For Brianna Seewald of Mitchell, it’s been a long 11 months of appointments and recovery from an accident that nearly took her life on August 17, 2020, at the intersection of Highway 12 and Provincial Road 210.
Though the province is looking to make changes to that intersection because of the accident, Seewald says, these days she is just making sure that she takes time to focus on getting better. To be honest, she says, there are times when it feels like wearing the halo was more than a year ago,
“I’ve got very mixed emotions. And now that I'm coming up on to that year anniversary, it really feels like it was just yesterday, cuz I still remember everything.”
"Doctors were baffled that she was alive and could only call it a miracle."
In an August 2020 interview, Seewald recalls the moments immediately after the accident:
“I was so shocked and kept trying to open the door because the airbag smoke was filling the car and I couldn’t breathe.”
Amid the panic a man, Seewald only remembers as John, entered the back seat of her car and held her head, aware of the need for stillness in the situation. “Honestly, he was such an angel. He said ‘you’re going to be OK, the ambulance is coming, they’re on the way, we’ve already called them and you should take some nice, deep breaths to help slow your breathing down.”
Being trained as a nurse Seewald was aware something was wrong and what it might be. “I tried to tell him, ‘I’m trying to feel my wrists, but I can’t. My breath is short and shallow. I think I either broke a rib or punctured a lung, and my back hurts so bad I’m sure I’ve broken it somewhere.”
Seewald says John just kept holding her head and assuring her that help was on the way.
Emergency Medical Services arrived on the scene first and were not able to open the door, so they waited until Fire crews showed up with the Jaws of Life to cut through the heavy materials.
Seewald remained awake through the entire ordeal and recalls when STARS arrived. “They were the most amazing group of people to help me get into the helicopter and they were with me 100% of the way.”
An answered prayer
In an interview this week, Seewald says that it was when she realized that she wouldn’t be able to get out of the vehicle on her own, that she prayed, “papa, please don’t let me die alone in here.” The moment the words were out of her mouth the back door opened up and John got in. She describes his voice as angelic and very calm. He said, “Hi, my name is John. I’m here to help”. That’s when she realized she wasn’t alone. Someone knew she was there. The man started stabilizing her neck and spoke to her as he waited for Emergency Personale to arrive. He shared with Seewald, that he had first aid training, and that he too had been in an accident and broke his C1. It comforted Seewald to know that John was aware of the importance of stabilizing the neck but wasn’t aware of its importance in her healing process until doctors asked her about it hours later.
Seewald says, the doctors were baffled that she was alive and could only call it a ‘miracle’. Throughout the next days, as residents and doctors would stop by and check on Seewald, they would wonder “how can this be?” She was lucid and functional at a level that surprised them. She recalls them telling her,
“It’s just a miracle you didn’t sever your spinal cord and completely tear through the artery. And if you ever get a hold of the person that stabilized you, thank them because I’m sure they saved your life.”
It was shortly after she was stabilized that Seewald starting her search for Angel John. It took a lot of tracking down, even a Facebook page was started to try and find him.
Seewald remembers, “A few people got ahold of some other people, and they were like, oh, I think that this might be him. Then they got ahold of his daughter on Facebook.” She continues, “And when they finally found his daughter, I just gave them my number. I was like, let's not overwhelm him. Some people just want to help and they don't want to be involved afterwards. And I don't want him to feel like he has to reach out, that he has to be part of this if he doesn't want to. At least I want him to know that I'm alive and that I'm doing as well as can be expected, because of him. So, we just gave him my number, and within a few minutes of that message, he texted me and told me and I'm glad, but right from the very start, in that very first text message, he just said, “don't stop fighting”. Even when I finally got to meet him, that was a message that was just repeated over and over. It's like he was saying, “I know that this was going to be a fight for you, but don't stop fighting. Don't stop fighting to recover and don't give up. There is going to be hard days, but don't give up.”
Seewald says they’ve been in contact since then.
After nearly a year of recovery, healing and restrictions, Seewald was finally able to meet her Angel, John. His name? John Hill.
Seewald shares the details of the meeting, “Because of my recovery and because of COVID, we just couldn't get together. It was 11 months to the day of the accident, that we actually finally got to meet him. I wanted him to meet my mom and dad and grandma. Everyone wanted to say Thank You to this man. So, we made a nice brunch and we invited him over. The moment he came into my house and said Hello I recognized him."
"It was the same voice that I remember getting into the back of my vehicle and I started crying. He's just such a wonderful person to be around. The moment he came up my stairs and I got to hug him; his smile lit up my entire room. There was just something so calming to be around him. He is just such a genuinely good person and I think that smile, finally seeing his face and the hug is something that I will remember for the rest of my life."
She continues, "We did talk about the accident, which is actually good because he filled in a lot of the pieces and that was a really good thing for me. It was really healing to be part of that.”
Seewald goes on to say, “and then we just start talking about our lives. I found out he likes to go ballroom dancing. He donates blood plasma every two weeks. He is just such a good person. He writes. He rides a Harley Motorbike. It was just it was so amazing to see him.”
She says meeting Angel John and seeing him for the first time, he looked exactly like what she’d imagined. She’d never seen him before, not even at the accident scene because the rearview mirror had cracked and fallen off. She was overwhelmed with how similar he looked to what she’d imagined. She goes on to say, “It was just so lovely. It was just such an amazing part of my recovery. I think by far it was my best recovery so far.”
One may wonder what was going through Angel John’s mind after leaving an accident scene like that. He knew EMS and STARS had transported Seewald to the hospital, but after that, he was curious how the recovery was going, had she'd even survived? He had seen a story on SteinbachOnline about an accident and thought, that must be the girl that he’d helped. Angel John has been following Seewald's recovery process ever since.
When asked whether they will stay in touch, Seewald says, “I think that nobody ever expects to meet a real-life hero. When you think of heroes, you're expecting someone in a cape to come and save you from the bad guys. No one ever expects to really meet heroes, and especially in this day and age, there are so many. There's also so much negativity in our world. I think, especially right now, he is like this piece of good that I have in a terrible story. He is my positivity to this story. There are real-life heroes out there, and that was a gift that most people never get in their lifetime. To really meet a hero. I think it was hard for John to hear that he is a hero. But in every aspect of the word, he really is, and he saved my life that day and no amount of Thank You’s or anything will ever be able to encompass what me and my family feel for him.”
For Brianna Seewald, she found her angel and was able to personally thank him, John Hill.
Seewald - August 21, 2020
“I just want to thank John and any of the bystanders that were there. I don’t know how I will be able to reach out to him, but he was an angel sent to me that day. He kept me calm, and I will never be able to thank him enough. I want to thank STARS for being so calm and diligent in their work, and just everyone who has reached out to me, for all their love and support. I wouldn’t be able to keep getting through this without them.”--- Written by Adi Loewen