A single Kalispell mother is fighting for her life after a Sunday snowmobile accident left her suffering from a rare, often fatal condition.
Ashley Gilbert, 27, suffered an atlanto-occipital dislocation — also known as internal decapitation — in the accident, according to her sister.
Her sister, Sarah Gilbert, said it’s a rare condition that is often fatal.
“It’s quite amazing she is still alive,” Sarah Gilbert said. She is an emergency responder with Smith Valley Fire Department.
“I had only seen it in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.”
Even at major trauma hospital Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Sarah said few medical professionals had seen that type of injury. She was told that only 15 percent of people who receive such an injury make it to the hospital. Around half of those folks typically live, meaning the estimated survival rate is only seven or eight percent.
Sarah credited quick-thinking first responders with getting Ashley to the hospital. She was taken by ALERT helicopter Sunday from the accident scene on Canyon Creek Road, about seven miles north of Columbia Falls, to Kalispell Regional Medical Center. Ashley was then flown to Seattle.
“Because of the severity of her injuries, if she would have been moved the wrong way she could have died,” Sarah said, adding that her family is very grateful to the responders who arrived on scene.
Ashley underwent surgery over the weekend.
“Ashley did survive the surgery to fuse her spine and her head back together,” Sarah said.
“She’s still alive. She has a broken nose and a couple of teeth they will have to wire back in. She has a pulmonary embolism. She’s made it very, very far. The nurses and doctors there don’t see people make it this far.”
A GoFundMe account has been set up to help Ashley, who works at Applebee’s. She is a single mom and sole caregiver to her 1-year-old son Paxton. Ashley’s lived in the valley since her family moved here from California in 2004. She is the oldest of eight children.
Her expected recovery time is at least a year, Sarah said, and it is unknown exactly what a recovery will look like since this particular injury is so rare.
“She’s looking at least a year before she gets semi- back to normal,” Sarah said. “We’re really trying to push for that so we can make the next couple of months for her as easy as possible.”
The GoFundMe account can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/ar-ashleys-medical-fund.
Reporter Megan Strickland can be reached at 758-4459 or firstname.lastname@example.org.