that make it a little closer to home and kind of help them cope," Caleb said.
The Martinys are asking people to donate to Child Life, rather than to their family specifically.
"Any kind of donations of books, toys, funds, whatever that can help out that Child Life program at Providence; it’s been a huge help to us," Caleb said. "We know there’s a lot of families that are in worse shape, in terms of being able to cover costs, and are there longer term, chronic illness, those types of things. So anything to help them keep those stocks full."
Child Life also provides coloring books, activities, video games and movies to check out. There is a library and a teacher on staff to help when needed.
Caleb and Gillian take turns with shifts at home with Maddy and staying with Hank in the hospital.
They say their neighborhood and community have been extremely helpful during this time.
Caleb also wants to thank the first responders that helped his children.
"I can't thank them enough for jumping in when they did," Caleb said. "Because we were there really quick, but we weren’t there as it happened and I can't imagine what state my kids were in."
When it comes to following what happens going forward with the driver who struck his kids, Caleb says he'll be monitoring the situation as it moves forward through the legal system.
'We're trying not to be too angry about it," he said. "But, you see that physical therapy thing and you see how much pain [Hank’s] in, you can't help but mutter things to yourself that you ought not be muttering. Yeah, so we are very anxiously awaiting to see what happens."
Above all, Caleb is happy his kids are still alive, and wants to remind parents to always make sure their children wear helmets when riding bikes.
"Both of our kids are still with us because of helmets," Caleb said.
Correction: This story has been edited to correct the phone number listed for donations to Child Life.
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